April 13, 2010

When I Fall Down

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we're writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Dear Wise Ones,

Like any mama, there are many things that challenge me about parenting… certain behaviors in my children that make me angry and crazy, oh my. Yet what weighs on my mind of late is more of an internal challenge… I feel frustrated by my inability to live up to my own standards. I deeply believe in positive discipline. I know that compassion and understanding, communication and reason, are far more effective and loving than threats and bribes. I know that children want a parent that plays with them, that gets on the floor and plays pretend and board games and hide and seek. I know that reliance on television is a poor substitute for play. I know that tv can be bad and can hinder imagination. I know all these things – I preach all these things – I blog on attachment parenting/natural family living for goodness sakes!

Yet, I frequently don’t live up to these standards. And I feel guilty, hypocritical, and often – a failure - because of it. I don’t play with my kids anywhere near as much as they’d – or I’d - like. I still find myself resorting to bribes or threats to take something away. I’m pregnant and have had very little energy, and thus have far more reliance on the television and movies than I’d like. I’d like never to get angry with them; I’d like never to lose my temper and yell.

I am conscious of my failures. I work hard to do a little better each day. But still, I am bothered when I fall down.

How do I feel more at peace with my failure to always be the parent I want to be?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by the end of the day April 13 with all the carnival links.)


  1. that is something I have struggling with recently as well. The way I work through it is first realize I can't control everything. Which is hard for me because I tend to want things to go my way. There may be something in may day that causes the kids to watch more tv, causes me to need to sit down more, etc. And as much as I want that something to go away so I can just play with my kids I can't.

    We also try to have a (very flexible) schedule. That way there are certain times everyday you are playing with your kids and they aren't watching tv, etc. Obviously there will be things out of your control that hinder this somedays but that will happen.

    And then at the end of the day I try to look at the wonderful things that happened that day, not the things I wish I could change. We all have those days where we want to do everything over. But just know you will change it tomorrow. :)

  2. Are your kids healthy, well-adjusted, socially literate, bright and happy? Then I'm sure you are doing perfectly well, whether you play with them or not.

    Evolution-wise, I don't think it is "natural" for human babies to be played with all the time. Throughout most of human evolution we were hunter gatherers. The children would either have been carried, or would have been assisting the women in their gathering. You are probably fulfilling their needs just by being around them.

  3. I just did a guest post on something similar over at Navelgazing's site (http://navelgazingbajan.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/5-ways-to-deal-with-mama-guilt/). One thing that's been important for me to remember is that I don't want Kieran to have the idea that he must be perfect. If I hold myself to the expectation of perfection, won't he think the same is expected of him? It's healthy for our kids to know that we fail and forgive ourselves! Don't be hard on yourself mama - if you are having a harder time living up to your own standards b/c of pregnancy tiredness, etc., just relax your standards for awhile. A couple months of extra TV won't be detrimental. Plus, now that it's summer, you can just kick the kiddos outside ;)

  4. I so understand where you are coming from. I am so against using the TV/DVD player or misdirecting my frustrations on to my child. But I do it.

    But you know what? I think that it is good that our children see us fail, fall short, lose our temper, be frustrated and everything else. Because if they don't how will they ever know how to persist when they have previously failed, apologise when they have hurt someone's feelings, work at being better at communicating their frustration in a healthy way and know that they are going to have the tools to deal with disappointment, anger and frustration.

    Also, the other day I had a TV free day. I was prepared for the worst. The toddler didn't even notice. Which makes me think that's a bit of a crutch that I'm far more attached to than she is. She spent most of the day playing outside.

  5. I so feel your guilt. I'm right there with you. I yell far more than I'd like...mostly because my lovely boy is incredibly strong willed and battles me on EVERYTHING (it feels like.) I struggle with how to deal with this...and end up using threats or bribes...which I HATE. I need a really good lesson in NVC because everytime I feel powerless in a situation with him...it goes out the window. But I'm aware of it and each day is a new day...a fresh start. The bad days are the days I'm exhausted; the days I engage in his battles instead of walking away. I agree with what a previous poster said, concentrate on the good. When my son comes to me and gives me a big kiss and snuggle, hands on my face and asks, "Are we good, Mummy?" I know he knows I'm human and forgives me my shortcomings - and then we have a big snuggle and all is right with the world.
    It's hard, isn't it? Trying to live up to what we expect of ourselves. We carry so much baggage yet expect it not to affect our parenting. I don't know what else to say...BREATHE. <3 -Debbie
    ps - We don't have a tv...but Isaac loves the computer and I'm definitely guilty of letting him use it to allow me some down time.

  6. I love that I found you through the carnival. You're my newest blog I've subscribed to. Yay for new powerful natural parenting voices! Anyway, I hear you completely. I often have a hard time living up to my ideals too especially around TV. I run after 7 kids a day in my family daycare and by the end of the day I'm exhausted and have next to nothing left to give. The TV becomes my friend. But then if I'm in any sort of a bad mood and they kids don't turn off the TV when I tell them to I get mad and yell that they've watched too much TV. WHose fault was that? Gah! But I think we're all human. And we do our best with what we've got. And I like to give myself a pat on the back for at least knowing better, so next time I can get it right.

  7. I believe every parent who reads this will empathise with your feelings. My take is that your inner child needs parenting too. Give her a (((HUG))), tell her how wonderful she is, praise her and attachment parent her too. Sometimes these feelings come up because we are angry at our LACK of APing - we might not be conscious of it, maybe we feel our parents were awesome, but if you're beating yourself up, I bet there is a little part of you that needs some wise mama loving too.

    If that doesn't work for you and you're more left brained; why not consider what your response is to friends that speak of the same. I bet you speak to them with positive, loving reassurance - offer that to yourself too.

    I think the fact you are beating yourself up shows just what a wonderful, loving and great mum you are - if you weren't; you wouldn't be questioning yourself :)

    Warm wishes
    Mrs Green

  8. I'm glad to read your post and the responses, because I frequently have this same feeling of being utter crap as a parent. I have ideals, but I don't live up to them.

    I guess the things that help are remembering that it's a journey — that I don't have to perfect all the time, just continue learning and moving forward. And that humans are fluid and adaptable. What I do influences my child, but it isn't everything. And even though my own parents weren't perfect, I'm still pretty happy about how I turned out. I don't say these things to excuse, just to forgive and grant myself (and others) a little grace.

    As for TV, we love it too much here, too. I do find that going out away from it helps, because then it becomes more of an occasional treat than a couch-potato marathon.

  9. I don't think the TV is bad. My girls are watching the chipmunks right now. They asked for it this morning, and I said yes.
    I find that saying yes more can feel great!
    When I think of saying no, I ask myself why I'm saying no. It usually because I don't want to clean up a mess. I also watch TV with them to spend time with them. To show that I care about their interest, and it's a way for us to spend time together.

    Mommy guilt is hard to deal with. I'm so glad I have a great relationship with my girls though.
    They will tell me if I've upset them, if I'm yelling and they don't like it, and I apologize.
    I spent a lot of time beating myself up. Going to bed at night upset over how the day went.
    Then someone told me to live in moments, instead of the entire day or night being good or bad. If I have a bad moment, I can choose to make a change right then and there, and make the next moment with them better.

    I also don't think our kids need us to play with them 24/7
    I love to watch them play together, they have great imaginations.
    I do try to play with them more when they ask though. If the answer isn't yes right away, I let them know I need to finish what I'm doing and I'll be right there, other times I do stop what I'm doing right away to play with them.

    I'm at the end of my pregnancy, so there has been a lot more lounging around than I would like.
    The girls are still happy and healthy though.

  10. Struggling with balance and expectations are good things. As I type, my son is watching Dora because I have a lot to do today and I need just a little breathing room to do it (including supporting my Carnival of Natural Parenting peeps). Six months ago we didn't do this. He was littler, less interested in the TV, but also more easily distracted with toys, whereas now he wants 100% of my attention all the time (unless a movie is on). And so this is where we're at today.

    I also think the other commenters are right in saying that kids need some time doing their own things, too, and they also need to see their parents work it out. If we are Super Humans (and miserable being that way) it's a terrible message to send. It's better to be the best you can be, feel good about it, accept your weaker spots and love yourself, than it is to beat yourself up and feel guilty all the time.

  11. For me I just take it on a day by day basis. Some days I am ABLE to be super involved, other days not so much.

    There is no way for you to play as much as they would like, children seem to have endless energy!

    Take into account that you're pregnant, tired, and hormones running wild too!

  12. I really struggle with this too. I have high expectations and lofty ideals, and the reality of life with two small people is way more gritty and earthy than that!

    I try to look at all failures/mistakes/etc as learning opportunities, both for myself and my kids. Seeing that I lose it in a certain situation can teach me that I need to be extra careful when that kind of situation comes up. My kids learn how to deal with conflict or how to make up after doing something unkind by watching how I do it. We don't have to be perfect parents, we just need to be good, loving, forgiving ones.

  13. There are standards and then there is reality, goals and the day-to-day. Aspiring to do something can be inspiring or it can make you feel inadequate. I think the other commenters have hit it right on the nose: seeing Mama love them but need her own time is totally okay! Even with TV involved.

    I don't know that any of us have yet become the parents we wish to be. Nor, perhaps, should we. Reaching isn't a bad thing, we just need to keep in mind that it's not shameful to be short of a goal so long as your eyes are still on it. We're all works in progress. And I think our children can see that. Hopefully they respect us for being 'real' parents versus robotic wonders that then make THEM feel inadequate when they grow and struggle with their own children.

    Also: pregnant? Some stuff has got to give and that's just how it goes. It's okay!

  14. Ladies, I am so touched, and helped! - by your comments...advice... and support. It is good to know that I am not alone in how I feel. I am struck by Dionna's comment - I too don't want my girls to think they have to be perfect. Why am I having that expectation of myself? And also Mrs. Green's comment about how I need to AP myself. I love that. And you're right. Thank you to all of you. I look forward to getting to know you all better. - Katherine

  15. I keep reminding myself to be gentle with myself, because I deserve gentleness, too. I'm guessing your parents weren't perfect, either? It's so hard to unlearn the parenting we were raised with. I feel that in order to move on from our hurts (in order to be better parents) we have to accept that we were hurt by our parents (or other people), allow ourselves to be angry at them (be honest with our feelings), and then let go. Let go every time you make a mistake. You try so hard to parent in a loving, gentle way--you have to know that you are doing your best, even when your best doesn't seem like it is your best.

    Know that your children are getting so much love from you, even if you mess up here and there. Think of all you do for them. Do you think it is all going to be for nothing just because you yelled at them? No, everything you DO that is GOOD counts.

  16. I have struggled so much with this in my own parenting, especially the getting my buttons pushed and reacting with anger although I strive (so hard!) to discipline gently. I have two girls less than two years apart and, whereas I was very patient and never lost my temper when I had just one sweet little toddler, I have struggled against my temper when I was balancing the needs (and tandem nursing) an infant and a two-year-old.

    I have been very disappointed in myself.

    One thing that I have learned from all of it is that if I am so easily overwhelmed by my emotions as a grown woman, how much harder it must be for my little one to deal with hers. I have been able to find real empathy for my daughter while she has a tantrum--I know exactly how that feels.

    Also, I have found myself with a great deal more compassion for other mothers, including my own, than I had previously.

    Have you heard of "benign neglect"? I think it comes up in "the continuum concept"--the idea that leaving your kids to entertain themselves and find things to do is often even better for them than having you to play with them directly. This has REALLY set me free of my guilt! :)

    Those are my thoughts--I hope they help in their small way.


  17. I hope these ladies have helped you!! Just wanted to let you know I left you a little award at my blog!


    and come join my blogroll if you want:



  18. Alexandra, got it! I will make my list and post soon!


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