You Know What Will Ruin My Kids?

by Alissa Marquess on September 19, 2013

It’s definitely after midnight when I hear her crying. again.

This isn’t one of those times she’ll just drift off back to sleep.  It’s the third (fourth?) time she’s awoken crying.  I’ve been up and down all night – just falling asleep only to be awoken again.

She’s got to be sick…I don’t feel a fever…what’s going ON!?

I sit by her bed, exhausted, foggy, trying to get her back to sleep, trying to figure out if she’s had a nightmare or if she’s about to puke in my hair.  Perhaps she’s getting a cold….?

I’m so tired.  I’m pleading, “Please,  Z, Mama is tired and she wants to go to bed.  Can you go back to sleep now?  Please?”

I will not let the Should Mama ruin my kids (3)

And then The Guilt starts (It’s 1am, do you know where your guilt is?)

You know, says the voice in my head...

You should stop telling her about how tired you are – it’s teaching her to put others needs ahead of her own.

If you were doing this right you’d come up with a story right now to help her fall asleep.  She would always remember how kind you were at night.  You should be like that.

For that matter, you don’t read picture books to her enough. You should read to her more.

For goodness sake! She fell asleep listening to the Harry Potter with her brothers.  I think maybe you’re ruining her toddlerhood.  I bet she’s crying right now because she’s having terrible Harry Potter nightmares.

And look at this room they share! 

You should have had them clean before bed – look at her, poor girl, she’s taking all her toys onto her bed because she has no clean tidy space.

Toddlers need order. They crave it.  You might be ruining her brain with this mess.

You should get rid of more toys.

You should be telling her a story.

You should get the boys on a better schedule.

You should have made them clean up before bed.

You should have brushed her teeth, not let her do it on her own.

You should teach them better money sense.

You should make them write thank you notes more quickly.

You should eat dinner at the table every night.

You should.

You should.

You should.

You……you know what?

You’re probably ruining your kids.

You should…

Oh my goodness!  I finally snap out of it.

I am squatting, uncomfortably, by my toddler at 1am.

And you know what Should Mama?  I haven’t lost it!  I haven’t snapped at her or used an aggravated voice or walked out in a huff to leave her alone;  I might not be perfect, but I am being patient and loving and back-rubbing and I am so TIRED.  Really, really danged tired.

I’m doing ok here, and I cannot keep trying to be this Should Mama that my insecurities thrust at me.

I sit in the dark rubbing my daughter’s back.  Her perfect little face is finally calm again as she falls asleep, soothed from her discomfort. Safe with her mama’s touch.

Me.  She needs me.  She doesn’t want that other mom who always keeps a clean living room and sings like Snow White.

She doesn’t waste time comparing me to the Should Mama.  She wants her mama here being patient in the dark.

She wants ME.

Getting rid of the shoulds

You know what will ruin my kids? It’s not any of those thing on the list of shoulds.

What will ruin my kid is if I let all of those “shoulds” bury the things that make me, me.

In the early hours of the morning I sit in the bedroom of my sleeping children and make a promise to myself.

My kids may not get someone who has schedules down to a science.  They may not get the mama who always has fun games for clean up time.  They may not get the birthday party perfect mama.

But they WILL GET ME.

And you know what?

I make really good pancakes.

I can make up a silly jingle for any situation.  I know how to do an under-dog push on the swing, make a bridge when I shuffle cards, and I can start a conversation with anyone. I can uplift a friend when they are down, and make a guest feel comfortable in my home. I find the positive side of a problem and I find gratitude in distressing times.

I will not let the Should Mama take that from my kids. I will not waste all of my time comparing myself to her and let her suck the joy out of my parenting.

Oh, I’ll keep learning, I’ll keep questioning. I will look a those ‘shoulds’, but I will not be held hostage by them, because I am somebody right now and my kids need me.

Right now my kids need me.

Banishing the Should Mama - Your Kids Need You

What “should” are you struggling with right now?  What parenting “should” do you have worked up in your mind as that which would make you a much better parent, a worthy and deserving parent?  Is it getting in the way of enjoying the things you ARE good at in parenting?  Could it even be stopping you from shining when your kids would love to see you shine?

That’s what they need.

Your kids need YOU.

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196 comments
KasiaSos
KasiaSos

My LO is not a toddler yet, she is 10 months and for the past 2.5 months I have been sleeping with her, I don't know if it's sleep regression or if she's teething but whenever I try to put her in the crib she cries... I cannot leave her like that, I won't so I lay down next to her on the mattress in her room and we fall asleep. I miss my own bed, I miss my husband:) but my baby needs me and I will be there for her for as long as she needs me to be there for her.

CristySoh
CristySoh

Not a SHOULD momma, but a GOOD momma.  This was wonderful, thank you.

momof4
momof4

Every mother has to pick their battles.  For me, if the child is older and situation depending, there are times I just let them cry and they learn to console themselves.  I can't and won't be there for every situation in their life, and that's just something they have to learn.  But I will be there when they need me most (a.k. I will go to them in the night if they are sick, had a nightmare, is still an infant, etc.  but not if they refuse to go to bed because they just don't want to sleep).  After having four kids, I've just stopped caring about other people's ideals and I've had to cut down on a few of my own.  My family is unique to us-- and we do what works for us.  All in all, this article is refreshing.  We need more on the net that tells "us moms" that we are creating more successes by honestly trying than failing because of XYZ down the street.  

Mamas in the Making
Mamas in the Making

I have just discovered your blog, and so far this is my favourite. Thank you for writing it. Sharing it right now!

Jasbir
Jasbir

Oh boy! I have been held hostage. It's good to know being just me is good enough. Have started doing that. And for a start, the house is a mess but not my kids.

Leeann Morton
Leeann Morton

A great post. And I can't even make pancakes! (My husband is much better) X

Briana Tomkinson
Briana Tomkinson

I have felt that too (though my feeling on that changed after I'd had some time on "break" from full-time parenting at work) and I have many friends who work FT who feel like some time away from their kids makes them better parents. Parenting can be gruelling, and some periods can feel especially hard and unrewarding. I don't believe it is fair to judge as we all do our best to balance the needs of our children, families and ourselves. There is no one "best."

Agnieszka W
Agnieszka W

I've been soooo tired for a such a long time... that I really needed to hear that. Thank you soo much :D

Anna
Anna

I apologise if it's a too sensitive question, but why is it you that gets up three or four times during the night? Unless you are a single mum, why not share the load with your children's father?

The expectations of society for a woman to be there for her kids day and night is ludicrous. 10-12+ hour days, 7 days a week, for years without a break. ... That's burnout levels. That's just plain unhealthy imho.

Creative With Kids
Creative With Kids

Don't let it make you feel guilty. You sound like a very good mom to me - totally reasonable to be refreshed by being apart while you're at work. And you're working and providing for your family, all good stuff.

Sarah Agnew
Sarah Agnew

Geez, this makes me feel even more guilty about going back to work in 4 weeks, I love my kids but get so agitated and frustrated if I'm with then 24-7, I need the routine of work, then I cherish the time with them more! Worst mum goes to me!!!! Mum of a 3yld boy n 3-1/2 month girl

Deborah Ann Carson
Deborah Ann Carson

Turn around and in a moment they're grown and gone! Time really does go that fast, enjoy every minute of being a mom, nothing is more important. You'll look back soon and wish you could do it again but you can't...

Jennifer Ellis
Jennifer Ellis

Been bf my little one for the last 2 hours and I'm so exhausted. Really needed this right now. Great article!

Belinda Hall
Belinda Hall

Awesome message. Thank you, it is always so good to know you are not alone in your feelings. Let's kick "would have", "should have", "could have" out the door for today !

Creative With Kids
Creative With Kids

An honest parenting moment if nothing else, lol. Hugs - we all have our moments! April Humphrey

April Humphrey
April Humphrey

I just told my daughter that being with her is the last thing I want to do right now. Not my best parenting moment ever...

Amanda Cadran
Amanda Cadran

We all need this reminder sometimes. So many shoulds. So little time!

Maria Ioannou
Maria Ioannou

Perfect, thank you for putting it into words: "My kids may not get someone who has schedules down to a science. They may not get the mama who always has fun games for clean up time. They may not get the birthday party perfect mama. But they WILL GET ME. And you know what? I make really good pancakes."

michigansilverback
michigansilverback

Half a lifetime ago--the year was 1985--I lived with a family with a totally handicapped boy named Douglas.  He was 19 years old, weighed 40 pounds, He had cerebral palsy, scoliosis, speech aphasia, was utterly helpless, wore a diaper-- and required 24 hour care. A 40 pound baby, in other words (except there was a brilliant individual locked inside who communicated only through eyes and cries).

Anyway Doug's family got ready for a vacation, leaving him with me for a week. His dad came to me and asked if I was up to a solid 7 days of Douggie duty. I told them I was but was a bit nervous. "I'll be on the bridge of the Enterprise all by myself," I joked.

He gave me a phaser-glare look. "Welcome to fatherhood, son."

No greater truth.

Emm Dee
Emm Dee

Thank you, Alissa, this article really struck a cord with me. Good read.

Gemma Chapple
Gemma Chapple

From a very exhausted, stressed out and fed up mama "Thank you" xxxx

zehra
zehra

I love it! Really a great post. I needed this,especially today. Thank you :)

andreajason20
andreajason20

This post brought tears to my eyes, because I've said all the 'should haves' to myself as well, and you've written what many of us need to hear..... Thank you!

bjohan
bjohan

I don't know what more to say other than I needed to see this today.  It was no accident that I stumble into this post.  It makes me just cry because these words allow me to hug myself and be ok with Me.  It also makes me cry to read it because my heart breaks for anyone to have those dark feelings...for me anyway, it always leads to a darker place.  I realise this isn't an uncommon feeling for mothers, but it's not something people often talk about.  Thank you

anonymous
anonymous

I am a woman who has always been described as a hard worker and perfectionist. Unfortunately in the house I was raised there was a long list of shoulds. This, I strongly believe, nurtured my depression and eating disorder ( both of which I was diagnosed with at 15 ) As a new mom my list of shoulds started to become a mountain that put me and my needs in a deep, dark shadow. I was lucky enough to have community support that allowed me to see the falsities I tell myself everyday, falsities that I have made self truths. Finally with my kids at the age of 3 and 5 I am starting to set boundaries with myself, my children and with the people I allow into my life. I chose to not engage in Facebook, twitter etc, because I know this triggers a should cycle. I have cut ties with people who seem to think it is okay to judge me as a parent and who reinforce lists of shoulds. I use a gratitude journal every night, and I have also started keeping lists of what I have accomplished in the day, kinda like a reverse to do list, when I do something I write it on the list. Really makes me see what I get done in a day, it is truly astounding as Moms what we can do with a mere 24 hours.

I think your point that what your child needs is you, is so true. You following your instincts and you taking care of yourself.

Thanks for this post.

mrsabernard
mrsabernard

This is so true. I think we all get caught up in this. One thing I have found helpful when I'm in that mood is to stop and think about all the things that I have done and that I do for my kids, instead of focusing on what I "should" do. Like, if I start to feel that I should be reading to my kids more often, I think "yeah, but I DO read to them almost every night. Or, if I think "I should make them different lunches for school every day", I think "well, they might not be fancy, but I DO make them home made lunches every day (even if it's just balogna and cheese!). 

Sadaf Zia
Sadaf Zia

Loving it. Soooo true. There r no set rules for any mother. Every mama is perfect in her own way if she gives best of her time to her kids. "We should not compare our selves with 'should mama' N let her suck the fun out"

Amandalyn
Amandalyn

Thank yo so much for this inspiring & honestly thoughtful article. Couldn't have found it at a better time! Your message resonates at a time in my life where I've never been busier & never felt pulled in so many directions.

There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to help plan a family members wedding, care for my sick and lonesome grandmother, help my husband with his new job and homeschool my son "properly" (the way I "should" every day) and the list goes on... I was actually on Pinterest trying to get some inspiration for the candy buffet table I need to make signs for tonight and thinking: I "should" keep up with my close friends better, I "should" return phone calls more promptly, I "should" do something nice for the new neighbors, I "should" already have a gift for my dad's Birthday...

Before I could type anything into the search bar your article popped up in "Popular Pins". The title of your article intrigued me as I was actually overwhelmed with the swirling "shoulds" as I was trying to focus on my last project for the night.

I think it so important for Mom's to know that Everyone has "those" days, we all struggle and no one is perfect! Thanks you for inspiring me tonight and helping me to remember to give myself a break. Going to go lay down with my little one now even though I "should" have put him to bed two hours ago. ;)

Maribea
Maribea

I really have never found a parenting-site better than yours. Your empathy is so deep to touch my deepest mothering-soul. Thank you so much for your words. I think you are a great mother. YOU! :)

Katie Holder
Katie Holder

Ditto. I snapped at naptime today, thanks for the gentle reminder.

Jen LeTron
Jen LeTron

Woo, such a goodie for me right now :) thanks

Dhara Shah
Dhara Shah

Love this. It's such a good reminder

Catherine Michele Ross
Catherine Michele Ross

I so needed this. I think you wrote what my mind was saying! Thanks for sharing!

Pamela Hall
Pamela Hall

Great read. I find it interesting that she calls it an "under dog" push on the swings. Where I live we call it an "under duck!" :). Hope all the sleep deprived Mummies have good days today.

Lauren Quinn
Lauren Quinn

I am so tired of being told how or when I should be doing things for my kids. Them letting that get in the way of who I am, the best mom I can be. I am human. I am not perfect but I am good enough!

Holly
Holly

@Anna A healthy family does not have to be based on precisely equal 50/50 distribution of each and every job. There are so many different variations of a successful family, and for you to take (from this entire article) one throwaway sentence and use it to form a judgement of "ludicrous" and "unhealthy" is, well, ludicrous.

Maybe this child is only happy to be consoled by Mum at night. Maybe Dad is in another room soothing a different child. Maybe Dad gets up at 4am for work so Mum is happy to do the nights because she gets to wake up 3 hours later. Maybe Dad does the evening parenting and Mum does nights. Maybe Mum works more hours than Dad in the day and chooses to do nights to get that time with her child. Maybe Dad and Mum alternate nights. Maybe Dad suffers from health problems. Or maybe, just maybe, Mum takes on certain duties (eg. main night time responsibility) while Dad takes on different duties, and that is just what works for their family.

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess moderator

@anonymous I use a gratitude journal each night too and it definitely helps me see more positively.  Thanks for your reply and for inspiring us by telling your story. ~Alissa

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess moderator

@Maribea I am humbled by your compliment.  Thahk you for reading.

kellykeith29
kellykeith29

@Holly  You're right. There are so many reasons why mom gets up several times a night. Maybe she's a single mom, maybe dad works night shift. And if it's like my house, maybe dad just won't do it, and I don't want him to, he doesn't have patience during the day, there is no way I want him getting up and being grouchy with them at night, one way or the other I'll end up getting up with them. With our first he would get out of bed and bring me the baby in the night, that lasted the 3 weeks he was off work, then I was on my own. With our youngest he never once woke up with her, not even in the hospital and I was recovering from a c section. I was always the one up with her and if her fussing woke up her 3.5 year old brother I was up with him too. I manage, and I get the middle of the night snuggles that he doesn't even want to know about.  I am happy to get up with them when it's something they need, when they are just being silly and not wanting to sleep then I give a kiss and go back to bed. That said mine are now 5 and 9 so they understand why I go back to bed. My littlest needs me more than her brother, and she has the big comfy bed, so when she wakes more than once before 2am, I just climb in with her and go back to sleep, it means I get the sleep I need and she generally doesn't wake back up before morning. And it isn't making her do it more and more often like all my friends suggest it will, we do this maybe once every 2 or 3 weeks. Plus I just realized that perhaps the reason she was waking up was now that summer is over it gets colder in the house at night, and I hadn't gotten out the heavier blanket, now that I have added that she doesn't even get up with the alarm, I have to wake her. If marriage had to be 50/50 we wouldn't be considered to be married. In our house it's 99% mom with the kids 1% dad, and 80% dad with the food and 20% mom, and the rest of the catagories fall squarely on mom's shoulders. 

Trackbacks

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