Confessions of a Bad Mother

I am feeling like a horrible mother right now.  I have no patience with the Grasshopper and it seems like all we do is butt heads.  Over everything.

Let me start by stating unequivocally that we are a no-spank household.  We try to be a no shouting household, too, but I’m pretty much failing at that.

Last night was awful.  It was right before bath time. She’d spent the entire evening dragging her feet and not listening and just generally being difficult. Mr. Grasshopper was using the restroom which meant that the next 30 minutes were going to involve me trying to get her in and out of the tub and reaching across my enormous belly to try to get her clean while she danced in the middle of the shower instead of standing where I could actually reach her.

Right after I undressed her, she grabbed her comb and acted like she was going to put it in her butt. Her naked, sweaty, running around all day, filthy butt. I say, “Do NOT put the comb in your bootie.” And you know what she did?  She grinned at me and scrubbed it really quickly a few times right in her butt crack. And you know what I did? I reached around and spanked her. And then I felt horrible. Like I said before, we are a no-spank household. And I was spanking out of anger, which isn’t spanking at all. That’s just hitting. I didn’t do it very hard, certainly not hard enough to actually hurt, but her look of utter betrayal just killed me.

I ended up apologizing and explaining that I was just so frustrated because she did something on purpose just because I told her not to, but that it wasn’t okay to hit. And we hugged.  And we both cried.  I explained to her that she has poopoo germs in her bootie and that when she put her comb in her bootie she got poopoo germs on her comb. I told her that poopoo germs can make her very sick and it’s important not to put her hands and things in her bootie and that when Mama tells her something it’s to keep her safe and that she must listen to Mama.

Then when it was time to comb her hair after her shower (which was spent dancing mostly out of reach just like I thought it would), I reminded her about the poopoo germs on her comb and asked her why they were there. “Umm… I don’t know.” “Think really hard.” “Because I put my comb in my bootie?” “Yep. And you know what? I’m about to comb your hair with those poopoo germs.” Cue the dramatics: “I don’t want poopoo germs in my hair! No Mama! I don’t want poopoo germs in my hair!” “Well, you should’ve listened when Mama told you not to put the comb in your bootie.” And I combed her hair.

Then my husband came out of the bathroom and told me I was being mean so I left.

Right now she is really drawing out the worst in me. It seems like all I do is yell at her all the time. I hate it.  She’s just so darn contrary right now and my patience is so short from feeling crappy all day that I just snap at her constantly. The pregnancy hormones and just the pregnancy in general are making me cranky to a pretty strong degree.  And then last night I smacked her bottom. I feel like a horrible mother.

I just feel so overwhelmed with everything right now.  Thankfully I’m not nauseated 24/7, but there are some times that I just can’t get up off the couch.  It’s like she can sense those times.  She’s like a shark smelling blood in the water.  This weekend I was feeling very ill and I asked her to wash her hands in the bathroom as the kitchen sink had dirty dishes and a knife or two in it.  She grinned at me and washed her hands in the  kitchen sink anyway.

Later, I asked her to pick up her toys and she crawled under the table and kicked the chairs for half an hour.  Now, she knows I can’t pick her up and carry her.  She knows I can’t bend over without getting sick.  She knows this.  Which is why she deliberately crawled under the table where I couldn’t pull her out.  And it’s not like she was at much of a risk for me taking the toys away because I couldn’t bend over and get them anyway.

Here’s the thing:  She’s normally a really easy-going kid.  I mean, this is the kid who, aside from a brief run-around on the grass and a few potty breaks, sat through an entire UCLA graduation ceremony.  She was better behaved than the very large group of adults that were sitting around us chatting at full volume the whole time.  For a kid, that’s pretty impressive.  For a 3-year-old, that’s just jaw-dropping.

But lately, she’s pushing her boundaries and I’m feeling really lost as to how to show her where the boundaries are.  My temper is incredibly short, I’m not physically able to chase her or move her or put her somewhere, and I just feel like I’m failing at the whole motherhood thing.

A friend commented recently that while parenthood shows you these deep wells of love that you never knew you had, it also shows you these deep wells of anger.  This is really ringing true for me right now.

I think recognizing that she’s testing her boundaries right now will really help me handle things better.  So will finding a way to be more consistent with discipline.  Right now she gets so many warnings to stop doing something that the whole thing becomes meaningless.

I think I need to find a way to reconnect with her.  It seems like the days turn into wake-up, shower, help Mr. Grasshopper get her ready, work all day, come home, crash on the couch, watch Mr. Grasshopper shower her, read her a story, go to sleep.  I really need to find some time in there for us to just connect together.  Heck, I’m even getting cranky during story time!

Something’s got to give.

I know adding a second child into the mix will just fuel the chaos, but I can’t help thinking it will be so much better because at least I won’t be pregnant anymore.

Meantime, I need to go cuddle with my firstborn and try to reach some middle ground with her.

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7 thoughts on “Confessions of a Bad Mother

  1. I think that pregnancy is hard on anyone, but doubly so when you’re feeling so rotten. So, of course your patience level is lowered. I know that doesn’t make it any less painful but I do hope you can find compassion for yourself and not beat yourself up too much about it.

    I can’t relate to home life, but I currently work lunchtimes in a school with kids aged between 7 and 11, many of whom have major issues with trust, violence, anger and respect. Some days it feels like all I do is tell them not to do this and not to do that, and most often it is to keep them safe and help make lunchtime more enjoyable for all, but sometimes it really is just because they “push my buttons”.

    It’s so hard when a child pushes and pushes and just keeps on pushing and ignoring your requests and suggestions. I find it difficult dealing with it for an hour each day, so can only begin to imagine what it must be like when it is ongoing throughout the day. So, what I’m trying to say is that your feelings of guilt are totally understandable, but do remember to give yourself a bit of a break too as you have a lot going on right now x

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  2. It won’t be the last time you feel this way, but thank goodness you do–you know that you won’t fall into that trap of “dealing with it” and not really doing anything about the behavior. My best was a bathtub event with Joseph and Vita. I was single, stressed and they were having WAY too much fun in the bath-water everywhere-so I went in a gave each one a quick “pop” on their wet bottoms. Joseph immediately calmed, but Vita looked at me and said, “That didn’t hurt, did it Joe” If he could have gone down the drain to disappear he would I stood her up and popped her a couple of times, and she looked at me through clinched teeth and said, “That didn’t hurt either” I knew it was a losing battle, so I went out in the hall and was just standing there trying to breath, and overheard her saying, “that didn’t hurt, did it Joe” and again nothing from him! I have a GREAT chart that my m-i-l gave me and I used to pass out to my parents at conferences. It shows there are 5 or 6 behavior patterns we all go through and at birth, these are very short periods of time and then they get longer and longer as you age. What happens is you have a really smooth cycle (that is when we have this parenting thing down, our child is an angel, just a look between the two and all is well) but right after that comes a cycle that is all over the place–either all about “me” or testing our boundries. I would keep this chart in my closet and when one of the kids would start going crazy on me, I would go in and look at the chart, see that the behavior was “normal” for that age, thank God for a “normal” child and then–and this is the important thing–go deal with the unacceptable behavior. Just because it is normal, does not mean it is OK–it means it is your “teachable” moment. 🙂 This challenging will again pass, (and later return) but it means you are not a “bad mommy” it means you also are a normal mommy! Kids need to see that we are not always in top control and don’t always have everything just so–they learn how to deal with life. Oh, another quick one of mine, when Jamie was working in Austin, I had Joseph and Vita in elem. and Wil was 1.5 years and I was pregnant with M.E. Needless to say, our getting out was not always smooth and easy, and I am a hollerer (sorry, but it is true) and so I reeming them out as we were going down the street and then I would say, “I know you do not deserve all of this, but you do deserve some of it, so I apologize for the part you don’t deserve!”

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    1. I remember something similar happening when I was little. I looked my mom straight in the eye and said, “That didn’t hurt.” You don’t make that mistake twice! 😉 No, mom didn’t whallop me or anything, but it certainly did extend the length and degree of the punishment! To be even more clear, Mom wasn’t big into spankings. I can count on one hand the number of times I got a swat!

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  3. Thanks for the support you guys. Hearing from you and having a long conversation with a very good friend last night who has been through this four different times really helped. Once again, I reach out and find unwavering support and love from my readers, my friends, and my family. Thanks for lending me your strength.

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  4. I have found that changing up the consequences can make a difference sometimes. When I hurt my back and couldn’t drag Alex up to her room for a timeout (or chase her around the house), I took away different privileges instead. Find out what you can do (earlier bedtime, less play time, etc.) and make that the consequence for bad behavior. Once she realizes that there will still be a punishment for misbehaving, she’ll settle down again. We also use a reward system for good behavior, which involves putting “chips” (actually Japanese marbles) into jars and then using those to buy a privilege, so a consequence would be losing some of the chips or not getting to cash in at all. Feel free to PM me if you want more info, the therapists and I are constantly having to come up with new strategies, Thomas is very good at playing the system.

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