How to let go of mom guilt by admitting mothering is hard
Updated: Feb 3
"I love my kids, but somedays I want to run away to a deserted island.
Mothering is hard, y'all!"
Excerpt from Love Like A Mama
One of the worst days of my life was two summers ago. My husband and my son got into a heated argument. Both of them felt disrespected by the other, and in a flash of anger, my husband said, "If you don't like it here, then leave!" And my son did. Right then. He just started walking. He didn't pack anything; he didn't have a plan; he just left.
I went into a panic. Where is he going? He didn't take his phone. He doesn't have any money. What do we do? My daughter said, "Oh, please. He'll come back when he's hungry." But I wasn't convinced. He was hurt, and he was stubborn.
I looked at my husband in disbelief and asked, "Aren't you going to go after him?" Still upset, my husband simply said, "No." I was furious. I was not about to let my 14-year-old baby strike out into the world on his own. He had covered a lot of ground already, and I could no longer see him, but I knew what direction he went in.
I got in my car and drove until I found him. He was still mad. When I asked him to get in the car, he refused. It was a hot summer day, so I began bribing him with air conditioning inside the car. He just glared at me and kept walking. People had begun to gather and were staring. Being a transracial family, it's not often assumed that we're actually family. I'm sure I looked like a middle-aged, White pedophile trying to lure a shirtless, teenaged Black boy into my car with the promise of air conditioning. I figured it was only a matter of time until someone called the cops.
I pull over on the side of the road. I smile at the bystanders, and in a sing-song voice, I say, "Come on, son. Get in the car, and let's go home." I can hear people saying the word "Mother" with a question mark-like they don't believe I'm really his mother. My son says, "No," and keeps on walking. I try the nice routine once more. Out of the corner of my eye, I see someone get out a cell phone. I just knew they were about to call the police on me. In desperation, with gritted teeth, I say, "If you don't get your ass in this car right now..." He flung open the door and got in. Someone in the crowd says, "Yeah, that's his mom. That was definitely a mom threat."
Admittedly, it was not one of my best parenting moments, but I was desperate. I was scared over my husband's and my son's relationship. I was scared my son would never come home. I was scared we were minutes away from police arriving on the scene. I was scared, and sometimes we parent out of fear. But we don't really talk about it.
None of us want to admit that things aren't always as they seem. We don't want to be vulnerable and confess that we don't know what we're doing. And yet, it's true for every mother, everywhere. They didn't know what to do at some point in the parenting journey; they overreacted or underreacted, or second-guessed themselves. At some point, they messed up because we all do.
It's okay. Tomorrow will be better. You'll gain more knowledge and more experience. Your child will grow out of their "phase." And if it's not a simple solution, you'll get the help you and/or your child needs.
"You're always going to wonder if you're doing things wrong, but that's what it means to be a mom, to care so much about someone else that you want to be as perfect as possible."
I believe in you, Mama. You're doing a great job. You don't have to hold yourself to the standard of perfection. Mothering is hard. It's wonderful in so many ways but yes, let's acknowledge that it's also hard.