How do you pick yourself up when something knocks down your parenting confidence?

How do you recover when something you read or watch or hear knocks down your confidence as a parent, especially when your baby is little?

I've been thinking about this since I found out that a friend is feeling like she's doing things wrong and has lost her nerve ever since she read a Very Famous Sleep Book. I'm not going to say which one, since any of the sleep books can make you feel inadequate and incompetent if the book doesn't happen to correspond to what your child needs*. Any book that's more about pushing the author's agenda than it is about helping you track and pay attention to your own child has the potential to make you feel pretty worthless.

Unsolicited advice: Don't read any sleep books while your child is in the 4-month sleep regression. Please. If you want to read a book during this crucible of a time, read The Wonder Weeks, which will explain why the 4-month sleep regression happens and how it's totally not your fault. Or read the comments in any one of my posts about the 4-month sleep regression and feel the collective exhaustion of the universe of parents of 4-month-olds.

But now back to the topic of getting your confidence back. I kept my confidence because of my mom. I'd call her and she'd tell me I was doing ok and it would all be ok. I believed her because a) she'd always told me the truth, even when it hurt, and b) she'd let me see that parenting wasn't always easy for her but that it was worth it, so I knew she knew how hard it was and wasn't taking my asking for help lightly.

(This makes me feel better even now. Because I know that no matter what else, I tell my kids the truth. And they certainly see that I actively work at parenting well and sometimes fail. That's not just about their development now, it turns out, but also about being able to be there for them when they need me as adults. This is something that we can all do, is tell our kids the truth and let them see that we're real people working on things. And it's way easier than faking it.)

(My mom says she knew I would be ok when I stopped calling her three times a day and got down to twice a day.)

If you do not have a mom like mine to call, let me tell it to you here and now:

You are doing a great job. Not just an ok job, but a great job. You're making the right decisions, and when something doesn't work you're regrouping and figuring out why and trying something else. You're paying attention to your baby, and your baby is lucky to be yours. You're the best parent for your child.

I wish I could give you a few minutes to see it in hindsight, so that you'd know that three years from now you won't even remember whatever** it was that's making you feel so defeated today. That your child is turning into the person they're supposed to be. That a bad feeding or a bad naptime or six months in a row of waking up too many times at night hasn't impeded their emotional development one bit. That your child is going to start hugging you more and crying less. That you're doing really, really well at this.

Who's got something to say?



* I've been pissed about this for almost seven years now–it was the topic of my very first post ever.

** I initially typo'd this as "shatever." Hahahahaha. Truth.

55 thoughts on “How do you pick yourself up when something knocks down your parenting confidence?”

  1. The other night I was having dinner with a friend who is scheduled to have her third baby via c-section on Monday. I mention this because the dinner was supposed to be sort of like her last hurrah. And I felt like it was ruined because it ended on a sour note when we had a conversation in which we disagreed about the Weisbluth book. She referred to that book as “her Bible.” I, on the other hand, wanted to burn it. I read it when my son was a newborn and got so flustered trying to get him to sleep every two hours, and felt so terrible if I turned to the stroller or the car to get him to sleep, which Weisbluth refers to as “junk sleep” that doesn’t count. And he was such a condescending alarmist that I just felt horrible about myself.I still think that, five years later, I am suffering repercussions from reading that damn book. Every night my son struggles to fall asleep and I get into this huge panic (like, seriously, physical signs of anxiety) because OMG sleep begets sleep and if he doesn’t sleep now he won’t sleep again and he’ll be tired and bad at school and the teacher will judge me and why do I suck at this so badly?
    So I guess this isn’t all that uplifting of a comment, but my point is that Moxie’s friend is not alone in feeling like crap after reading one of those books. She should take Moxie’s very kind words to heart, as I have. And she should do it now, not five years later like my idiot self.

  2. I call a friend and give details about what awful thing I’ve done or allowed to happen. I have two friends and a husband I trust with these conversations. If I cry, they don’t flinch. If I confess, they don’t judge. But I have a 5yo, 2yo and an infant, so I’ve had time to build this network. My mom was it when I had my first, and she was great.Building a group is essential because you need people to tell you that those books are B.S. when they aren’t working for you and that they’re fab. when they are. But you have to be careful because lots of people take your totally normal feelings of anxiety or failure as an invitation to tell you what to do, which emphatically is not what you need. (If you manage to remember that when a friend is down, you’ve qualified as a nice person.)
    Taking mommy and me classes, joining a book club or just reaching out to old friends are great ways to find some balance…if you can find your way into those groups.

  3. Also, Shannon, you are not an idiot. You just care a lot about doing it right and want your kid to sleep because OMG, everyone’s life is better when that works out.

  4. If you feel like you will harm your baby or yourself, go get help right away. But if it’s just that your child isn’t sleeping and you’re exhausted and you think you’re doing it all wrong, then do this:Take a deep breath.
    Let everything else go, if you can. Get food into you and your baby. Get as much sleep as you can. And don’t worry about anything else for a while. This too shall pass.

  5. I’ve got something to say: THANK YOU. This post was exactly what I needed to read the morning after I found head lice in my daughter’s hair.

  6. My rabbit hole of insecurity is that my lack of confidence is exactly what will screw up my kid. I have good days and bad days with this, but it’s not a good sign when your worries are what worry you.

  7. I have had to stop talking about stuff to my mother in law and mother because they judge. My mother has admitted that to me. It took a long time to accept that and to accept that I cannot change who she is.But yes, saying it to yourself is the best thing. And getting food and rest into you is also so beneficial. You can always
    Try again.

  8. My youngest child just turned 5 and just started sleeping through the night. Her sleeping issues definitely contributed to my parenting inferiority complex (though that had been long established, beginning with my inability to get pregnant), and certainly the cumulative exhaustion did not help.One day she just started sleeping better. It happened on its own, despite numerous interventions we had tried along the way, and the huge lesson I learned from that is that some things are just beyond your parental control and the limits of the so called experts.
    I know I will always have issues with worrying about whether I’m doing it right, but now I also know that there isn’t always a right answer or an easy solution no matter how many books you read or doctors you talk to or techniques you try. Sometimes you just have to ride it out and do the best you can along the way.
    Also the very famous authors of all the various famous sleep books can bite me.

  9. Hmmmm… when something knocks down my parenting confidence… you mean, like yesterday’s discussion about wunderkids leaping from their mother’s womb, and rising, fully formed, like Athena, to make their own breakfasts, pack their backpacks and conjugate Latin verbs while scrubbing the bathroom floor before Mum and Dad have risen?(Wait, if it’s Athena there was no womb involved, right? Nevermind.) I know, I know, no one said their child does that. But, seriously, I felt like such a failure just yesterday! (Please, please let me say again that NO ONE posted in a smug or harmful way and this is all about me. This community is always supportive, and yesterday was no different.) How I dealt with it yesterday was by calling a mama friend and we talked about all the different combinations of personalities between parents and children that contribute to what their daily routine is like. And then I felt fine.As for when they were babies, I think (it’s all a little fuzzy)I grew to be more and more discerning about who I spent time with, who I listened to, and what I read. I just became a lot more protective of my personal space. My friend and I last night also kind of talked about this very thing: how, no matter how you try to protect yourself, you still feel bombarded from all fronts about every decision you make. The good news, as I said to her last night, sitting on a bench, watching the kids play at the playground, no one knows or cares anymore how long they nursed, or if they slept through the night or any of that stuff. No consoloation to those of you in the thick of it, really, but there you go.

  10. What a timely post. Yesterday ended with me in tears thinking that I was the worst parent, and that I had no strength to face another day and all its stresses. After long talk with hubby, a hot shower and some time to focus on concrete strategies to decrease the yelling and help me feel less stressed (exercise! hobbies!) I’m feeling better. But man, its hard to believe that you can be better when some days just suck so much.

  11. I keep a refrain in mind that my son will be okay—that I was okay despite some truly shoddy parenting—and that most kids raise themselves. And, I try to remember that I am doing my best, always, even on crummy days when I know it’s a poor version of what I would like it to be. That’s all you can really ask of yourself. I think also that feeling terribly judged (by myself and others) for divorcing when my son is still so little has liberated me from the heap of judgments that I was dumping on myself daily for other (smaller) failings. He will be okay, and I will make sure of that. But that epic fail has made me give myself breaks on the smaller things. There is no perfect world, and kids and parents alike deserve the room to make mistakes.

  12. After two completely and totally different sleeping kids, I want to tell mommies everywhere to save their money and not buy the books. There is simply not a darn thing that can be done for kids except patience, love and time. Confidence goes a long way to helping with the patience and love bit. I absolutely could not have done anything to make my son a sleeper, whereas my daughter drops like a rock and stays there. The difference is that with the first kid I didn’t know this. With the second kid, I do. Every mom needs someone whispering on their shoulder the Stuart Smalley affirmations.

  13. What do I do when my confidence is shaken?1. Remember that the past is gone, and to learn from my mistakes but not dwell on them.
    2. Remember that my child is an individual person – I should not be seeking to control any aspect of his development/behaviour, only to guide it with strategies that feel right to me. Also trust in his innate goodness and capacity to grow. Trust that this gentle guidance will impact his behaviour over time, even if it seems like we are getting nowhere today.
    3. Keep the long view – I focus on how what I do with them today may influence their toughts/feelings/habits in adulthood, rather than what my mom will say about my “methods” at the next family dinner.
    4. Be true – is what I’m doing really in the best interests of our unique little family, or am I letting outside influences guilt me into doing something that doesn’t feel quite right?
    5. Take time for me, to rest, to think, to regain a measure of peace within myself, and remember that I’m not an idiot – I can figure this out.

  14. RebeccaThanks for this great personal comment about sleepers being a function of the kids’ own personality.
    My son is a crappy sleeper and none of the “tips” from books have made one shred of a difference.
    I’m sure lots of babies since the beginning of time have been crappy sleepers and the human race has survived just fine.

  15. I think the most important thing in these situations, and as a Mom in general, is to have at least one person you can talk to about parenting without being judged. Also learning to avoid people who make you feel like crap. And stay off the internet, with the exception of this site. :)When my first son hit three weeks and was nursing 18 hours a day (which he did for two weeks) I reached out on the LLL message boards because I was about to lose my mind. The response I got was, “Be grateful your baby needs you so much.” I never went back.
    I left another internet community when a “friend” told me my son was a bad sleeper because I was lazy and hadn’t done the work needed to get him into good habits. I still seeth about that one. But it was obviously what I needed to hear to get me away from toxic people.

  16. I’m not sure what I do. I think I talk to my husband about it. He usually says things like, “That’s stupid. Those people are stupid. Don’t worry about it.” Just having someone else back me up helps.When I was freaking out about breastfeeding and was told that I had done everything wrong since I left the hospital by the store that catered to breastfeeding moms, I called him in tears and he told pretty much exactly that. And that we would figure out how to do it and it would all be okay and I was not a bad mom. That helped. So I guess having someone who is in your corner is the most important thing.

  17. I bounce things off my husband (and he off me) a lot. I also remind myself that sometimes even though I feel like ALL I ever do is yell at them, part of the reason my daughter in particular challenges me so much is because she knows it’s safe to do so–she’s not going to be hit or abused or called names, I will remain as calm as I can and authoritatively explain why I am telling her that no, a root beer float is not an acceptable lunch. And I am the person they go to when they hurt, or that they have to just check in with throughout the day. I did not have that kind of relationship with my own mom so it reminds me I am doing things sort of right, at least, and that kids survive far worse parents than me and do OK.

  18. Totally knocked down this week when our daycare provider emailed to say my 4yo son had hit another kid and was impossible to reason with. Then she says preschool/school won’t put up with it and if it happens they’ll make me pick him up, and eventually he’ll be expelled. And I should talk to the pedi to see if there are any underlying problems causing him to go from 0 to 60 in one second.Commence the tears welling up in my eyes- what an awful, permissive mother I am, my son has no self control and will be in handcuffs before I know it.
    Then I find myself at the library checking out books “Taming the Out Of Control Child” “The Explosive Child” “Wild Things”. Who am I and what have I become?
    Then I kind of tell myself it’s really not all that bad and we can rise up from the ashes. I hope. Google has been feeding me all sorts of horror stories. I need to stop listening to Google.

  19. JudyB- Step away from the Google. And we are in a very similar situation. The school has so far been pretty understanding, but we need a solution. And I don’t have one. I have no idea how to get my confidence back really. I try to avoid parenting books in general.I will say “The Explosive Child” was helpful because things are not as bad as some of those anecdotes.
    And I need to call and make an occupational therapy appt. Because it might help.

  20. @Rudyinparis, I’m so glad you said that! I felt exactly the same yesterday (and just as you say, no one was smug or judgy) – it hadn’t occurred to me that an 8-year-old should pack her own lunch, and I went “oh no, am I behind?” for at least an hour.I wouldn’t generally say I have a lot of parenting confidence to be knocked down from, and only the fact that I figure most of my decisions are unimportant keeps me from constantly second-guessing myself. But the main thing I do is come to Moxie or talk to my husband or one of my two best mom friends. (I don’t have a mom like Moxie’s.) I basically need to be reminded that most of these little things are not momentous in the first place and will pass in the second case, and that Mouse is generally doing fine.

  21. Thanks Me, too. I agree that the main thing I take away from all these books is that our situation could be a lot worse. I’m adding DHA back into his diet and reminding him of no-hitting options. Baby steps.

  22. @Tine, headlice was one of those for me. GAH! I got over it, though. It helped to have a friend who had lived in Hawaii note that headlice were a constant there, and that the nurse did weekly head checks in EVERY classroom. :shrug: so I borrowed her ‘yeah, they’re ubiquitous and not all that big a deal except they’re *annoying* and take work to eliminate’ attitude.I did a lot of therapy before having kids so that I would be less messed up for having kids. But I wasn’t done before the first arrived. I did learn a few tricks, though.
    1. Embrace the worry as a sign that you care. Love the HECK out of your worry, hold it to your heart, welcome it. It has much less power when you love it than when you fret about it. (I am prone to fret cycles.) That way I get to make decisions with my brain, not my fret.
    2. Time limit on ruminating on mistakes. I also am prone to a cycle of ‘ohcr*p’ catastrophic thinking (whatever I did is irreversible and horrible and nothing will EVER make it better!). I can indulge that for an hour by the clock, and call it an indulgence, but then I am required to stop. I had to have someone remind me to pull out of the spiral, for probably two years, then I started being able to remind myself. I would cycle several times, but once I had the one bout, I wasn’t permitted a second one. It is kind of an odd rule, maybe, but it worked for me.
    3. Leaning on Codependency recovery support and sexual abuse recovery support self-help techniques. Two of my favorites from An Adult Child’s Guide to What’s Normal: Epitaph Rule and B Rule.
    Epitaph rule. It is only important enough to get upset over if it is important enough to be the ONLY thing on your gravestone. So, ‘Here lies hedra, who couldn’t get her 2 month old to sleep on a schedule’? er. No. Say it out loud. Make it dramatic, so you can see it as the absurdity it is.
    B Rule: We tend to think of a grade as a single measure of how we’re doing. But each instance is part of that grade. So to get a B, you need an 80 (old scoring rules, okay?). That means you got 80 questions right out of 100, and you got 20 questions COMPLETELY WRONG. 20% of the time, you can completely utterly fail it, and still get a B. So, count each instance as one in a million instances through their growing lives, rather than thinking ‘one failed moment/instance/skill/item/event = total fail.’ And actually, I have probably several hundred instances per day that I could fail at or succeed at, so … yeah, I could focus on keeping score, but once I got used to the idea of giving myself a little slack and taking a solid B? Much easier to stop counting.
    4. My mom, like others here. She told me that you don’t get to know if you succeeded or not. The closest you can get to thinking you can even measure that is if your children have children, how they handle themselves. You can count yourself a moderate success if they generally succeed, but even if they don’t, it might not be about you. We’re better off if we stop thinking it is about how WE do. Like we are ultimately responsible for everything. Contributors, sure. But not The Be All.
    5. Reading Psychoneurobiology research, which reminded me that I Am Not The Only Person In My Child’s Life. Yeah, other people’s influence matters, too. Many relationships matter.
    5. More Psychoneurobiology research, which looked at ‘perfect’ parents (who never mess up and strive for doing it right ALL THE TIME and actually pretty much hit that), and their kids, who were fragile, easily depressed, anxious, and adrift. Guess what? We evolved with Normal Parents. Who didn’t know what they were doing. Who messed up. Who loved or didn’t, were patient or weren’t, were with it or not, understood or not, all over the place on any given day. It turns out that we evolved to develop optimally with Normal Parents. Not super-parents. Resilient, emotionally sturdy, physically sturdy kids come from normal, imperfect, figuring-it-out-as-they-go parents. I cause more harm by trying too hard to be perfect than by living my life and working to overcome my mistakes.
    6. My SIL, who proved the case that being willing to admit that you blew it as a parent, to the child, and work to resolve your mistake makes for kids who are compassionate, and not messed up about making mistakes. Her kids handle themselves beautifully, they weather the storms of life well, reaching out for help when they can’t do it alone, handling it on their own where they can, and growing into and through the challenges of life. You can’t model that kind of life skill if you don’t make mistakes. Her religion and mine are far apart, and her politics, too, but she lives them honestly and passionately, acceptant that neither she nor anyone else is or ever will be perfect. Being able to see that up close made a huge difference to me as a parent. That she is (IMHO) a fantastic Catholic, and does not wallow in guilt over the reality of being imperfect, but uses her faith (at least from my perspective) to put her errors into God’s hands without relinquishing the responsibility for making amends or learning… that’s a Grace that made my early parenting easier, even from a different theological perspective.
    7. My mom, again, who admitted her imperfections, valued the fact that she was always learning, and regretted that she had so little foundation for good parenting that we were outright experiments in ‘how to raise kids’. She made some spectacular mistakes. She also made a lot of good choices, and taught good skills. And we muddle on, and the next generation will start from a better place than we did.
    8. Random advice from a coworker while I was pregnant with our first, which was really great. He was visiting our site for one day, and I never saw him again, but it was huge for me… he said: 1) Get a rocker recliner, because when they’re stuffed up and will only sleep on your chest, you can sleep in a rocker recliner but you can’t sleep in a chair. and 2) You will mess up, period. Get used to the idea, because there is no way to avoid it. They will talk about you in therapy. Your goal is that they should be able to *afford* their therapy. Not that they’ll avoid needing it at all. … We do joke periodically about ‘who, that one is going to show up in therapy!’ when we’ve blown something. But really, them growing up to need a normal amount of therapy is a fine goal.
    9. Telling other parents all of the above, over and over. Seeing the struggling mom in the store on a day when my kids are doing well, and catching her desperate guilty envious glance, and telling her that we’re in this together. That she IS the best parent for her child. That I do this the same dang way she’s doing it, by making it up as I go along, day after day, and slowly figuring out which things work and which don’t, mainly by having done it wrong first. Watching as their spines straighten and they lose a little of the frantic look and letting my eyes fill along with theirs with the relief that maybe they’re Not Ruining Their Child. Telling it like it is but working to tell it in a way that the other mom walks away with a little more strength, a little more certainty, a little more belief in herself. Because when I did that, I could hear it coming out my mouth and in my ears, and it was a little easier for me to believe it every time I told someone else.
    Phew. I started out adulthood pretty badly damaged. I sometimes wondered if it was possible for me to raise mentally healthy children, but ep trusted me, and we worked together, and I sought out therapy and people who supported me, and I found places like here, and I read sustaining books (and research) and dumped anything that did not sustain me. So here I am. I still mess up. A LOT. And I roll with it, because normal means messing up. Good is messing up and doing something useful with it afterwards, like learning, or making amends, or being a model for how to handle a mess up with grace.

  23. @Rudyinparis me too (seconding what @Charisse said).@JudyB I think I’d be inclined to ignore anyone who told me they couldn’t “reason with” a 4-year old, especially one who was clearly already an upset 4-year old. I mean, like, duh. I can’t defy gravity, either, but that neither surprises nor disturbs me, its irksomeness notwithstanding.
    I’m not sure how I regain my confidence. I know that I jumped into motherhood by becoming a stepmom to two teenagers and believe me, things like their sleep patterns (either at an early age or then)? Not high on the list of worries. As a mom to an infant-toddler-preschooler I think I have always informed by the resulting awareness that what I really need to worry about is not sleep (other than my own), or breast-versus-bottle, or whatever but rather, that moment when — just to pull an example out of my hat — one of the kid’s friends calls me on a Sunday morning and says, “I hear [your kid] was in a car accident, is everything OK?” and I haven’t even heard about the accident (yes, it had happened and yes, thank heavens, everyone was OK. And for the record, in that circumstance, it turns out the teenagers whip out their cell phones and start calling … their friends. Who call … their friends. Who call … me. Or, in your kid’s case, you. So, yeah. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, and please model wearing, and insist that your kids always wear, a seatbelt. And don’t call or text while you drive.).

  24. What if what’s making you feel like a crappy parent is that you know you’re being a crappy parent? We’ve been having a bad week around here in large part because I’m in a Mood and I can’t figure out why or where it came from (it feels like PMS, but the timing’s totally off). Thought it was crappy sleep (23 months of it, hahaha, sigh), but I slept in with the kiddo today and still found myself wanting to leave her at a truck stop. (Not really. But the words “Why do you exist?” actually popped into my head at one point after which I was immediately horrified.) How do you recover your confidence when you know you’ve been blowing it, repeatedly?

  25. The sleep stuff definitely gets me doubting myself. My older two (5-year-old twin girls) were challenging sleepers and I put myself through the wringer, reading every sleep book and questioning why I was unable to make it work, before finally realizing I’m just not a CIO person and that’s okay. They eventually turned a corner and were sleeping through pretty well by 18 months.I swore I wouldn’t torture myself like that the second time around, but now that we are approaching 15 months and my younger daugher is still up at night (and still nursing at night), there are moments where that self doubt creeps back in. Did I create this situation? If I were better or stronger somehow, would I be able to fix it?
    When I feel this way, I go to supportive communities like this one. Or I talk to my older sister who is never ever judgmental (and doesn’t offer advice, thank goodness) and always reassures me that my children are safe, cared for, and know that they are loved. All the other stuff just doesn’t matter that much.

  26. Forgiving yourself is a big one. Really forgiving. That is how we go on. You did what you thought was best at the time. Reading Jon Gotman (spelling?) of marriage relationship fame and put that to work in parenting. Repair with the child, admit wrong. Active listening goes a long way. Of course this is when child is old enough to talk. Before then, just forgive yourself. Do something for yourself, take a bath, eat, and get someone to watch kids while you sleep. And of course, this too shall pass.

  27. @Rbelle, grieve the mistake, and get assistance.That ‘mood’ sounds like Maternal Depression, even if not PPD officially.
    I made a mistake that messed up my oldest child’s relationship to food FOR LIFE. He will never have a normal place to start from. He ended up in a feeding clinic. I’m going to regret that forever, and it will hurt forever, and I will *not* let it sink me.
    If it is sinking me, then I need support outside what I’ve got right now. That’s when I hit the supplements, exercise, friends, sustaining reading, and if it sticks more than two weeks in series with those supports, I have promised ep and myself that I will go back to therapy (because I am prone to PPD, and know that if trying exercise/supplements/etc. doesn’t knock it down in that time it is deeper than I thought).
    That thought that popped into your head and horrified you? That’s called ‘intrusive thoughts’ and it is a clasic sign of PPD/Maternal Depression. Print Moxie’s sheet on PPD, hand it to someone you trust, and take action. Don’t think it is ‘just a mood’. Recognize it, and do something to resolve it.

  28. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m seriously going to print out your statement and put it in my wallet for a while. Got one who just started daycare this week (5 months old) and one starting kindergarten next week. I need to remember what you say and stop feeling so much like I’ve done everything wrong…

  29. Thank you, @hedra. Hearing that helps. I know it intellectually, but emotionally I go all “Aaaaggghhh! I’m not taking good care of my chiiiillllldddddrrrrrennnn!” 🙂

  30. Wow, I could not have read this at a better time. Thanks for the encouragement! My baby is 15 weeks and seems like she’s starting the 4 month sleep regression period. Every book, website, or person I turn to seems to have a very different and strong opinion! I’m feeling guilty because I want to transition her from her cosleeper/our bed to her crib. Thanks so much for this and all your other posts!

  31. Thanks for this post. Today was my breakdown day after my MIL criticized my parenting of my 3 year old the day after I brought my newborn home from the hospital and then a little later my father told me I shouldn’t have any more kids. Fortunately, I have a mother like yours who would tell me if any of it were true, but she assures me that I’m doing just fine, something I know but can have trouble forgetting on so little sleep! . . I appreciate having some company from you and your readers and am greatful to my mother for not loading me up with emotional baggage like the above mentioned relatives were.

  32. @anonforthis, talk to some of us who have had PPD. Yelling? Check! Saying completely inappropriate and hurtful things? Check! Being a million miles from the mom we think we can be? Check! Being several galaxies away from the parent we think our child deserves? Yep, that, too. Seriously, we are all in this together. Sharing that suckage with people who have also been through the suckage, especially the shame/guilt/fear/rage suckage? It helps. I understand not wanting to share it publicly, but there are a million other people standing behind their walls hoping nobody sees how awful they are as parents. So find someplace to share it safely, so you don’t feel so alone.When I say (here and elsewhere) that I succeed maybe 25% of the time on parenting, I am not bsing. I have done many cycles of working on not yelling, because I default to yelling, and when PPD hits, I rely on defaults. Likewise on not being the first person to dump on my kids, because I’m generally fastest out of the gate on that. And on not treating their joy as an opportunity to tell them they were being unsafe, because even Safe/Respectful/Kind can be used as a stick to beat them with.
    Every age has new triggers for me, and each child has new ways they hit those triggers. I am always right next to the edge of depression (let the supplements slip two or three days, and I’m tipping over the line – I have to treat it like meds). I’m always trying to learn the parenting skill my child needed me to have two weeks ago. They’re always ahead of my curve.
    Know why I have a laundry list of ways to keep myself on an even keel? Because I could otherwise sink myself every day. Because I won’t tend to notice I’m depressed until I’ve BEEN depressed, when I’ve already been Master Sucky at parenting for days.
    Yes, I do succeed, too. On some of the important things, even. But I could easily overlook those in the midst of everything else. When I slip into depression, there’s mainly ‘midst of everything else’.
    Let go of shame. Shame is about who you are as a person, and depression is not who you are as a person. Shame is a sticky emotion, it sticks to you and sticks to everything you do while you are feeling it. Worse, it sticks to all the previous shame you have ever felt, so even a flicker of it will pull the entire tarball up, a lifetime of self-disgust, ensuring that there’s no way you can address it in the moment… so the only thing you can do is scrape it ALL off, and toss it to the universe to consume and convert to pure energy. Send it to the void. And then instead define your feelings as Regret. (Do the same with Guilt, too…)
    Regret is a clean feeling, even when it hurts. It is knowing that you didn’t know better for something. It is knowing that even when you did know better you were struggling against a tide you could not fight (PPD, exhaustion). It is knowing that even when you were struggling you didn’t have the faintest clue how to struggle effectively, you had no skills for it, you were exhausted by the endless uphill battle and could not learn quickly in the moment even when you saw what you might try. That’s not shameful. It sucks, but it isn’t a personal character flaw. It’s just being human. I regret I didn’t know better. I regret I thought I could spot my own PPD when it started. I regret I believed the doctor/advice/book. I regret I carry a deep-seated belief that I had to figure it out for myself so I couldn’t go take a freakin’ parenting class (hi, Sharon, yes, I’m still working on this one!). I regret I had no skills yet for hearing, listening to, or following the small still voice of instinct.
    People who should ‘be ashamed’ are those who cannot feel it. Shame is about a fundamental lack of character. It is applies to people who really believe that they are the one that matters, and their child does not. They should be ashamed. But they won’t be. Nature abhors a vacuum, so when someone else is shameless (berating someone for their parenting, say, as if the person berating is the only one who matters), others take on that feeling for them. Children feel ashamed when adults behave shamelessly. It’s Codependency 101.
    Hand off the shame to me, if you want, and I’ll toss it into the universe for you. Let regret take its place, because regret can be a lesson for the future without a constant barrage of self-hate. Grieve for what you couldn’t be as a parent under the circumstances. I won’t deny that it hurts when I seriously f something up. Trust also that we’re dynamic and resilient, and even adults manage to recover relationships with their adult parents when the skills come on line. Trust that bringing any skills on line sooner gives you that much more to work with, and count that a win. Trust that the very fact that you struggle with this, that it matters to you, that it hurts when you mess up, that those feelings prove you are the best parent for your child.
    If you want a concrete example of this, how about my mom, who was in long-term serious counseling/therapy from horrific child abuse at her parents’ hands, and was regularly horrible as a parent. Under current law, she’d have lost custody. Here’s an example: she stood by while my step-dad beat me with a stick for not cleaning my room when I was 7 years old. Her rage was terrifying. She chased my brother with a wooden spoon once with a look of such insane fury that the other kids were certain he was going to die. He was three years old at the time. She compared and measured us against each other, and someone was always ‘the bad kid’. She labeled us so thoroughly that my little brother believed he could *never* be an artist even though he really really really really wanted to be, because he was not The Artist in the family (he’s now a professional artist/craftsman, but he was in college before he was able to overcome that label). She refused to accept introversion as normal, and only praised or welcomed extroverted behavior. Yeah, put that together it doesn’t look so good, does it?
    … And yet she also taught that we are whole people, deserving of respect from birth. That love means taking action. That learning is good. That the world is full of wonder. That finding joy is a worthy goal. That there are always more chances, even if you have to go hunting for them. That you can do your duty by your family with dignity even if you would never have chosen them as friends. That fighting the good fight is worth it. That breaking the rules can be done if you apply style and creativity and you judge your circumstances right. That respect in a relationship matters. That religion should be addressed thoughtfully with mind as well as heart and soul. That being helped by therapy is not a failure. That even when we make mistakes, serious heart-rending horrible mistakes, we still can teach that the world is a good place, that it is worth trying again, that we are imperfect but not evil, that love does not equal skill, and that skill can be gained.
    Her mistakes needed to be acknowledged, sure. It mattered that she stood in front of me, tears in her eyes, and made it clear she knew where she had blown it, and knew where she could never make something up to me. That she had regret, and did not toss the incidents aside as nothing meant I could look at them and measure them, and choose to discard them myself. Her doing that when I was an adult allowed me to learn how to do it when my kids are still kids, so they don’t carry it so far. Which is one more in the good column for her. My kids will be more mentally healthy than hers were when they reach adulthood. And maybe theirs will be one step farther out, beyond that. I call that a win.
    My mom failed a lot, sometimes spectacularly. In the overall measure, she’s a phenomenal parent. I’m going to bet you’ve got as many good lessons in there with the stuff you wish you weren’t teaching. Me, too. We’re human.
    Don’t let it eat you. I’m glad you are going for help, and I hope you find someone you can share with, without shame.

  33. The new school starts on Monday. I’m super teary and emotional this week. It’s the anticipation and anxiety about that, and the relief of *having* a new school that I feel good about, and grief for the old school — both the real place and people, and my imaginary fantasies about them and about spending 5 more happy years in that community, and the feeling that summer was way too short and way too long. Also hormones maybe, and going off zoloft.Sleep has been awful all summer. I have mostly not worried too much about it but now the schedule is going to change a lot, fast, and I am getting kind of seriously burned out. At midnight last night I yelled at her for not being asleep, which, JEEZ, I knew that didn’t work when she was three so why am I still trying it when she’s almost 9?! Tonight she got in bed ten minutes ago (at 8:20), saying she wanted to bet me $2 that she would be asleep in 30 minutes. Oh, how I would love for her to win that bet.

  34. JudyB I didn’t read what others said, forgive me if I’m repeating. Regarding the situation where your child hit another and was difficult to reason with—Please step away from looking things up online or reading the kinds of scary books you mentioned. Unless you find that’s it’s a fit for your child.Keep in mind that a 4 yr. old can’t apply reasoning until his brain develops further, around the age of 7. So being unreasonable is perfectly normal for a 4 yr old.
    I do have a question about this. Where do the teachers expect a child to learn about self control? From being perfectly well behaved? I think not!
    Self-control is not something that can be fully taught with words, it’s something that’s better understood through life experience. Children misbehave in order to learn how to behave.
    If your guts aren’t sounding the alarm that something is wrong, then, for the time being, stay away from “the books” they’ll just freak you out. “You are the best parent for your child” as Moxie says. Trust that.
    I have a bunch of articles on my blog if you’re interested at
    Can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine!!!

  35. Put down the Weisbluth! My biggest parenting regret is that I read the damned thing and became obsessed with sleep. Unfortunately, my son had trouble sleeping, and was often overtired (he didn’t even fall asleep while nursing, and he would get very overtired and start screaming and not be able to calm down – it was a terrible loop). Huge regret that we spent so much time worrying about it, and that I let him cry so much. We never let him cry for a long time (for me, long time = 45 minutes to an hour), but still, for long blocks of time that make me ashamed of myself. It still hurts, physically, today to think of what a stupid effing waste of time that was, and how he’d be just fine if we hadn’t done that. (I mean, he’s fine, but he’s so sensitive, so finely wired, I think how could I have ever let him alone in a room crying? I would never do that now.)My mom talked me off all my parenting ledges in the first go around. Like Moxie, I talked to her every day and she told me every day what a great mother I was. I had no idea how much it would mean to me to hear her say it. And sometimes she says things to me that are cliched and should feel annoying, but I hear them like truth and they really help, like the time she gently reminded me that my first baby would only be a baby a short time (one of those “they grow up so fast!’ comments that makes everyone bananas). And I finally calmed the eff down about some stuff and really started to enjoy him. As a result, some of my most vivid mothering memories are of that time.
    Right now I feel like a terrible parent, I’m ashamed all the time, and I can’t get confidence from anyone because I can’t bring myself to tell anyone about the anger, the yelling, how sad I am, how much I feel like I’m failing. (and yes, I know I’m depressed, and yes I’m going to a psychiatrist and will get meds.)

  36. I’m an insomniac. I’m pretty sure it’s not because of something my mom did, unless you count passing on her genes. I’m pretty sure it’s got some basis in genetics because my son’s an insomniac too. I tried most things at least once, but really, from the beginning, I mostly sympathized with him (when I wasn’t too frustrated to do so).After about 3 or 4 months of parenting and some really awful and insistent parenting advice, I started saying “It’s a little-known fact that babies are people.” Anytime someone tells you how to make a baby sleep, eat, succeed, whatever — try substituting “person” for “baby,” and see if it sounds completely ridiculous.
    99 times out of a hundred…

  37. Oddly, Weissbluth was the only sleep book that had anything useful for us. Not the whole thing, by any means — mostly just the time of day. That’s a fluke, of course: that particular piece just happened to fit my particular kid.The No Sleep Cry Solution, on the other hand — I think I actually threw it across the room. I know I made my husband remove it from the house because just seeing it completely infuriated me.

  38. The best advice I was given: Just remember, that baby doesn’t know any more about being a baby than you do about being its mother. So long as s/he is fed, warm and safe, you are doing it right. You will figure it out together.

  39. @Schwa – I hated No Cry Sleep Solution too. It was like getting a dose of failure (with a side helping of You Will Ruin Your Child Forever!1!!) with every read. Also it totally did not work for us. Actually, in spite of what I posted above, I don’t regret the gentle CIO we did with the babies at 7.5-8 months. He was desperate for sleep, and neither cried much. They actually wanted to be alone in a dark room (no stimulation); they cried a bit to release tension then went to sleep, and have been sleeping through the night ever since (18 month sleep regression horror excepted).

  40. When my kids (3.5yo boy & 5mo girl) do something that knocks down my confidence like: she fails to sleep through the night or he won’t eat his veggies, or he throws a tantrum instead of helping me pick up toys at the end of the day, I deal with the issue in the moment (e.g. nursing at 3:00am when we were really working on sleeping all night; or letting him pass on the veggies but finish his fruit; or attempting a “time out” and picking up toys by myself) in whatever way makes the most sense at the time.After the moment has passed, I try to visualize the result I really want and force myself not to assume that my child will necessarily act the same way the next time. So, hopefully, every time we repeat the sleeping, veggie-eating, or toy-cleaning routines, I approach them fresh, with an expectation that my child will succeed as I have visualized.
    This is my attempt to avoid labeling my children as the “bad sleeper” or “picky eater” and to keep my spirits optimistic. Nine times out of ten, my kids surprise me after a rotten day/night with a blissful night of sleep or cheerfully helping me with clean-up. It’s a conscious process that I have to work at everyday but it makes me feel better.

  41. I’m learning that it’s all about FEAR. That when I react with anger, frustration, rage, it is coming from a place of fear. And I seem to fear pretty much everything. And how do I deal with my fear? By trying to CONTROL EVERYTHING. Instead of trusting others, I rack my brain for solutions, and how can I do it myself. Sorry not sure how to phrase this. So this fear-try to control cycle is deeply ingrained in me, but I’m working on it. I’m working on it by noticing the intrusive thoughts (so true hedra) and recognizing them for what they are (not based in reality, not life or death) and taking a deep breath and letting them go/giving them to the universe. 1 second later, rinse repeat. Intrusive thoughts are beyond intrusive, they are insistent, repetitive, nagging, ugly, dark things. Recognize them for just that, only that, and FORGIVE yourself. I know it’s easier said than done, and it’s not something that once you’ve do it, hey you’re all set. Forgiveness is a process. Guilt and shame keep popping up even years after the related event, even when you think you got over it, possibly because something similar is happening and bringing it all back up again.So to answer the original question, for me, I talk to my bestie, or my godmother/aunt, or my dad (can you tell I’m a talker), tell someone I love them, hear that I am loved, think of times when someone I love/respect told me that I am a good mother. And kinda like hedra said, rather than thinking “OMG my mother is bipolar, my upbringing was not so great, anxiety and depression are genetic…. etc you can see where I’m going with this”, I try to think “Look what I went through and how great I turned out!”

  42. Thank you for this. When I read this yesterday, I was recovering from my normally good sleeper waking up at 4AM wanting a snack and, because we’re working on weaning, not having enough to satiate her. She’s 15 months old and, looking at it from the distance of getting a full night’s sleep last night, probably wasn’t hungry after half an hour. However, at 4:45, when she kept signing that she wanted milk and crying took me back to when she was 4 days old and my milk was finally coming in and she wanted to eat for an hour and a half and how much it hurt. Anyway, the reminder here that as long as I’m trying my best I probably won’t scar her for life was welcome yesterday. Taking in mind your advice, the only parenting book we’ve got is Wonder Weeks, but we had to ditch it about a year ago. She has the same fussy weeks, but the skills she’s working on aren’t necessarily the same ones in the book. It was SO frustrating to read that she should be starting to roll over or pull up to a sitting position and have her not even be thinking about it.So, my answer to the question is to google the problem and see that I’m not the only one having whatever problem and that there are kids who have had that problem and gone on to be normal, healthy kids.

  43. The biggest help to me to regain parenting confidence is to come here, or to talk with a few trusted mom friends who are non-judgemental. My mom can be a good resource too, depending on the subject. Also, read somewhere (here?), that “There’s always tomorrow to be super mom.” …which I had to remember today while letting DS watch Toy Story for the first time, and having him see a scene where Buzz & Woody are punching each other. Gah! I did NOT remember that scene. My sensitive guy totally freaked out. And on top I fumbled with the remote not being able to pause it quickly enough. Needless to say, I had already planned to forward through the Sid the mean kid scenes.Our holy grail was /is sleep. Before DS was 2 this was the biggest contributor to my feelings of failure. I had no confidence in what I was doing as nothing was working, at least not for long. And of course many people willing to tell you what you were doing wrong. Or not understanding that what they were suggesting was impossible for my personality type. Once I connected with another Ask Moxie mom, whose kid had similar sleeping issues, things got drastically better. Finally, someone that understood. We still bounce stuff off of each other to this day, and finally met in person this year. Honestly, This friendship was a lifesaver. Bit by bit through our conversations we began to work through solutions of how to get more sleep for us & our kids. It began to work. I became more confident in my choices and was able to follow my gut feelings around sleep. Got easier to ignore the naysayers. Even now, at 4, though DS is sleeping better, he still gets up in the night sometimes, and wakes up really early. DH & my mom were convinced it was because we were still BF. that stopped 3 weeks ago, and yet still the same sleeping pattern continues. Part of me wishes they would have been right. But I’ve also felt for a long time that this is just the way it is.
    And thanks to @rudyinparis, @charrise et al, right with you on the ‘do it themselves’ front. DS is 4 and puts on his own shoes. Occasionally puts on his pants and undies. Or t-shirt. Daycare is much more advanced in this. I follow their lead. If I hear that a friends child o the same age is doing ‘x’, I’ll usually see if he’s ready to do it on his own. Mostly because I know I tend to just slide into a routine and forget that he’s evolving and can do more and more things himself. His newest thing is to pour himself a glass of water from the Brita jug in the fridge.
    Oh, and @Moxie, there may be hope for your coffee. DS loves to help prepare ours, and I expect in a few years he may want to take over the task. 🙂

  44. I know EXACTLY what book you’re referring to because the same thing happened to me!!!!! I read it when my 2nd child was born (and first was 15 months -crazy times). It led to a huge depression inMe. Not only did it make me feel like a failure for not having a newborn who slept through the night, but also apparently my toddler was the spawn of Satan because she wouldn’t sit still during dinner or meetings with friends. I hate that book! Totally makes you neglect the true needs and personality of your child in favor of some mini-robot.
    The best advice I can give from my experience with three very different kids is this: This too shall pass. Bad times, sleep regressions will pass. But so will good times. Kids go through stages. Not all bad behavior in a child implicates they will grow up to be a bad person. 🙂

  45. This is so timely; I just read this article:
    and it made me feel terrible. I have that hot-in-the-cheeks feeling of shock, as if I’ve just been yelled at by an authority figure in front of a group of peers. Can this woman’s anger really be directed at me? I made a choice to stay home with my kids because a) I want to, and b) my husband travels all the time, but now a total stranger has told me I’m not a grownup because I don’t pay rent and I don’t want to give her the satisfaction of seeing me cry. Which should work out pretty well for me, since I’m alone in a room right now, but still… who is Tracy Martyn? If I’ve never had a facial and I don’t do yoga, am I allowed to be a feminist? I haven’t felt this terrible about myself after reading something since the Weissbluth days.

  46. Oh boy…I wish that I hadn’t poured over every single baby book when I was a new mom. But I have developed a new slogan:”There are a million ways to be a “bad parent”, but there are 2 million ways to be a “good parent”.

  47. God, I’ve missed you people. I really needed to read this post and comments.I’m normally very confident in my parenting, but I’ve been feeling very judged lately by people close to me who I usually rely on. I was confident and ignored the judgements when it was about sleep or breastfeeding.
    Now that I’ve got a frustrating 3 yo and 5 yo who are boundry pushing? I am feeling the judgement. But my God, WHY DOES EVERYONE WANT ME TO SPANK MY KIDS? There are other ways! I am using those other ways! And I’m sure (I think) that those other ways work… I think. What I do know for sure is that spanking is not right for me or my kids, even if it is used successfully by others.
    Now off to search Moxie’s archives for my current issues and to Sharon’s site for articles.

  48. The particular solid enthusiasm the two of these men and women got, in addition to a notion regarding whatever they considered folks needed inside a enjoy, produced these kinds of fresh types set out to offer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *