Why Mums Need to Stop Judging Themselves
I once found myself in tears over another mother’s words. But for very good reason. I was attending a ‘Circle of Security’ parenting group with four other mothers. The group was being run by both a social worker and psychologist. The purpose of the group was to help us uncover reasons as to why our children were struggling with their behaviour and how we could help them manage their issues. But over the course of six fortnightly sessions, I didn’t just learn lessons about my child but about myself as well.
We all took turns discussing how our day-to-day lives were a struggle. How our children’s speech and language delays impacted on their behaviour. We entrusted each other with our thoughts, with our feelings, with our emotions. We opened up about our childhoods, reflecting back on how it may have influenced our current roles as parents.
As we put our thoughts and hearts on the line, we grew not only as people, but as a group. We empathised with each other’s tough situations, we wanted the best for each other. But we also knew what it was like to feel helpless, to feel shameful, to feel like we had let our children down. We honestly believed it was our fault that our children were the way that they were.
One mother, in particular, insisted that her parenting was not good enough. That her hard-to-control daughter made her feel as though she’d failed as a mother; as though she wasn’t ‘good enough’ at being a parent. She cried as she recalled how she’d exhausted every possible option, but still with little to no results. She felt utterly helpless and ready to give up.
And that’s what brought tears to my eyes. No matter how much effort these mothers put in, no matter how hard they worked to ensure their children had a better future; they still blamed themselves for their children’s behavioural issues. They still believed that what they were doing wasn’t good enough. They still believed that they were bad mothers.
When it’s simply not your fault
Being the positive person that I am, I refused to let them believe this. I refused to listen to them belittle themselves and devalue the positive impact that they were having on their children’s lives. I refused to let their efforts go unnoticed.
I put up my right hand. Looking towards the direction of the social worker and psychologist, I said, “Can I please just say something?” They both nodded.
“I know that it’s hard work looking after a child with behavioural issues. I know what it feels like – it can get so incredibly hard at times. But can I just say, I think you’re all good mothers. I don’t think you are bad mothers at all. The fact that you care that much about your child and want to do the best for them: that’s what makes you a good mother.”
The mothers grinned at me. They nodded in agreement. Both specialists concurred with what I’d just said.
“Thuy, you’re so right,” the social worker said. “You are all good mothers. None of you are bad mothers. You are all doing the best you can, and that’s all that you can possibly do.”
Let’s stop the inner judgement
Being the mother of three children; a 3, 5 and 7 year old, I know how tough any mother’s judgement can be. But the worst type of judgement isn’t the one we feel towards other mothers, but the one that we feel towards ourselves.
All three of my children have speech and language delays and I used to ask myself all the tough questions too. Is it my fault? Could I have been a better mother? Did I do something wrong?
But I realised that this inner judgement had to stop.
I know that I’m doing the best job that I can. I may shout at my children sometimes when I shouldn’t. I may get frustrated when I should be more patient. I may not always be the loving mother that I want to be.
But I always try my best to put my children first. I always fit in time to play with them, to read to them, to take them to the park, to take them to school, to put their needs ahead of mine. I own up to my responsibilities, make the sacrifices, do all I can to give them the best start in life.
I’ve learned that I need to stop being so hard on myself. I’m not perfect, nobody is. We all have our good and bad days. But as long as I continue to get up and try again, then that’s all that really matters.
Thuy Yau is a freelance writer and mother of three. She is passionate about making a positive difference through her writing. Her work has been published on news.com.au and other major news sites, won writing contests and been discussed on radio. Follow Thuy on Twitter, join her on Facebook, or read her motivational blog at Inside a Mother’s Mind.