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Conquering the “I’m not good enough” mommy mindset

“I am not good enough for this.”

The teacher approached me, wearing wrinkled brows and serious lips. I knew the news was not going to be good.

I was already an anxious mess over our previous conversations about potty accidents and dilly dallying snack behavior, so when the conversation began, “Mrs. Young I have some concerns about your daughter, can we talk?” I delicately braced myself for the next blow.

My fragile heart fracturing with each word that left her mouth, “not listening, difficult, defiant.”

I knew we had reached the ‘Terrible 3’s’, but to hear that it was overflowing from home to school broke me.

DSC_0426edit“I am not good enough for this.”

As a former teacher, I had just experienced the realities of being on the ‘other side’. I was now the parent of ‘that student’.

The problem child.

At this point I know some of you are likely saying to yourself, “But OMG, she’s ONLY 3, just look at that smile!!!”

DSC_0465editLet me tell you folks, that smile is one of a mischievously sneaky little girl who knows how to manipulate any situation. Whining and arguing until she gets her way.

Unfortunately, she’s also already inherited mom’s signature eye roll.

DSC_0484editExternally I gave the teacher apologies, platitudes, and oodles of support for the ‘next steps’.

(Good luck with the time out chair kiddo…)

But, internally it was too late. Mommy guilt had already reared her ugly head.

“I am not good enough for this.”

How many times do you say that to yourself during the day?

Better yet, what do you do about it?

I thought going from full time working mom, to work at home mom was going to be a beautiful transition. That mommy guilt would simply fade away because I’d be home more for my daughter.

DSC_0457editI’m learning my lessons on mommy guilt the hard way.

Hint: It doesn’t ever go away.

I realize that this one little conversation from preschool could be worse. It could be oh so much worse. Losing Bella taught me the ultimate lessons on love, and suffering, and guilt.

I’m am grateful that we have our health, our home, and our love for each other.

But for some reason this moment was chosen to test me as my mind spiraled out of control.

“I’m a terrible mom, and a pushover. I don’t put her in time out enough. But if I put her in timeout too much she’s going to rebel even more, and then what kind of teenager will she become?! Maybe I don’t pay attention to her enough because of my business and she’s acting out to rebel. Or maybe I pay TOO much attention to her because she’s an only child and I need to teach her to be more self-sufficient. She’s not going to have any friends if she keeps acting this way. And then she’ll be depressed, and anxious, and self-conscious just like me….and OMG, what do I do???!!!”

DSC_0480edit“I am not good enough for this.”

That was my internal monologue in the preschool room that day, but all too often I hear it during my photo taking too.

When I’ve planned out in my mind exactly how a shoot should go, and then I get home and all the images are over exposed, or the light is awful, or my family is grumpy and frowny, or the focus is off.

Those are the moments that I doubt my abilities to teach and share my knowledge the most, because “How can I possibly help others when I can’t even nail my own shots?!”

DSC_0489edit“I am not good enough for this.”

I began the day after that vulnerable preschool conversation much as I would following a shoot that’s left me feeling insecure. Grumpy, disappointed, short, on edge, anxious, and loud.

I begged, I pleaded, I yelled, I demanded good behavior. I threatened time out and put her there. There were tears and hurt feelings and misunderstandings and confusion, and guilt. More and more guilt. Always the guilt.

Something had to change.

My mommy mindset.

DSC_0508editWhat if instead of allowing our hearts to feel shattered, we embraced insecurity instead?

We used our fear as fuel for connection. An invitation to be mindful in our words and actions. An opportunity to live in the present and let love in. A reminder to remain positive in the face of challenges.

PicMonkey CollageWhat if instead of a plead, we opted for praise. What if instead of a scream we tried a hug and a kiss? What if instead of a ‘time out’ we had a ‘time in”?

Where connection is encouraged through conversation, watercolor paintings, and mother/daughter movie nights. Where we talk about our behavior and lead by example. Where photos of happiness and joy flow naturally.

Where love wins.

“I am good enough for this.”

“She is good enough for this.”

Just as I am.

Just as she is.

All of it.

And more.


Like this post? Relate to it? Please share it with all the moms you know using one of the buttons below. xo.

  • Teresa Savage - This is wonderful!!! It always makes me feel more confident as a mom to see and hear I am not the only one feeling this way! My daughter also had a HORRIFIC transition to preschool the first year. I had the same internal conversation you mentioned above. But it took me a LONG time to realize I needed to change my mindset and accept. Thanks for writing this!ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - Thank you for this. I know you are a teacher too and totally get it from all angles. It’s so hard, right?! I’m working on the accepting piece…ReplyCancel

  • Alexandra Andrews - I can so identify with this, I have a very small business some weeks I have no work at all but this suits me as I have 3 children and elderly parents to look after. I try my best to be the best mother and daughter and as a consequence my business fades, my enthusiasm for photography wanes as I see my peers go from strength to strength while I stand still. It would be ok if I felt I was doing a good job as a mummy, but as my friends children get accolades for their sporting prowess or their academic achievement mine just saunter along. They don’t seem driven to do anything well. I question is it me, am I doing too much for them, do I shout too much so it’s dented their confidence. Are they just not gifted I. Anything. Lots of people tell me I have lovely kids and maybe I do, ( don’t get me wrong I adore them and I think they are brilliant but I’m their mum, I’m biased) but I can’t keep up with the competition, I’m not even on the starting blocks some weeks.
    I do voluntary work for the church but I’m disorganised and it doesn’t get done to the high standards I’d like to set. I run Sunday school but some weeks it stumbles along just about managing to function (though I’m aware without me trying there would not be one at all)
    So all in all I am riddled with guilt, guilt that I’m not a good enough mother, guilt that I’m not there enough for my ageing parents, guilt that they house is messy and not always clean, guilt that I don’t earn enough to contribute to the running of the household, guilt that I’m not progressing in my photography and that my images are sometimes c**p, guilt that I’m not doing a good enough job for the church. And guilt that when my husband comes home from work I’m not waiting with his dinner in the table and his slippers warming waiting to hang on his every word.
    Life as a mum is flipping hard, no baby book I’ve ever read tells you how from the minute you conceive (or even before) you will feel guilty about every decision you ever make. And there is nothing you can do about it because when you care really care you want to do your best and get it right, but there is always someone who seems to do it better. Facebook etc is very good at making us think everyone else has got it sorted and their lives are full of highly achieving kids and educational trips out with happy families. I don’t believe it’s really like that. I think deep down those of us who care are insecure.
    My mum once said “you will never know if you’ve been any good as a parent until your kids have grown up and told you”
    Thanks for your honesty, at least I know I’m not alone !ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - Thank you so much for sharing you story with me. Doesn’t it just feel better knowing we’re not alone and can share? xo.ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie - My children come from other women. I have never been blessed to carry one to term. HOWEVER, I am their MOMMA anyway. I’m the one there for the runny noses, first broken heart, the skinned knees, the first A, the first F, the happy moments, all the sad moments, the fits, the yelling, the screaming, the tummy aches, the headaches, having to wear glasses, being hurt by a friend, being bullied by the oh so popular ones, the vomit, the laughter, and all the LOVE from their hearts because I am MOMMA.

    It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks because I am MOMMA. I am the one they turn to for those tummy aches, gallons if tears, skinned knees[toes, fingers, hands, etc], to share their successes, their failures, the hugs saying it will turn out better. I am MOMMA!

    Beryl, there is no way to rid ourselves of the guilt that trickles in as we doubt our ability to be a mother. HOWEVER, there is one fact that needs to be realized so you can stay with your chin up and a smile. No matter what happens in life I have found this to be the absolute truth: I AM MOMMA!
    Beryl, if there is nothing else that you take from my post — take this: No matter the good days or the bad days. What matters most is that you are there for your child because you are MOMMA!

    From one MOMMA to another MOMMA — know that you are not alone. Much love and tears of motherhood, Bonnie.ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - I love this. Thank you for empowering me today and lifting me up when I was feeling down. xo.ReplyCancel

  • Amylynn - I am so glad you posted this! I have a four year old boy and I am constantly questioning whether I am a good enough mother or not. Heck, I just questioned myself this morning!

    I think because we do question our roles as a mother, it makes us a good Mom by just doing so. Rethinking our roles, postition, how we raise our children, or how we want to raise them,our goals, and our goal as a family. If we didn’t question, we would never learn, grow or experience our roles as Momma’s.ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - This may be the best sentiment I’ve hear all day “just because we’re questioning it, makes up a good mom” So true and words I needed to be reminded of today. xo.ReplyCancel

  • Blaire - Just the fact that you’re even worrying this much means you ARE good enough. Her teacher doesn’t know Brielle the way you do. Not even the way I do. Yes she is idependant but she is not defiant – she just has her own ideas and that will be very good for her in the long run. She is also very sweet and has a laugh that could light up a room. And don’t even get me started on the potty accidents – she’s still a little girl and they are going to happen. And I’m truly not sure why being slow to eat snack is ruining anybody’s day; she is a social butterfly and perhaps not so hungry. She’s old enough to decide that herself. Sorry this is long. I could go on. But, we love you guys and you’re welcome to bring long snacks and that smile of hers here anytime.ReplyCancel

  • Vannessa - When I first decided to be a stay at home mom I felt that way for two years. In my third year I decided to accept what I am and let go of what I am not. I would read tons of books trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing rather than focusing on my kids or being paralyzed in fear that I wasn’t doing enough or right. It made me depressed, anxious and unhappy, worse of all is thats the person my kids got. Looking back, I realize I would have been a better parent had I let go of the guilt and just enjoyed my kids. While this might be unsolicited advice, look into the paleo diet, it works great for adults and children who struggle with behavioral issues. We use it in our family and it has helped tremendously in clearing the fog, tiredness, depression, and ADD. There is a local woman who rights cookbooks about it Stacey Toth, her sons had behavioral problems and they are much better now on this diet. There is also the Gaps diet which is similar.ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - Thanks for your kind words and advice! I’ve actually looked into Paleo not for the behavioral issues – just for personal reasons. I have a gluten allergy as is, so this would be pretty easy for us to incorporate. I appreciate your insight.ReplyCancel

  • Jody Branch - I like the idea of “Time In”! We don’t have “Time Out” here, we have “GO TO YOUR ROOM!” 😉 But what if I went to, to calm down with them? Because, by the time I get to “GO TO YOUR ROOM!” I need to calm down, too. 😉 Thank you for writing this, Beryl. Logically, I know I’m not alone in my mothering woes but it’s nice to be reminded of that. Have a perfect day!ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - Yes! I realize when I start raising my own voice it’s time for us both to take a break. But taking a break together can be SO MUCH BETTER and can often end in fits of giggles. xo.ReplyCancel

  • Hope - Yeah, what the teacher said sure seems a bit over the top, idealistic, and unrealistic. Kids need to be able to be kids, they are not robots who need a parent/teacher talk over not eating snack or having their own little curious mind etc. hmmmm….but oh do I understand where you are standing on many levels. As a homeschooling mom of 2 the MG is a constant constant thing too. I believe and know even from a distance that you are a fabulous mom, you care deeply, you want to know your child and to be known. We all have critics or those who grumble and complain when really it’s more about them than about who the finger is pointed at. I applaud you for dodging the arrows of MG, and we all will get better with practice at the dodging! Big big hugs!!!ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - Yes yes. The MG is so very hard. Having a sounding board and knowing you’re not alone I think is the only way through. 😉 I actually LOVE her teacher, I think what I’m dealing with is all me and what’s going on inside of my head and heart. xo.ReplyCancel

  • Hope - Beautifully written piece!!!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - I still say, “I’m not meant to be a SAHM” but don’t believe it as much as I used to and have even found a good balance with working from home. My eldest is also a “spirited” child and among all the resources I found the most loving and effective is Hand in Hand Parenting, whose motto is “Nurturing the parent-child connection”. Yes, this a plug for the website But it taught me how (in your words) “to be present and connected” with my child and encourage good behavior without using time-outs. What a journey…wonderous and wild…we’re on.ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - Thanks for this! Brielle was such an “easy” baby but is proving to be quite the spirited preschooler. I’ll definitely check out this resource! xo.ReplyCancel

  • Colette - You are not Alone. Guilt and motherhood seem to go hand in hand. As a Type A personality I always struggle with trying to be that “Perfect” Mom. I have guilt that I work full time even though I know if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to provide my daughter with essentials. I have guilt when I spend some much needed “ME” time. Guilt when a toddler moment makes me raise my voice which then leads to my daughter crying. I worry that she should have more time outs….the list goes on and on. Kudos to you for being human and for sharing this side of you. Being a Mom is the most difficult job on the planet and these kids didn’t come with an instructional manual. In the end the goal is to love and treasure them and to except the fact that we are human and will make mistakes. But from what I can tell you are doing a great job with Brielle and she is a typical three year old.ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - Oh yes – I have that Type A perfection mindset too. Not easy. Thanks for weighing in and making me feel less alone. xo.ReplyCancel

  • Julie - Love this, Beryl! Thank you for always giving me something that I need to read! 🙂 I’ve been struggling with Mommy Guilt alot recently for several different reasons. The tricky part is that it seems to keep changing forms. Just when you think you’ve got things under control it pops up again somewhere else. We will keep fighting the fight togetherReplyCancel

    • berylayn - YES!!! It totally changes form. Sneaky sneaky. Glad I have an ally in this fight. xo.ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - Thank you so much for being brave enough to share this. You could have been describing my own 2-going-on-13 daughter and the very conversation I have with myself every single day – verbatim. Just this morning, in fact, her daycare provider told us about a “defiant” episode from yesterday, so reading your words today was soothing. My husband and I tell each other that her independence, strong will, and curious mind will serve her well in the future and help her be a strong and confident adult…if we can make it through the challenges they create while she’s growing up! The guilt and self-criticism are overpowering many days, but it helps so much to be reminded that I’m not alone in these experiences and feelings. Thank you for the reminder of “time ins” and mindful presence.
    P.S. Brielle seems wonderful…that light in her eyes and that infectious smile? Those are because of you.ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - Thank you for sharing this. I have also said that Brielle’s behaviors are an indication that she likes her teacher and is comfortable at school. The fact that she wants to act with her teacher like she does with me must be a good thing, right?! And like you said, hopefully these traits will serve her well as she grows. Hugs to you and your spirited little girl too! xo.ReplyCancel

  • Erin - “Maybe I don’t pay attention to her enough because of my business and she’s acting out to rebel. Or maybe I pay TOO much attention to her because she’s an only child and I need to teach her to be more self-sufficient. ” Oh Beryl…I have had that EXACT internal dialogue on so many occasions!

    We love our children and we do our best. They love us and they do our best.

    We are ALL perfectly imperfect 🙂ReplyCancel

    • berylayn - Oh my gosh – so glad to hear I am not alone in my WAHM dialogue. Big hugs to you and your girlie. xo.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - I am an ADHD Mom. While I am also the mother of an ADHD 7 year old boy, the ADHD in me is the bigger of the problems. Being diagnosed late at 30 before being thrown into the FTM life at 32 did not give me the time to get my mom skills on. Rewind, I never intended marriage and children, so i poorly, meaning never observed my mother’s valuable lessons on how to make home and hearth work. I am disorganized and that wreaks havoc in my home that I haven’t found a place for everything after 3 years living here. I have all the organizing gadgets but can’t put them to proper use. Who suffers most…. My children whom I love with all my being, but cannot make their bedrooms their own or spend days doing all the cutesy activities I want with my second one added to the bunch. How can I help my struggling little boy and foster the flourishing of my little light, my little ,girl when I struggle with the laundry….heartbreakingReplyCancel

    • berylayn - I can relate to this too!! “I have all the organizing gadget but can’t put them to proper use” ME!!! We’ve got our eye out for ADD. It seems to run in our family, but has seemed to go undiagnosed in many of us until adulthood. However, all that aside, LOVE will take you all far. Laundry will always be there, and the messes will always come back. But they’ll only be little once. Keep showing them love and they’ll find their way as will you. xo.ReplyCancel

  • Keesha - I really needed this post today. I have been so on edge with my children, shouting and yelling. And I have that same 3 year old at home, the whining, dilly-dallying manipulative, adorable, spunky girl with the great smile. You are so right about the bad thoughts coming in, the spiraling out of control thoughts and then taking it out on our children. I find it so hard to hug or take a deep breath when I am stretched so thin and feeling mediocre at everything. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone, and that I am, my daughter is, my son is, and even Hubs 🙂 is good enough and more!ReplyCancel

  • Amie - Hi Beryl! I would like to nominate your blog for the Sunshine Award! My post nominating you will be up on the blog tomorrow. We would love if you stopped by. Looking forward to getting to know you some more 🙂ReplyCancel

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