An Open Letter: I Don’t Have it All Together

Dear Friend,

I got your message. I hate what happened to you this past week. You were judged as a parent by a bystander. An old man watched you chase your toddler into the street and chastise him. He called out to you and warned you not to be so hard on your little guy, lest you break him.

It hurt, this flash judgment. He didn’t know the context, how you’d warned your child twice already, how he knew your expectations and deliberately ignored them. That man doesn’t know the doubts you feel as a mom, how you fear failure and falling short and how you live on a constant diet of self-doubt and worry.

You vented to me, then you wrote and said that I seemed to “have it together more” as a parent, and to have a great marriage to boot.

Oh friend.

I am so sad and sorry that I have projected the image that I “have it together.” (I need to do some thinking about why/how I do that.) If we were having this conversation in person I would look you in the eye and tell you that is hogwash.

I doubt myself every day as a parent. I have spent that last seven years of motherhood under a dark cloud of fear, worrying that I am falling short and failing miserably. Not enough discipline, too much discipline, you name it, I have feared it and felt it. Believe me, I feel you.

From one weary mama to another, let me say this: The “traditional mom standards ” are hogwash. So you’ve lost your temper and yelled at your kids? Yep. Been there, done that. So you’re not a great cook? Thank goodness for the frozen food section. So you keep an untidy home? Hello, three kids!

I used to have a lot of wrong ways of thinking about being a mom, ridiculous expectations. If I read something about the BEST way to do something, I considered anything less as failure. This is how I came to believe I am a failure.

Ahem… WAS a failure.

I am not a failure as a mom and neither are you. It’s true that some really great moms suffer from an inferiority complex.

The best thing I can do for my kids is to show them who I am (human!), love them like crazy, and allow them to be human, too. They need me to be me, love myself as I am, and give them permission to be themselves, too. The irony is that once they know they are accepted and loved in their imperfect selves, they will be better set up to be resilient and succeed in life’s roller coaster.

Just the other day, Ben got mad at me for saying “no” and he punched the couch with his fist. Rather than worrying about a future of violence or chastising him for his release of anger, I said, “I know you are angry. Go ahead, Buddy.” He punched the couch a few more times, and then dissolved into giggles. Punching couches isn’t the same thing as punching people, and it’s ok to get angry and yell sometimes. We aren’t robots; we are people full of imperfections and if we let our kids see that, they will know it’s ok for them to be human, too. They need to see us cry, laugh, yell, dance, and even punch couches sometimes. Their little minds begin to conceive that we are people, too, not just moms and dads hanging around for their convenience, to wait table for them.

Nothing is more aggravating and make-you-boiling-mad than being directly disobeyed by your child. IF there is any time for our kids to really see us get good and angry, I think it is when they are doing something dangerous. . It’s ok for them to see us yell on occasion, especially when they are about to do something that would hurt them, like run out into traffic or poke little fingers into an electric socket. Then, once our heart rates have stopped racing, we can explain to them that yes, Mommy yelled, and here’s why: because she loves you SO MUCH, she doesn’t want you to get hurt. One day the matter might be a dangerous party or lying to us, and the reason will be the same. We are loving at the top of our lungs.

I have been embarrassed by my kids and made proud by my kids within the same HOUR of a day. I have blind spots and weaknesses and pride and insecurities. I have blessed my kids with strength and cursed them with humanity.

And marriage? Oh boy. Tim and I got in a big fight last week (and the week before that), and we yelled at each other (within the kids’ hearing) and we both threw things (not at each other). We get so worn out from caring for our entourage of kiddos that we have nothing left for each other. We give and give until we are spread thin and scraped out on the inside and we’re just empty. It’s too much emotional energy to even interact in the evening, so we just watch tv instead.

An do you want to know what I think about all this?

I think we are normal. We have a normal marriage, a human marriage, which means it has problems and kinks and sour patches and lulls. We are jars of clay for sure. We have a baby and a toddler and two other little ones navigating years 5 and 7. It’s stinking hard. The hardest thing ever, along with parenting.

It’s worth it, oh yes. But please don’t think for one second that I “have it all together.”

Because it’s hogwash. No one has it all together.

Bottom line: Don’t listen to that old man: you are doing a great job with your kiddos.

Love ya,


Published September 3, 2015