Motherhood – What Am I Doing Wrong?



Motherhood What Am I Doing Wrong

She sipped her tea and then hesitantly asked, “So how do you get your kids to listen?”

“You keep doing what you are doing.” I replied. “I’m sure I’m not going to give you any advice that you are not already doing.”

I felt rotten for telling her that. I absolutely meant what I said. I have seen this lady every week at storytelling for over three years now. I have watched her parent. I have listed to her tell stories about parenting. I don’t hang out with her in between Monday mornings, but I know enough about her to be confident in the fact that she is doing a wonderful job. Her children are delightful, and when her kids are not so delightful, she handles them with dignity and understanding.

But I still felt rotten for giving her a glib answer. But honestly, glib answers sometimes are not really glib. They are just honest.

The real reason I felt bad was because I recognised exactly where she was at. Why? Because I have been there. I have been at my wits end. In front of my kids, I’m staying strong, I’m hanging in there. I’m being ‘consistent’. Except I can’t shake that feeling of doubt that perhaps I’m doing something wrong. I can’t help but feel guilty that the reason my children are misbehaving is all my fault. I can’t help feeling that somehow I’m failing them. And that things will never get better because I’m doing the wrong thing.

And so, I have been brave and gone up to women that I have admired and asked the same question.

“How did you do this?”
“What would you do in this situation?”
“Can you give me some advice?”

I ask these questions, genuinely humble, ready to learn. Perhaps a little desperate.

Most of the answers are things I already know and the reply makes me feel a bit frustrated because it’s not the answers I want. Not the answers I need to get through these rocky waters.  I want to assure this person I admire that, “Yes, I do that. I’m not neglecting the basics. But tell me more. There must be a great secret. There must be something I’m missing.”


When that mother questioned me on Monday, her face full of expectation, waiting for the great revelation that was going to unlock the elusive key to parenting, I recognised her desperation. And I wondered. “Why can I emphasise with her frustrations and be so confident that she is going to produce wonderful children and kind and respectable adults, yet I don’t have the same confidence in my own parenting ability?”

All of a sudden it occurred to me that perhaps the older women’s confidence in me was well founded. (And that the younger women’s judgment of me was actually misinformed.)

When older women I admire tell me that I’m doing a good job, regularly I doubt it. In my head I think, “But you don’t know what I do when no one is around. Just how badly I fail.” But I think they might.

I didn’t want to leave the woman doubting that she really would be trying the same strategies that I apply, so I gave her a few practical examples.

“I get my kids to listen by getting down on their eye level to talk to them. I make them repeat instructions. I don’t give them too many instructions at a time. I follow up on what they have been told to check they have done it. I am consistent to apply consequences if they don’t do it and when they get it right, I pile on heaps of praise.”

She was nodding. She knew I was right, she really was doing all those things. Her eyes still displayed guilt. She leaned closer and whispered.

“But I yell. I get so frustrated. I yell at them. Every day I yell at them.”

I understood. So do I. Praise the Lord, I’m getting better. It’s not every day lately. But there has been stages where it has been and I understood her guilt. But I also knew that some bouts of imperfect parenting does not necessarily equal failure. We are flawed humans, which make us flawed parents. We make mistakes. We recognise those mistakes, we make amends, we try to do better and we don’t give up. And we keep doing the things that are right.

When you are a parent, you cannot afford to give up on yourself. You can’t afford to give up on your child. Not Ever.

I hope this week that mother believed me. I hope that this week she had a bit more assurance that she is on the right track. I hope she realises that at the end of the day, parenting every child is challenging. I hope she knows that every child is different too. She will work out the best solution for her child, there will be similarities to the way I parent, and there will be differences. There is no formula, because every family is unique, every child is different.

I am thankful that this wonderful Mum made herself vulnerable enough to talk to me.  I admire her willingness to be transparent. I think us women need to do this more often.  To ask for help or advice when we are at our wits end. I think that people we trust need to be honest enough to tell us in loving ways when we can make improvements too. In the long run, they may see the situation in a different way, and their advice could make another mother’s life that little bit easier. And a little bit easier is all you need to make it through the days when you are in the trenches sometimes.  But most of all us mothers need to start to believe it when people we trust tell us we are doing a good job.

Do you feel like you are getting it wrong in motherhood? Do you need to start believing the good that others see in yourself?


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When I Realised I Was Not OK.

The pressure. Sometimes it builds up. The endless to do list constantly scrolling through the mind like an eternal tele-prompter. The inner rebukes from you own self that constantly chastises your every move for what you haven’t achieved. The re-runs that continue to loop over and over in the brain’s own movie theatre of the low moments because lest I forget that I am a flawed human. Add to that the negativity swirling in the atmosphere around. It’s been stormy. Storms are fine when you are snug inside, but when you are in the middle of it, you don’t feel safe, life is uncomfortable and things you have no control over make you feel despondent and don’t make sense.

This was me. I was just battling on, trying to do it all. Be the mythical super mum, the growing blogger, the accepting friend and good Christian girl. Being a good Mum, friend, Christian and blogger are all good things. But sometimes when life gets hard, you need to pull back and gain some perspective, because sometimes the pressure builds and you start trying so hard to do it all that you suddenly realise that you’re hardly being effective at all.

I suddenly realised about two weeks ago that I was on the edge and staring down into the swirling vortex of depression. I am very grateful that I was able to recognise my locale in time to back away from the edge. It’s not that way for everyone. Some get sucked into that vortex so quickly like a merciless invisible and powerful vacuum. Others gaze into the vortex and cannot look up, cannot recognise that the hypnotic swirl of despondency is sucking them in. Some of us get the opportunity to recognise what is happening. Sometimes being on the brink, (or maybe standing in the shallow muddy waters), of mild depression is an overwhelming place to be, and even though the signs are recognised, the mist and fog that are descending blur the arrows showing the way out and you lack the energy to search for the exit.

For me, there was a moment that through the perpetual discouragement I suddenly thought. “I’m not OK.” Once I realised this I knew I needed to fight to find the path to the sunshine. My family needed me to be OK. Depression breeds sadness. It starts in one life and spreads to others. I knew I could make changes to ensure that I could face challenges with positivity and determination to succeed.

For me, I realised that I was at the brink of depression after I had gone to a friend’s house and had been negative during conversation because I was feeling overwhelmed before I left home. I also realised after I had written my ProBlogger Debrief that once again I wasn’t feeling happy and a conference that I had just loved was tinged with sadness that normally I wouldn’t be bogged down by. (The last few paragraphs of the post were the giveaway.) I have also just experienced an incident that has been totally out of my control where I have lost myriads of friends and acquaintances as they have stopped turning up at our common meeting place. (That is another story and not one for here or now.) I was hurting but by recognising that the actions of others didn’t need to affect my own happiness or my own responses, I started to count the blessings that I do have and re-gain some perspective.

Almost depressed and walking away from the brink.
Hard to believe I could come home from the Gold Coast and be feeling very low.

If you are struggling to remain positive at the moment, here are some of my tips that have helped me so that if anyone asked, R U OK?,  I can smile and say, “Yes”.

1. Look Up
Get in touch with your soul.  My faith is very important to me. It is my guiding light, so when I realised that the light was fading, I had to recognise that this was not because the light had disappeared, it’s because I was no longer looking at it, or I had to wipe the tears so it wasn’t blurred anymore. A lady in our church had recently shared an encouragement, “Things are not what they seem.” I had to realise that I had to completely place my trust that God was in control and that he is a God of goodness.  No matter what people are saying, His master plan is good and the future may have dark moments, but the light will always shine brighter then the darkness. As I looked up and a new calmness surrounded me giving me peace and clarity. I know and respect that people have various spiritual journeys. If you are not spiritual and don’t know where to start, pray your confusion to God and believe he hears you in Heaven. Then sit still and listen, you may be surprised, but most often rational thoughts and direction will be whispered into your soul. I think this is the voice of God. Whatever the case, I’m fairly confident that answers you hear will be worthy of at least further consideration and action.

2. Step Down
You don’t need to go and cancel everything out of your diary and retreat to your shell. This might not be helpful at all, in fact. However, I found that I needed to prioritise what is important and start be focussing my energies there. That is why, if you noticed, my posts on this blog have been less and a little more infrequent lately. Blogging is one of my loves in life, but it can also be a pressure. By taking a short break, I was able to remind myself to breathe and while I did I did a little cleaning in the house which made me feel better also. (I can’t believe I admitted that! Cleaning doesn’t normally equal happiness for me!) I also deliberately enjoyed my children and the relationships that I do have. I didn’t cancel all my commitments, but I slowed down and tried to stop rushing around madly and somehow in the calmness I was able to still do most things.

3. Enjoy the Little Things
Because I had been so busy, I had been pushing the little things to one side and forgetting that the sum of the little things is actually a big deal. So I started baking with the children, sitting outside and watching them play and reading a chapter (or two…) of my novel, taking time to sip the tea and contemplative silence while they children were playing happily or walking the children down to the garden and picking some blooms. Paying full attention to my husband as he spoke and enjoying each other’s company. Not only did it calm me, it calmed those around me also.

lemon drizzle loaf
Find the recipe for this Lemon Drizzle Loaf here

4. Acknowledge Your Humanity
I was trying to do it all. I’m only human. I started to get more focus when writing a daily To Do list. (Thanks Kikki K.) I wrote less on my To Do list for that day but had a list next to it for the rest of the week, so knew I wasn’t going to forget those things. The beauty was, it felt better to accomplish today’s tasks and when I did, I could cross off some of the upcoming tasks as well. I also had to admit to myself that doing less is not cheating.

5. You Deserve to Walk Away From the Chocolate.
OK, so truthfully, I’ve had varying degrees of success with this point. Normally we gals like to admit that chocolate gets us through the hard times. And it does. But then it can also cause another hard time to arise as we battle with health and weight issues. I’m trying to remind myself that healthy choices are helpful to my well being. Yes, I deserve that chocolate, but even more I deserve the apple, because after a bag of apples, my body will be happier than after the block of chocolate…or cake, or biscuits, cheese or hot chips, etc. You get my drift? But, if you really do need a hit, I’ve found that a bag of Tim Tam Chocolicious buried deep at the back of the pantry is wonderful. It’s only a little bit, they are individually wrapped, so you can resist the temptation of eating a whole pack of Tim Tams and it just gives you that moment of indulgence to continue on life’s merry way. Because life is merry, the bleak moments don’t need to last forever.

Combat Depression by taking time to smell flowers

Have you ever suffered depression? Did you recognise the signs? What do you do to pull yourself out of despair if you are feeling down?

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT (I Blog On Tuesdays.)

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