If You Feel Like A Horrible Mother Sometimes, It’s Not Just You

Karen Patten

This week as we were riding in the car, my youngest asked, “Mommy, why are you lazy?” As my latte almost spewed from my lips, I collected myself to respond. Lazy??? Are you talkin’ to me??

Do you ever feel like a horrible mother? I have those days too. The truth is, we all do. We're in this horrible mother thing together. www.themidlifemamas.com

Instead I asked nonchalantly (and in a very pleasant tone…) – do you know what lazy means? What do you think lazy is? He said “you sleep a lot.” I giggled to myself and thought “From your lips to God’s ears, muffin!” So maybe you don’t think I’m a  horrible mother after all.

I have thick skin, really I do. For example, while other mothers around me crumbled when their threenagers said they were horrible mommies, I was actually proud. It made me feel like I was doing a good  job!

I’m lucky not to hear them often, and I usually take them well. But every once in a while criticisms from my boys just pierce my core.

I’ve always taught the boys that they can always use their words to express their feelings. We’re working on distinguishing the appropriate times and places for such discussions – but they are free to express themselves. I draw the line at actions. Teaching children to regulate their emotions necessarily means that certain actions are off limits. They know this, too. I encourage words and discussions in the appropriate time and place.

And sometimes, I even ask for them to elaborate on something that they may have said about me. Like I did this time – what do you think lazy means? I thought that might help shed some light on what he was trying to convey.

Those are my “I’m rockin’ this mom gig” days. And I’m not bragging when I say – those are most days. But then…there are the “I’m permanently damaging these future serial killers” days.

As we continued riding in the car that day, the deeper meaning of what he was trying to say hit me. He wanted me. He wasn’t getting enough of me. He needed more. He wanted more. I was spending time doing ridiculous things like sleeping. I don’t think he even meant “lazy” as a criticism. He just wanted more me.

On these days – their words transport me to a really dark place. Fear, panic, anxiety, worry, shame… Sometimes I feel it all. Maybe he’s right – am I lazy? I mean, who gives more innocently honest opinions than a preschooler? My boys need more of me. But today, I have nothing left to give. I need a break. I briefly miss the days when I was responsible for nobody but me. I miss the days of being able to curl up in my bed all day long if I wanted to.

Panic hits. Crap. I let them say that they’re made at me. I let them express their feelings. Note to self: pack that away in the mommy fail file of parenting decisions. What was I thinking??? I let them express themselves and now look what happened. They say hurtful things? They’re unkind! I’m not raising kind kids (which is ridiculously far from the truth…)

Anxiety. Now my panic reaches a whole new level of absurdity. …I’m raising serial killers. Isn’t this how it starts? They say unkind things without even knowing it. This will all snowball and next thing I know it will be twenty years from now and I’ll get the inevitable call from the media. “Mrs. Serial Killer Mother, tell us, was there a moment when you felt things change and start to go wrong?” “Well, um…” I’ll stammer. “There was that time he said I slept a lot….”

Damn. Now I could really use a glass of wine. OMG! What if I’m turning into an alcoholic? What if I need wine just to be in the same room with my kids… This is going nowhere good. I’m a failure as a mother.

It’s already been on my radar that each boy has been wanting alone time with me. But I haven’t made it happen yet. Shame steps in – why haven’t I? Isn’t that my most important job? I’ve failed at my most important job today.

Most importantly, deep inside, when the panic subsides – I know none of it is true. I am a good mom. I’m not perfect – but I do my best. And my best is pretty darn good. I put a lot of time and energy into being the best mom I can. Yes, on some days I’m exhausted. And on some days I give 120%. It’s all a high wire balancing act. It’s a balancing act for all of us. You and I – we aren’t alone in our occasional worry. Facebook and Pinterest make us think we are, but those are only a collection of the very best of the very best moments.

On these days, when our ridiculous thoughts feel as true and real as waking from a horrific nightmare, please know that it’s only temporary. It’s not just you who sometimes feels the weight of inadequacy while trying to do the world’s most difficult job with patience, kindness, and grace. It’s not just you. It’s not even just you and I. It’s ALL of us. At one time or another, I promise you, it’s all of us.

Do you have any stories of run away trains of panicky horrible mother thoughts? I’d love for you to come share them with me on facebook or twitter!


  1. […] decided I needed to find a better solution. One that didn’t involve me beating myself up for being the worst mom ever. And one that would actually benefit my my strong willed […]

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  3. Jen on February 10, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Totally needed this tonight. Strong willed 5 and 3 year old decided not to eat dinner for the millionth time (little one is actually very picky and on the pediatrician’s radar for not gaining enough weight….insert mom anxiety here). After yelling, giving up, and feeding them literally ANYTHING they would agree to eat…they are peacefully in bed. After all the drama, all they wanted was to snuggle with me until they fell asleep. Sure, I need to work on exposing them to more food…but instead of hating me for loosing my cool, all they wanted was more of me. They gave ME soo much grace….I must be doing something right!

    • Karen Patten on February 21, 2018 at 11:58 pm

      Indeed! You must definitely be doing something right 🙂 I have a picky eater as well…it’s really tough. But you love them and that’s all they really need. Hang in there!


Hi, I’m Karen, the Atlanta mama, writer, and creator at Intentional Family Life. I’m a passionate advocate for intentional living so that you can experience all that you deserve for yourself and your family. Here, I inspire moms to chose what matters most and then to only do the things that move them closer to what matters most. Read More About Karen…

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