Why Constantly Screwing Up May Make You a Great Mom


Mother consoling a crying child in her arms

I was a perfect mom the other day.

For a whole hour.

It was likely a record, except, of course, when my kids are asleep and being a mom is remarkably easy! Then someone whined or hit their sibling or did that sassy talking-back thing that makes me dread the teen years, and I yelled or threatened or did that sassy talking-back thing in return—basically one of those reactions we start every day pledging to avoid because they don’t work and make us feel bad afterwards. And that was that.

A friend recently lamented to me, “I feel like I’m screwing everything up with my kids.” I think we have all said some version of that statement either out loud or in our heads. The little mistakes, slip-ups, and disappointments can pile up to the point where we feel just about ready to throw in the towel and call this whole motherhood thing a lost cause.

But while it’s certainly possible to fail at motherhood in extreme cases, there is not a single mom I know who is actually failing. In fact, the ones who lament how many mistakes they’re making are also the ones who seem to me to be the most invested in their kids’ well-being. These moms are constantly experimenting to see what works and trying to be the best for their kids, and in my book that equals success, even if it’s not always pretty.

Parenthood is about making a million tiny decisions every day with very little guidance. There is no instruction manual for a child because every child is an individual being raised by his or her parents for the very first time. Like a never-ending video game, each time you master one level, you move up to a harder level with new fireballs being thrown at you from all directions. Bam—potty training! Bam—playground teasing! Bam—puberty! And on and on.

Human beings are also hard-wired to dwell on the one negative comment in a sea of praise, and most of us are tougher on ourselves than we are on others. If you actually tallied how much you do right every day as a mom, it would almost certainly outweigh the things you wish you’d done differently.

So, keep hugging your kids, laughing at their knock-knock jokes, packing extra snacks, and wiping their noses, their butts, and their tears. Keep giving them room to make mistakes of their own as you make yours. And remember that great moms mess up constantly, but they never give up.


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