Lately I’ve been feeling like a failure and I just can’t seem to shake it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been with my kids for six months straight and I literally can’t remember the last time the house was clean and quiet. Or maybe it’s because we’re smack in the middle of a pandemic and every single decision I make (or don’t make) has me questioning whether or not it’s the right one, and whether or not some crazy butterfly effect will take place six months down the road, where I’ll look back and realize I have done something terribly wrong. Either way, I just had to sit down and write about it because I have a feeling I’m not the only one, and someone needs to hear this. I need to hear this. In fact, let’s just say there are a lot of moms out there that need to hear this: You are not a failure.
Things have been a hot mess around here, and honestly, that’s putting it nicely. Homeschool was a nightmare, quarantine was fun for a while (until every board game ended in a fight and I stepped on the scale) and I’m starting to forget what life was like pre-pandemic.
Since emerging from our bubble, I’ve finally been able to catch up with my mom friends (which I needed so badly), and one thing I noticed is that there seems to be a trend. The common theme among them is that lately they feel like they just can’t reach the mark. And I get it. It feels like we’re trying so hard to keep our heads above water and the water just keeps rising. So, I thought I’d share a little of my own misfortune because I know there is at least one mom reading this article who feels like she can’t get her act together, or that she’s failing, and I’m here to say you’re probably not. The mere fact that you even feel like you’re failing tells me you’re not. And the fact that you’re here, at Grit and Grace Life reading articles on motherhood, tells me you’re not. So, let’s gets into it because I know your day is going to sound a whole lot better after you read this. (You’re welcome.)
I Was Prepared, But Not for This…
It was a beautiful, sunny morning and I had woken up at 6 a.m. to load the car. We had plans to head out to the beach with friends and the kids were excited. It had been a long quarantine and things were just starting to open up. My husband is a farmer and July and August are his busiest months, so there was no way he was getting away, but I had to get these kids out of the house. It had been 35+ degrees for days (for all my American friends, that’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit), and we needed a place to swim. My friend and I decided that we would make the hour trek to the beach, and I was going to be prepared. I woke up hours before the kids and I literally packed everything but the kitchen sink. By the time I loaded all the kids in the car I was already exhausted. But we were doing this, and hey, it was going to be fun.
We had been in the car for about an hour and things had been going relatively smooth. Traffic was light and with only a few fights over the playlist we were almost there. I couldn’t wait; it was going to be glorious. Isn’t it funny how we always seem to fantasize about these perfect little day trips with kids that really end up being so much less than perfect? We were 15 minutes from total beach bliss and that’s the exact moment that my two-year-old daughter started projectile vomiting all over herself and everything else in the car. You know the type I’m talking about: the exorcist-style vomit that makes you wonder where the heck she keeps all that food and what the heck she’s been eating. That was the one. It was all downhill from there.
I quickly called my friend who was driving her car ahead of me and asked her to pull over. Together, on the side of the road, we did our best to clean up Brooklyn and the car. There was vomit everywhere—all over the car seat and inside every crease and crack. I really wasn’t prepared for this, but I was so thankful for a seasoned mom who kept her cool. She was exactly what I needed in that moment. I stripped Brooklyn down and decided since we were so close to the beach, I could toss her in the water when we got there and all would be good. So we hit the road again and soon arrived at our destination. I didn’t want to leave our puke towels and garbage on the side of the road, so it was a pretty disgusting ride as you can imagine, and the rest of the kids in the car let me know it.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Not so bad, right? We got sidetracked and recouped. Sure, if that was the only thing that went wrong that day.
Things Started to Turn Around… Kind of
But it wasn’t. This was just the beginning. We got to the beach (which was beautiful) and I decided I’d better get Brooklyn in the water before she started getting crusty (too late). And that’s when I realized I forgot the most important thing: the diaper bag. That’s right, I had no diaper bag. Which in case you didn’t know it, is every mom’s worst nightmare. It meant no diapers, no clothes, no swim pants, nothing. Now any normal person would have simply left the beach to go buy such items. However, I also forgot my wallet. Which I keep in the diaper bag.
Why would any mom go anywhere without the diaper bag? I felt like such an idiot. I had gotten up so early. I was prepared! This day was supposed to be perfect and now it wasn’t, and that’s when I started to spiral. I could feel the thoughts start to creep up: “What kind of mother forgets all the necessities for her child? What would others think of me if they knew how stupid I was? Maybe I should just pack all the kids back up and head home.” But then I would still feel like a failure as they screamed the whole way home, so either way I was losing.
I wanted to throw in the towel (no pun intended), and call it quits. I wanted to cry. But I didn’t. See, you don’t get to your fourth kid without learning a thing or two, and I decided that we were going to figure this out. I wasn’t going to let this ruin our day. We were here and we were doing this and nothing was going to stop us. I went back to the car to scrummage around. There had to be a loose diaper or some wipes in there. I hit the jackpot. I found one dirty (but half decent) dress and a single diaper on the floor of the backseat. Things were turning around.
I needed to save that diaper and dress for the ride home, so I let Brooklyn swim in the diaper she already had until it had tripled in size. It’s actually amazing how big those diapers can get. My friend’s older daughter gave Brooklyn a pair of her size 9 underwear, and we tied some hair elastics to the sides to make it fit. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked and I didn’t allow myself to feel the judgement from those other beach moms who had so carefully packed their beach bags and were looking at Brooklyn and I like we just escaped the zoo. No, we were at the beach and we were having fun. We had earned it and things were finally going to be great. That was, until Brooklyn decided to take the dump of her life all over that size 9 underwear and the sand, and my six-year-old stepped in it with his bare feet. Cue the freak-out now.
Here I was holding Brooklyn as poop spewed down her legs and my six-year-old was shrieking with terror. It was time to call it quits and we all knew it. We had a few good hours but it was time to go home. We packed up, put that last diaper on, and got back into the car (which, by the way, had been baking those puke towels all day). It was gross and the kids reminded me of it the entire way home. It was definitely a beach trip I will never forget.
Sure, It Was a Disaster… But Not a Failure
Now if you’re reading this and you’ve never attempted to take your kids to the beach, please don’t let this scare you off! Believe it or not, we actually had a good time. That’s not why I am sharing this with you. I’m sharing this with you because there are going to be days when you fail. There are going to be days that no matter how hard you try, and no matter how much you plan, something or someone will mess up, and sometimes royally. That doesn’t make you a failure. That just makes you a mom.
Listen, if my kid never colored herself in permanent marker, I would never have found out that sunscreen can take that stuff off of anything. (Okay, the fact that sunscreen can take that stuff off anything is mildly concerning, but that’s for another day.) My point is that you live and learn.
Will I travel to the beach and forget the diaper bag again? Probably not. I’ve got a car stocked full of diapers now. Will I leave the house without a puke bag and an arsenal of Lysol wipes? Probably not. I have lived and I have learned and I will learn again. That’s motherhood.
And while I may not experience those particular disasters again, I can guarantee there will be some other disaster heading my way that I am completely unprepared for. And that’s okay. We just keep going. Our mothers did it, and their mothers did it, and I can guarantee you that while your kids are clueless to it now, they will experience it one day, too. My kids will not remember the time Mom took them to the beach and all hell broke loose. But they will remember the time Mom took them to the beach. They will remember that we swam all day and ate chips and cookies and came home after dusk full of sand. And that’s all that matters. Moms, you are not failing and you are not alone. Your kids will not remember the messes and the mistakes. They will only remember you.
Shelley Giglio, the chief strategist, director of label operations, and artist management for sixstepsrecords, a record label out of Atlanta, once said “You can either laugh or cry.” And it’s amazing to me how close those emotions actually are to each other. Like I said before, motherhood is messy; if you’re doing it right, it will tear you apart and put you back together all in the same day. The fact that your kid went streaking down the street at 8 a.m. is not a reflection of you (true story). The sooner we all realize that, the happier we will all be. We won’t always make the right decisions for our kids and things aren’t always going to be pretty, but all we can do is hang on for the ride and trust that it’s going to be okay. Because it will be. Kids are resilient, but guess what, Mama? So are you, and you didn’t get this far without a little grit and grace. You got this.
Mom, check out these other articles to be encouraged:
You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be a Great Mom
To the Mom Who Feels Guilty for Sitting on the Job
A Little Encouragement When Motherhood is Disappointing
Tired? Overwhelmed? 4 Guilt-Free Reasons to Say “No”
Stop Comparing Your Mothering to What You See on Social Media
That One Time I Felt Like a Failure of a Mom
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