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This post came about after someone searched the blog for “why am I such a horrible mom”. I felt an immediate sense of compassion. Surely there are many of us who think “I can’t cope with my children”, and we feel like a bad parent every now and then.
I’d like you to read this, unknown fellow human being:
It is a common and a very distressing feeling to feel like a bad parent. I’d say, everyone feels like this at some point or another, and some more often than others. Sometimes we’re bad parents, and sometimes we’re not. It is also common to feel that you cannot cope with your children at some point.
Maybe you’ve done something really bad to your child, hit the child or screamed with malice. In that case, you’re understandably ashamed of something terrible. That’s right, shame is a feeling that should stop us from doing something stupid again. Unfortunately, shame can be a rather crippling feeling.
If you have hit or otherwise been mean to your child, I would like you to do some reflecting that might help along the way. When we do something stupid towards our children, it’s usually because we haven’t had the energy and the resources to cope with the demands placed on us as parents.
The amount of energy and mental resources we have, varies between different people, and varies for the same person during different times of their life. Therefore, how we cope, also varies a lot. When we can’t cope, then often our patience disappears, and we do nasty, stupid things, even to those we know we must not harm.
When you can’t cope with your kids – ask for help!
If the fact is, you don’t have enough resources to take care of your children in a loving way, dear ones: seek help! If your children have another parent, talk to them! Ask for relief, if they can manage. Are you taking parental leave? Make sure you get sick leave from parental leave so that someone else can take over your parental allowance and help you take care of your child.
Are you a single parent? Is there anyone close to you who can help you out? Be brave and ask for help! If there isn’t anyone around to help, talk to your pediatrician, a nurse, or the staff at your child’s preschool or school.
If it’s urgent, you feel you can’t trust yourself overnight, seek help at the pediatric emergency room. Tell them to take care of your baby for you. While you sleep there, the nurses take care of the baby, and the next day, the hospital counselor will help you get more help so you can eventually move back home.
If you feel up to it, call the Child Protection Services and ask for help. Their task is to help families, who do not have sufficient resources, to take good care of their children.
Bad mom or just tired and grumpy?
Maybe it’s not that you’ve hurt your child. Maybe you feel bad even if the worst thing you’ve done to your child is that you can’t be bothered playing with them so often, or that sometimes you yell at them when they bite you. If this is the case, that you did not hit your child nor inflict them physical pain. If you also don’t say mean things to your child (for example, “You’re so ugly, you’re the worst thing that’s happened to me, brat!”) but just angry things (for example”Stop! I can’t stand you screaming all night! Can’t you give me a break so I can sleep!“) you don’t have to be ashamed.
Then you’re a good enough parent. But you must not be feeling so good yourself if you think you’re a bad one. Is there anyone you can talk to about this? About how you are and how you think and feel? Your partner? A friend? A counselor? Your pediatrician or pediatric nurse? Your own parents?
Depression is very common in parents. Sure it’s common in people in general, but even more so in parents, especially with young children. A sign of depression is to feel more horrible than you really are. Depression is a treatable disease, which needs to be detected and treated as soon as possible. Therefore, it is important to take feelings that come with ‘you are a bad parent and cannot cope with your children’ seriously.