Have you ever felt you failed as a mother? I sure have. Here is a story of how I felt like I was the worst mother ever and how I handled it. I’m sure you can relate.
It was Elle’s nap time.
We were in bed. She was wide awake. I was exhausted.
She crawled to the right of the bed to play with the flashlight. She crawled over my head to get a book. She sat up to sing a song. She flipped this way and that way talking to herself.
This child was not sleeping and I desperately needed a nap. Carrying NumNum and taking care of a toddler drained the energy out of me. I was trying so hard to nap but was woken up every time Elle moved.
I was at the end of my rope and had nothing to give. I needed Elle to nap so I could recharge.
And so I told her nicely to go to sleep.
Again I told her nicely to go to sleep.
Then I threatened I’ll put her in her crib.
Then I told her loudly to lie down.
I can feel myself losing my temper. But it doesn’t matter – I had every right to be mad. I do so much for this little girl and all I ask is for her to nap, RIGHT NOW. It’s not too much to ask for.
She continued to crawl all over me.
And so I yelled at her to stop and stay still.
Then I totally lost it and screamed at her.
And I screamed at her some more….
Up until then, I have never screamed at her. Yes, I get frustrated when she pushed my buttons but I’ve always managed to keep my cool.
But this time, I totally lost it.
The little girl did what every child would do. She cried. Not a whimpering cry but a full on, totally frightened, who-is-this-stranger-yelling-at-me kind of cry.
She sat there looking at me as large tears rolled down her cheeks. I closed my eyes and tried to breath.
This was probably one of the worst moments between my daughter and I.
I felt like the worst mother possible. I had lost my temper and screamed at my little girl. I felt so ashamed for treating her this way. She doesn’t deserve this, she was just being herself.
Then she did something not all children would do.
She wiggled her little body close to mine and wrapped her arms around my neck. Through her hyperventilated crying, she repeated ‘my mama, my mama, my mama’.
She kept chanting those words, over and over and something inside me clicked.
Yes, she’s right.
Her mama is patient and gentle.
Her mama is loving and kind.
Her mama is present and focused.
I have not been ‘her mama’.
I had let my lack of sleep and my exhaustion get the better of me. I foolishly expected a toddler who doesn’t like to nap to fall asleep on her own. I selfishly wanted her to nap so I could sleep. I lost control of myself and showed her a side of me I didn’t want her to see.
I was not the mother I wanted to be.
I took a deep breathe. And another.
I’m not sure how it happened but somehow I wasn’t tired anymore. My mind and my body have found a way to focus on what really mattered – to be Elle’s mama.
I sat up from the bed and held the little girl in my arms. I rocked her back and forth to comfort her. ‘I’m sorry I yelled at you Elle. It’s ok, mama is here now. How about mama go outside with you and we’ll play with your toys?’
She looked up at me with her watery eyes. ‘Play? Ok mama.’
That’s the thing with kids – they forgive easily, instantly changing their emotions and move on to something better.
She wiggled out of my cuddle and slid off the bed. As she held my hand leading me to the living room, I felt so grateful that this little girl continues to teach me how to be a better mother. Yes, I still feel bad for losing my temper and yelling at her, but the reality is it does happen because I’m human.
I now know that when I feel myself losing my temper, I have to remind myself to be ‘her mama’, the mama who is patient, present and loving.