Bouncing Back from Tough Parenting Days with Self-Compassion

self-compassion, kindness

Do you ever have days when you just feel beat down as a parent?

Yesterday, I had one of those tough parenting days. Nothing major, but just several little mistakes mixed with a feeling of overwhelm and a whole lot of beating myself up that left me feeling terrible by the end of the day.

It is exactly those times, as a parent, that you need self-compassion the most. The problem is that giving yourself a break is really hard to do in the moment.

My sweet girls were doing their best to snap me out of it.  They were saying all the right things to make me feel better.

Caitlin, 6, said “When you mess up it’s just how you learn Mommy.”

Gracie, 2, said “You are a good Mom,” and she kept repeating, “I love you Mommy, no matter what.”

It was so sweet, but it also reminded me about the importance of truly believing those words.

You are a good Mom. You are loved. It’s okay to mess up – that’s how you learn and grow.

Last weekend, after a few mishaps two of my good friends and I were texting back and forth about being grateful to have each other during our “parenting fails.” The feeling of not being alone is powerful.

But, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says or even knowing you are not alone (although both are helpful) if you don’t have a sense of compassion for yourself.

We are typically extremely forgiving to our friends. It’s never a big deal when they don’t have enough soccer snacks, or can’t find their son’s uniform, or are late to pick-up, or forget a parent-teacher conference or a school performance.

We don’t judge.

But, when we are the one making the mistakes…we beat ourselves up. We are extra hard on ourselves. We are not forgiving. We feel like a terrible parent or person.

Messing up just comes with the parenting (and life!) territory.  That isn’t going to change. We hope it will be less as we age and our kids age, but in reality it will probably just be different.

What we can change is how we treat ourselves during those mess ups.

Instead of beating ourselves up, we can use self-compassion.

I love how Dr. Kristin Neff breaks it down to 3 basic steps.

Self-Kindness:  Being gentle with yourself, like you would a friend. Being warm and understanding when you mess up or life doesn’t go your way, instead of beating yourself up. Remembering it’s okay to not be perfect!

Common Humanity: Remembering that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! This is why relying on friends who can relate is crucial in parenting.

Mindfulness:  Reaching for a glass of wine or chocolate or a juicy magazine or doing some online shopping are all things that will make you feel better…in the moment. But, not in the long-term because those crappy feelings will still be buried inside. Most likely they will come out at some point – maybe yelling at your kids or snapping at your husband.  You also don’t want to completely focus on how terrible you feel or how bad you messed up. Mindfulness is finding that happy medium.  Acknowledging your feelings, but not exaggerating them is the key.

I know these things work because I have used them. Last night, I did not use them. Instead, I felt crappy and went to bed with the kids leaving my husband with the to-do list (sorry honey!)

Today was a new day (thank goodness for new days!) Today, I acknowledged my feelings, was kind to myself and remembered I was not alone.

Next time, I hope to remember to use self-compassion in the moment, not wait until the next day.  But, anytime is better than not at all!

I also hope that this serves as a small reminder to be compassionate to yourself, especially during those tough parenting days.

You are not alone. You are a good parent. You are loved. It is not only okay to mess up, but that’s what helps you to become an even better parent!

How do you handle parenting mishaps?

Lots of love,

Molly

P.S. If you are like me and need a little practice, check out these great self-compassion exercises!

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