When Your Kid is the “Only One” and You Feel Like a “Bad” Mom

This week has been hard – I was originally thinking “awful” which is also somewhat accurate, but obviously more negative. This week was our son’s first week back at daycare in two weeks because of the Christmas break – and our son has not handled it well. Most drop offs have ended with me walking away down the hallway, still hearing his screams as I exit the building. And it hasn’t just been screaming – he’s started running away from me and hitting when he doesn’t like something – he’s even begun to hit other people now if he’s extremely upset. 

My identity as a mom has been a bit shaken this week – I hate feeling like I can’t control my child (I hate not being in control of things in general…) I hate feeling like I’m the only one whose three-year-old has extreme tantrums anytime I try to leave him at daycare – those feelings of “what am I doing wrong?” begin to spring up, and I start convincing myself that everyone is judging me for being a “bad” parent.

I know my kid is a good kid, but I also know he is easily overwhelmed by people, loud noises, and changes to his routine. He used to tell me that he didn’t like daycare because “everyone said hello to him” – so I get it, he’s introverted, and that’s okay. Hitting, screaming, and throwing tantrums are not okay, however, as I have told my son numerous times this week in our heart-to-heart talks at the end of the day.   

I confided in a trusted friend this week about how I was struggling with mom guilt, how I was so tired of every day being a struggle for myself and my child – and she did exactly what I needed her to do, which was to speak words of truth to me, validate my feelings, and to remind me of the lies I was telling myself. Here’s part of a text she sent me yesterday:

“That is so hard, friend. It [my son’s behavior] feels like a reflection on you because you’re the mom – but really the reflection on you is that he’s a secure boy who knows he has a voice and feels comfortable and safe to express his frustration or anxiety…”

We talked about how his “bad” behavior was not being done maliciously, but the screaming and hitting were his way of trying to communicate that he felt unsafe, or scared, and that he really, REALLY was not happy. We talked about doing things to help validate my son’s feelings – saying things like, “I know this is hard for you and that you are not happy. You are safe. I will come back this afternoon to pick you up.” She reminded me that I was not alone, as I had convinced myself, and that many other parents were also struggling this week coming back from the holiday break. She reminded me that the people who might be labeling me a “bad” mom were not the people who mattered anyway.

Something else I also had to come to terms with this week was my pride. I realized that I was allowing my pride to either be puffed up, or totally flattened, by my son’s behavior. I came across this posted on a friend’s Facebook wall, and I felt like it was meant for me to see:  Screen Shot 2020-01-11 at 11.08.25 AMI want to be proud of my son when he does good things and when he overcomes his fears. But I don’t want to let his choices totally define me and make me feel secure or insecure about my abilities as a mother. But how often do we find ourselves thinking this way? We see a “badly” behaved kid (or sometimes more accurately, probably an emotionally overwhelmed kid) and we sometimes unfairly assume that the parents are just failing to do their job or put in the effort. Many times, as I can attest to, the parents are doing the best they can – and they’re tired and frustrated and feel helpless. 

So, where do I go from here? My husband and I have tried to be creative in how we attempt to get through this phase – one thing we have tried to start doing is dropping our son off earlier than normal to daycare, when there are fewer kids in the classroom (aka. creating a less overwhelming environment). The few days we have done it, things have been better – not perfect, but better. We want to strike a balance between validating our son’s feelings, allowing him a voice to say “no,” but still requiring him to be able to function in day to day life. It’s hard, I don’t always find the right balance – but I’ll keep trying. 

As always, my hope is that sharing this post will help at least one other person to not feel so alone. The author Brené Brown says that shame grows in us when we convince ourselves we’re alone and keep our struggles a secret. Shame is destroyed when we experience empathy from others – that moment when someone says “me too.” If you need another parent to say “me too,” I’m here for you.

Thanks for reading.

My Unoriginal New Year’s Resolutions

I love making New Year’s resolutions – I love goal setting and list-making in general. I love that feeling of a fresh start and the potential for the year to be anything you want it to be. 

Some people pick a word for the year – and I’ve never really been able to do that before, nothing ever felt right to me. But this year, the word that keeps coming to my mind is “thrive.” I’m really optimistic about 2020 – I think big things are going to happen for me. I have no proof of this, just a feeling.  

My year is starting off with a bang – three weekends in a row I will be out of town, which is almost unheard of for me. I turn 33 in two weeks, and I’m heading to Dallas to celebrate by getting my first tattoo (I’m super stoked for this by the way!) The following weekend, I’ll be heading to Orlando, Florida to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday in DisneyWorld. Then the next weekend Dean and I will be going to a My Hero Academia convention (back in Dallas). Two days later I will be having surgery on my foot, and then I’ll start the long recovery process…

So, why have I said that my resolutions are unoriginal for this year? Well, thriving for me looks like doing the things I want to do for my health, but have struggled to do for the past few months/years:

  • Exercising consistently
  • Eating better/cooking at home more
  • Praying/meditating daily

These goals are things I always take for granted that I will do every day, but I found it to be a real struggle to achieve these while I was in grad school. They’re your basic “good habits” that we all know we should be doing, but somehow find ourselves not doing them. Now that grad school is done, I feel like I’ve got more breathing room. I mostly just want to get back on track with being healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. So yes, they are totally cliché and unoriginal, but those are my resolutions for 2020, summed up in a word: Thrive.  

Another part of thriving for me is just feeling good being me in the places where I am. I feel like I got to a point last year where I just felt tired of feeling bad – of feeling insecure and anxious all the time. Is that something you can just decide to not feel anymore? I’m going to pretend like it is and see how it works out for me… I’m tired of feeling imposter syndrome at my job – I’m tired of feeling ugly in pictures – I’m tired of worrying about being made fun of for the music or t.v. shows I like – I’m tired of pressuring myself to be a “better” mom – I’m tired of caring that not enough people “liked” my photos or read my blog – I’m tired of just barely surviving and making it to the end of each day – I just want to be me and feel good about it, to be good enough and not perfect. 

Perhaps my unoriginal resolutions have a bit more nuance than they initially do at first glance – but I’ll admit they are still pretty run-of-the-mill. However, I am pretty excited about my unoriginal resolutions and what they will mean for me in the upcoming year. Whether you’re the type of person who makes resolutions or not, whether your goals for 2020 are exciting, boring, or average, I hope this year brings you one step closer to thriving. 

Thanks for reading!

My Reading List from 2019

Despite having a lot of homework last year, I still managed to read a handful of really great books! I am a pretty avid reader (and writer I suppose) and I just don’t feel right if I’m not reading something. Lately I’ve been really interested in personal development books or books with a spiritual focus. I wanted to share some of my favorites from the past year:

  • Dare to Lead – Brené Brown

Everyone should read this book! (Yes, I said it!) I had never read any of Brené Brown’s other books, but this book gives a good summary and builds upon things she has talked about previously. My main takeaways from this book were 1) Making your list and 2) Choosing your Core Values. Your list is a small (1 inch by 1 inch) piece of paper with names of people whose opinion of you matters – the idea is that you should not worry about what everyone thinks about you (you will be crippled with anxiety) but you should also not disregard all opinions of you, for fear of turning into a person you don’t want to be. We all need a core group of people to hold us accountable to being the person we want to be. These people could be mentors, role models, family members – anyone whose advice you value and that knows you well. The “choosing your values” exercise required you to look at a list of about 50 attributes, and choose 2 that you felt embodied you and that you wanted to live into. These values define every choice you make. It is hard to narrow it down – but I ended up choosing Honesty and Making a Difference as my two values. It has empowered me to make hard decisions as I view life through this “lens.” There are so many more good things about the book that I don’t have time to talk about – read it, you won’t regret it. I have a quote from the book written on my white board at work:

“If you choose courage, you will absolutely know failure, disappointment, setback, even heartbreak. That’s why we call is courage. That’s why it’s so rare.” 

Read More »