by Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D.
April 23, 2016
I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve heard someone say, “I’m a bad mother”.
Raise your hand if you’ve said that to yourself. Raise your hand if any of these sound familiar:
- “I really need a break from my kid…. I feel like a bad mother.”
- “I got so mad at my baby for not being able to get to sleep after an hour of trying, I yelled at him. I’m such a bad mother.”
- “Sometimes I put my baby in front of the TV just so I can do dishes… does that make me a bad mom?”
- “I get so frustrated and upset sometimes and I know that my baby can feel my stress. I feel so guilty that I’m harming her. You must think I’m a bad mother.”
- “I have depression and anxiety; I have to hide it so that people don’t think I’m a bad mom.”
Why do we do this? Why do we equate fatigue, needing a break, frustration, REAL struggles and many other normal (but non-sunshiny) feelings with being a bad mom?
It’s like, all of the sudden, when you’re pregnant or have a baby, you’re not supposed to feel anything negative. Especially, related to your child. Who is this mythical lady, this mother we are supposed to be? I, for one, have never met her. ‘Cause, well, she doesn’t exist.
But she exists in our heads, for sure. She exists in the minds of society. I think she is a sort of Frankenstein of maternal expectations all patched together. Be happy. Be loving. Be selfless. Be patient. Be calm. Be not tired. Add a dash of photo-shopped perfect body… and a slice of glowing mother… and every awesome FB/Pinterest picture, then throw in the advice of a thousand people…. Voila! Here she is, our unelected, but fully endorsed representative: Perfect Mother!
Well, if you can’t be a perfect mother, then you’re a bad mother. See what’s going on here? It’s a set-up. We are all doomed to be failures if this is what we are up against.
How do we get out of this mind trap?
Allow yourself to be un-perfect. Give yourself the same understanding that you would want someone else to give to you, or that you would give to them. Stop the self-judgment and start the self-acceptance. Yes. SELF-ACCEPTANCE.
I mean, how awesome would it be to accept yourself 100%, as you are, today. Right now. Try that on for a minute, see how it feels. I accept myself. I allow myself to feel whole. It may be really uncomfortable at first. You may think that other people can do that, but “not me”. Here’s the thing—this is how you probably want your children to feel about themselves when they grow up. Set an example! This is good for both of you. You can do it together. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Anyway, whether you believe it or not, you are indeed, good enough.
Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D., is a psychologist specializing maternal mental health in Claremont, CA. She was drawn to this specialty after going through Postpartum Depression and anxiety with her first child. Dr. Kaeni’s mission is to support, offer treatment, train providers and advocate for women and families who are facing maternal mental health struggles. She volunteers for Postpartum Support International as the area co-coordinator for San Bernardino County. She thoroughly enjoys stigma crushing.