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I’m a Bad Parent and I’m Not Sure What to Do

I’m a bad parent. I had the realization today. I’ve always obsessed over my parenting failures and I constantly live with the guilt of not being enough for Ember. I’ve talked about mom guilt before and I’ve been able to rationalize things and talk myself out of the self destructive state I can get into. This time, though, it is different.

Feeling like a bad parent? You aren't alone. With a little encouragement, we can shift our mindset and accept our parenting for what it is. Good parenting.

I feel like a bad parent.

I act like a bad parent.

I’m perceived as a bad parent.

I believe I am a bad parent.

And I know I’m not alone.

The Mom Guilt is Real

I don’t feel present enough for Ember. I work full time and by the time I get home in the evenings there is little time left in the day to jump into fulltime mom mode. This makes me feel like I am ruining Ember’s childhood by forcing her to be the child of two parents that work.

Ember isn’t able to have a mom who is there for parent volunteering in her class. She doesn’t have a mom who can attend every field trip or check her out for every half day of school. I can’t be there for her school holiday breaks. She doesn’t get to lay in bed all day during summer vacation, watch tv and never have to change out of her pajamas.

I can’t give her these things because I have to work full time. I can’t give her these things because I choose to work full time. I’m feeling like a bad parent and I can’t figure out how to fix it.

Something, I can bet, most working moms can relate to.

I feel like a bad Parent

Ember had a Christmas program today at her school. This morning when she was getting dressed, she put on her “Christmas sweater”- the same one she’s been wearing for Christmas and Valentines day for the third year in a row.

Strike one

I asked her if she was sure she could wear that to school because I hadn’t found a note or anything that said to wear something other than her uniform. She insisted, though, and instead of fighting I just let her wear it and told her to put her uniform shirt in her book bag.

She then informed me that her teacher said they didn’t need their bags today.

Mind blown, I quickly pulled up the school’s Dojo app looking for a message or an announcement about the day’s rules and found nothing. I looked over the school papers on the fridge and couldn’t find anything other than a little note about the program starting at 9am.

Ember forgot her folder at school on Friday so if a note was sent home, I didn’t get it. Or I overlooked it and it got tossed along with the endless drawings and colored Santa pictures last week.

It’s too early to try and message her teacher and too late to try and remedy the situation I’ve royally screwed up. So she goes to school in her Christmas/valentines sweater with no book bag and a gift bag with a Candle in it from last year’s Bath & Body Works candle sale because I couldn’t afford gifts for her teachers this year and I didn’t want her to be the only kid without one.

Strike Two

While waiting for her bus to get to the house I reminded her that I couldn’t check her out after the program this year because I have to go back to work right after and that I will try and see if I can go give her a kiss before I leave.

She says, “I know, you didn’t fill out the pre-check out form the teacher sent home”, with a look of disappointment on her face.

I know I didn’t fill it out, I couldn’t. I was able to go into work late but I couldn’t take the entire day off. The best I could do for the day was to get Leslie to check her out when she got off since she gets home earlier than I do.

After her Christmas program, the Principal announced that kids who weren’t going home with parents had to report back to class right away and that all parents were to wait until their child’s class was called to get their kids.

Three kids went back to Ember’s class… Ember being one of them.

Myself and two other parent’s walked out the gym to leave.

Seemingly, every other child in the school went home with their parents. I wasn’t even able to give her a kiss and tell her I loved her. She was just shuffled right back to class.

Strike 3

After getting to the school thirty minutes early to find not a single place to park or a place to sit in the gym, I finally see a familiar face in the crowd and sit next to her. Thank goodness.

As we were watching the program a few moms behind me were talking about how cute the kid’s costumes came out. About how much time they spent making them because only a few parents “wanted” to help. They had to do it all because other parents didn’t want to participate.

That was it for me. That was the comment that sent me over the edge.

It wasn’t even my kids class performing and I immediately got offended and defensive over apparently “not wanting” to participate in class projects.

I act Like a bad Parent

But were those other moms wrong? Am I not involved with PTA and all the voluntary groups at school because I don’t want to be?

Here is a list of things I have forgotten about with school so far:

  • Math & Science Night- going to the school to play games and see the newest updates to the STEM lab.
  • Class Picture Day- I did not fix her hair because I didn’t realize it was that day. Ember does her own hair in the morning and I’m sure it was a mess for the picture.
  • Daddy/Daughter Dance- While this wasn’t necessarily my fault, I feel like I could have been more nagging toward her dad about buying tickets on time. He missed the deadline and she couldn’t go.
  • Winter Pictures- She was out sick for a week and I didn’t log in to check the class Dojo and didn’t see the picture orders and date. She went back to school on the same day and wasn’t able to do pictures.
  • Class Christmas Goodie Bags- Her class Christmas party was scheduled for the day after her grades “Market day” which is where they all have to make items to “sell”. We spent the entire week prepping painted rocks and gluten free cupcakes. When I finally stopped and realized I didn’t remember anything about a Christmas party, I find a tiny note on the bottom of a newsletter stating that “if you want” you can send treats. When I asked Ember why she hadn’t mentioned it, she said she figured I forgot.

I’m not sure why I’ve been so scatterbrained this year. I have not been using my planner regularly like I used to since my work schedule doesn’t change anymore. So maybe that’s why I’m missing important things.

I would love to have the time to do PTA and volunteer to substitute in her class but I don’t have the time for it. It makes my heart hurt thinking that Ember is probably envious of the kids who’s parents are always there.

I am Perceived as a Bad Parent

With all this being said, I can only imagine what I look like in the eyes of her teacher. I feel like she sees a parent who isn’t present or who doesn’t take the time to make sure everything is taken care of. That topped with the fact that Ember is doing so bad in reading right now….

I am constantly apologizing for being late sending something or not being able to donate X amount of dollars this week for whatever fundraiser they’re doing. I never participate in big projects that involve the parents.

I’m one of those parents that the teachers dread to have. Seemingly clueless and useless to the class.

I try to engage as much as I can but, if I’m being honest, chit-chatting with the teacher isn’t on the top of my priority list these days. I’m lucky to keep my kid fed every day, right now.

I Believe I am a Bad Parent

It is hard to look at all of this and think anything other than the fact that I am a bad parent. I’m not the best there is. I don’t feel like I am giving my 100% to Ember in the biggest and most important area of her life and I feel like I am failing her.

I tell myself these things over and over again and now I am at the point that I truly believe them.

Rationally, I know that I can’t be that bad. I am doing what I have to do to support her and give her a life where she wants for nothing. However, in order for me to do that for her, sacrifices have to be made. For me, that is working a full time job and taking, at least, 40 hours a week away from her.

I want to live a life where being a stay at home mom is a dream of mine and a reality but that just isn’t how it works right now. Not only do I have to provide an income for my family, but I want to work, too.

My desire to have a career makes me believe that I choose to be a bad parent for her. I feel like I can’t give my all to both things- a career and motherhood. I feel like it has to be one or the other.

A change of Mindset: I’m a Good Parent

As I drove to work after that Christmas Program, crying and wallowing over the fact that I am failing her as a parent, I realized that I have to do something. Some things in this scenario have to change.

I am not the only parent in the world that has to work a full time job and raise children. I should feel lucky that I only have one to raise and not multiple.

This self destructive mindset I have has to be shifted. If I am forgetting things, its time to focus on a daily planner. I have to create new habits. Starting now. I will be better.

I am going to speak, now, for all of the moms that are struggling with these intrusive thoughts that make us believe things that are just, simply, not true.

You are a good mom

You are a good mom. Repeat that. You are working a full time job and then going home to care for your household, your partner, your children and then sometimes even yourself.

You are doing this to the best of your ability and you are doing this for your family.

Life isn’t always Pinterest worthy and isn’t always what we see on TV. Not everyone has a partner who makes an income that is capable of sustaining a lifestyle where you can stay home without the worry of paying the bills.

Sometimes, we are doing this alone. Not everyone has a partner, period. Sometimes, it is just us and our children. We have to work.

You are not a bad parent because you work a full time job.

you are present

While we feel like we aren’t present for our children because we can’t attend every program at school or every afternoon practice, we have to realize that we are present. We are present at the end of every day, whether that is kissing them goodbye on our way out of the door to start a night shift or hugging them as soon as we walk in the door at 7:30 right before they go to sleep.

I am lucky enough that Ember understands that Mommy can’t always be there because I have to work. She gets disappointed, yes, but she has never been mad at me about it. She is the best and most understanding soul.

You are Doing Enough

Momma, listen. You are doing enough. We are doing enough. While we might not feel like we are giving our children 100%, we have to realize that we are giving OUR 100%. We just aren’t giving it to one thing. We are distributing bits of ourselves to everyone on every given day.

Sometimes we do this to the point of leaving nothing left to care for ourselves at the end of the day.

Sometimes, when you are eating dinner after having a shift from hell and you only have 15% left to give, you might not want to use it up with talking to your kid about “Imagine if the table would collapse right now while everyone was eating… “. And that is okay.

As working moms, we simply don’t have extra hours to dedicate to our kid’s school fundraisers and class art work. And when we do have an extra hour one week, maybe we don’t want to use it up making Christmas tree costumes out of felt for 1st graders.

we do it for Them and that’s what Matters

Everything we do is for our family. That looks different for some moms. Some moms dedicate their free time to their child’s school helping out the teachers and going above and beyond. Some moms dedicate their time being a good employee and maintaining a career to keep their family afloat.

Regardless of what we do, we are doing it for our family. We are good parents. We are good moms.

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