An honest look at my reflection


As I sprayed the mirror with Windex, I couldn’t make eye contact, but as I wiped the mirror clean, I couldn’t help but look myself in the eye. There I was. I’m normally a pretty confident person. While I’d like to consider myself a curvy girl, I’m happy with who I am and the choices I’ve made along the way. I am usually steadfast in decision making, unafraid to voice my opinion and content with my life. The reason I feel like I can’t look myself in the mirror, is I’m afraid to admit that I’m not a good mother.

I’m disappointed in myself for not doing more with my kids, not having enough patience, not being calm enough. I yell too much and can’t find a way to make myself stop the noise. It is impacting on my eldest. I can see it in her behavior and her words. And I hate that I can’t figure out a way to stop it.

Growing up, my mom was the yeller. And it was just noise, really. However we knew she meant business, and I knew there was a line that I shouldn’t cross. There was some fear there, which I think is healthy. I knew when to push it and when not to. But now I’ve become a yeller too, or maybe I’ve always been and it’s just more apparent now that I have kids. However, I don’t like it. And neither do my kids.

I have always fought for what I have; I struggled for the grades on my report cards, worked for the money to buy the things I want; figured out a way to balance my life to have it all. But I can’t solve this one. I try to remain calm when she starts acting up, I give her warnings, I leave the room, but eventually I yell.

And I instantly regret it.

She starts yelling and it becomes a spiral that doesn’t stop spinning. My husband is much calmer than I am. And he can usually diffuse the situation better than I can. Most of the time I’m trying to stop some form of behavior; yelling herself, or fighting over a toy with her little sister, or throwing toys around. I have pointed out that warnings are my way of telling her that if she continues to do something, she’s going to get into trouble, which doesn’t work. I’ve figured out her currency and that’s taking her favourite toy away, so we do and things just get worse.

I’m just not as good at this mothering thing like I’d hoped. And it makes me so sad. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think I would be Marion Cunningham (Happy Days), Caroline Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie) or Clair Huxtable (The Cosby Show). I was probably hoping for something more along the lines of Sophia Petrillo (Golden Girls) mixed with a cross of Rosanne Conner (Rosanne), both of which are a little sassy and outspoken – like me, but both of which have a fierce devotion to their kids.

And I have that devotion, no question about that. I love them more than anything. I just think I need to be a better mom. They both deserve that.

So every morning, I wake up with a promise to myself in the mirror that I’m going to be more patient. That I’m going to be calm. That I’m not going to raise my voice. And every afternoon, on my way home from work, I say the same thing to myself.

Sometimes it works, but more often I fall back into that habit and find myself yelling.

Can I fix myself? Will I break her?

I am trying to look myself in the eye more often. Ground myself in the moment. Count to ten. Otherwise I’m going to cry.

4 thoughts on “An honest look at my reflection

  1. Sweetheart! My heart is aching for you. It is one of the toughest things for a woman to face, the feeling that she has failed her kids. However, the fact that you are even questioning yourself about being a good mom, says you’re being a good mom in my opinion (I don’t think the mom who leaves her 3yr old home alone while she goes to the bar ever asks if she’s a good mom). You may not be thrilled about your methods but the lessons are important ones ( don’t hit your sister is a fair thing to be upset over). You’re being a good mom because she will know good from bad.

    About the yelling, I think you should consider what your fear is (you’re afraid she will be a sloppy grown up if you don’t teach her to put away her toys etc), and then ask yourself if it is a reasonable fear (there are worse things than being sloppy) and maybe if your fear isn’t so strong your reaction to the behaviour may not be as strong. Also take a good long hard look at how much of this is abut your need for control. It’s such an illusion. The more we think we have control the more our kids will show us we don’t.

    One lesson that I’ve had to learn, was about yelling at my kid to wear her jacket when I think it’s cold outside. I used to yell and she consistently ignored me. Then one day my husband said “Let her be cold for one day, it won’t kill her.” He was right. She came home and said (brace yourself for this) “I wish I listened to you, I was so cold today at recess.” Since then I have learned to respect her ability to decide what she needs for herself. It was like she didn’t wear what I told her to, simply because I was yelling, (surely I could see that no likes being yelled at). I no longer yell but the mom in me can’t help but suggest suitable options.

    There is one other thing I’d like to share with you and I can do this because my daughter is a much older than yours. There is a girl in my daughters class that dresses in very inappropriate manner for school. I bite my tongue around my daughter because I don’t want to pass my judgemental tendencies to her. She came home one day and says “Mom, you should have seen what Alice wore to school today! It was so …” She ended the statement with “I’m surprised her mom doesn’t say anything to her, I know you would yell up a storm if ever tried to leave the house looking like that” I felt a warm buzz, I stopped what I was doing and smiled at her ” Are you telling me In a round about way that all my yelling has paid off and that really deep down you think I’m a good mom?” The only response I got was the classic teenager eye roll and “Mom you’re so sappy!” Just a glimpse of what’s in store.

    Relax and enjoy your time with your kids, they are not made from fine china you won’t break them (I can’t imagine Tania’s daughter being any less feisty than her mom), the only thing I guarantee is that you will make a few mistakes along the way. Keep the communication open and listen to her when she tells you that she is feeling hurt or humiliated by your yelling. Validate what she feels and commit to not making her feel that again. You’ll do just fine!

    1. Beena, you made me cry. Thank you!
      While I can definitely confirm she is just as, if not more, fiesty than I am, I have to stop and listen to her more. Maybe she is trying to tell me something.
      You’re right, I won’t break her, she’s a pretty tough cookie.
      Thanks, my friend. I appreciate your insight and know who to turn to for advice!

  2. Wow, it’s like you wrote this post for me. I’m in the same boat. I’ve literally not been able to look at myself in the mirror lately because of my behaviour toward my children. A book I wrote about recently on my blog (Nurturing the Soul of Your Family) is one step for me in the right direction.

    But I did it again this morning. I have been so tired lately and so overworked that when my kids skipped happily over the pile of stuff in the front hall and out the door this morning after me reminding them a dozen or more times (in the calmest voice I could muster) that they needed to help me carry all of their stuff out to the car and not to forget their sweaters and to please brush their teeth and do their hair and put their their toys away (you get the picture) I lost it. I managed not to yell (mostly), but all the way to camp and preschool I explained to them in an annoyed tone of voice how unhelpful they had been and how much work it was to get everyone out the door in the morning, and all the other ways in which they had made my life hard this morning (by not cooperating, by fighting with me and with each other, by being defiant) etc, etc. I’m not proud. In fact, I’m extremely upset with myself. So I know exactly where you’re coming from. And I promised myself that I would count to 10 before opening my mouth, but it’s so darn hard not to just react.

    When my oldest was 2 and her brother was a baby, I seriously thought my sleep deprived, always angry attitude was going to be the end of my sweet little girl. But she’s a well-adjusted, independent 5 year old now with a lot of love to give and a very clear understanding of emotions, hers and mine. And I’ve learned to listen to her when she’s upset.

    One thing I’ve found that works for me better than counting to any number to calm down, is touching my kids. Just reaching out and holding their hand or putting my hand on their back and eventually drawing them into a hug. My son taught me that. He’s 3. One day, when we were both upset, he said through his tears, “I just want to hug you, Mommy.” It stopped me in my tracks. And now, when I feel my angry voice starting to erupt, I try to just touch them, hug them. (It works for fights with my hubby, too. 😉 It’s hard to be angry at someone when you’re holding their hand.)

    Thanks so much for writing this post. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who goes through this.

    1. Thanks Nancy. That’s exactly how I feel. I give warnings, reminders and then it seems as if she continues on purpose expecting my reaction. I don’t know why, because she doesn’t like me yelling, but won’t stop.
      I am so grateful to you for commenting, so I know I’m not alone either.
      I am going to try holding their hands when I feel frustrated. I know it sometimes works to bend down to their level to speak to them too, so I could see how touching them would also help.
      One day at a time, right?!
      It really would be easier if they came with a manual! 😉
      I’m so glad to have blogger friends who relate.

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