As a mom, there's nothing worse than feeling like, "Oh crap — I made a mistake."
Actually — wait. There is something worse.
If you thought making mistakes as a mom from small ones like buying the wrong cereal to ones as big as forgetting that huge science project is due today, there is no horror worse than when your kids mess up.
Is it society and history's long view of mothers as perfect — always the "sufferer" for her children (even in the act of birthing a child), the pinnacle of virtue (think Mother Mary), the steadfast angel — that brings mothers to their knees with any and every mistake?
Is it our nature as women, period, to be critical of ourselves and introspective? To think that if our kids did something wrong, that means we are wrong as people and moms, period?
All of these are potential reasons that mothers hurt so much whenever our children go out into the world and come back with the naughty sticker on their heads, metaphorically speaking. I know for myself when my daughter acts out or has a bad moment, I cringe inside, thinking, "Oh man!" Sometimes, I know she's tired, hungry, or hitting a developmental stage. Other times I think, "What could I do differently to prevent this? What could her dad do? What could we both do?" When you start to feel like you've failed or messed up as a parent because junior is acting out, consider these things.
Nature and Nurture
If your kid has a particular temperament, there may be issues that come up repeatedly. Does your kid have a poor attention span? He may get continuous reports from the school. As long as you're doing your part as a parent, you can stop killing yourself over your child's mistakes. For example, my child can be a hothead. It's her nature. I work with her on teaching her ways to cool down or walk away when she gets mad, but I can't change who she is — I can only help her be the best she can be. Your "lazy" child may never have the pep that you have in your step, so keep your child's temperament in mind whenever he or she makes a bad choice. It's not that you're making excuses for the behavior; it's that you're not killing yourself inside or holding your kid to unfair standards when he/she messes up.
Food and Rest
Was your child well fed and rested before this mistake he or she made? If not, cut some slack on all ends, but do consider your child's eating and sleeping habits if it's a continual pattern. For my child, it took some time for her to adjust to going to aftercare more than two days a week, and she was cranky until her body adjusted to the longer day. Be mindful of how much sleep your child is getting and how often your little one is eating.
Are you being constant in your discipline approach? Do you stick to your word, or are you easily convinced otherwise? Do you and your partner or ex-partner discipline differently or disagree in front of your child about how to handle the matter? These things may be the reason your child acts out, not because you're "the worst mom ever." Try to take a good look at your current discipline methods before putting yourself to the fire. Finding solutions rather than tearing yourself apart is way more helpful.
No One Is Perfect
No parent is perfect and neither is any child. When your child (or you) makes a mistake, try to think about whether it's something worth blowing off or a more serious matter. Not every bad choice is a serious deal. Kids are kids, and they go through developmental stages, so for moms of toddlers, "No, your child will not scream 'NO' forever!" Some mistakes are worth brushing off and not getting upset about. You simply have to know whether an issue is an issue or simply a blip on the road of you and your child's life!
And remember: yes, there are bad parents out there, but many of us do try to the best of our abilities to parent well and guide our kids out into the world. Some of those days will be winners and others losers, and that's fine!