Everyone has bad days. Parents, children, teenagers, wealthy people, healthy people, singletons, the ones in happy marriages and every single other person who walks the earth. Bad days are, unfortunately, just a part of life. I had a bad day today. A really really bad day. It was one of those kind of days where you feel like drawing the curtains tightly shut, creeping back into bed and cocooning yourself from the world, along with all it’s frustrations and complications, in the safety of your warm soft duvet. Sometimes you have a choice whether to wallow in the hard times or muster some strength from within and move towards a better place. If you struggle with depression, sometimes it feels like that choice is cruelly being kept just out of reach, instead your mind keeps you captive in your house, convincing you leaving and breathing fresh air is pointless. Today I wallowed, I let mum guilt consume me for not being a fun mum for Alex and I had a cry, a rare phenomenon since I started on anti depressants. When I have bad days, times where my mood has a direct impact on the kind of day my kids have too, I end up feeling like the worst parent in the world. Well, amongst all the negative fog occupying my mind today, an epiphany managed to burst through – a bad day doesn’t make me a bad mum!
A bad day doesn’t make you a bad parent
I should explain why I had such a rubbish day. I am not sure if there is a single aspect of my life that is to blame or if it is just a culmination of lots of difficult circumstances we are experiencing at the moment, along with the usual anxiety and depression that, no matter how many times I tell it to, just doesn’t want to part with me yet. I didn’t get much sleep last night, the kids slept through but I awoke around 2am and just lay awake for hours. Alex is teething so that’s not exactly fun and home life in general is seriously stressful right now; there’s stuff going on with Oli’s job that is making the future look pretty scary and uncertain. All of these things combined created a perfectly mixed cocktail of worries for my anxious mind to binge on, my negative thoughts shouting louder than normal, just like a drunk trying to get the bartenders attention in a noisy pub. It’s too crowded in my brain right now, stress has been able to take back the reigns and, today, the only way I could deal with it all was by staying inside, pulling the curtains tightly shut and cocooning myself (and Alex) in bed.
It didn’t take long for me to start feeling guilty. I had planned to take Alex to soft play, to maybe make Play Doh with him and to go for a walk to the playground. Instead, here was my toddler, sitting on the living room floor playing with his toys, being coaxed into a midday bubble bath with me and then, when he woke from his nap, encouraged to come and snuggle in bed with me for another hour. I felt so very guilty. I was stressed and unhappy and I was, unintentionally, taking it out on my baby boy by keeping him cooped up all day. This kid of mine is full of energy and staying indoors with him for a whole day, well, it is only going to end with the both of us feeling grumpy.
I started telling myself that we should get out of bed and get up around 2pm, by the time an hour had past I managed to peel myself from the bed that, for today at least, felt like a safety net from the world. I got dressed, massaged some dry shampoo in my hair, coated my eyelashes is some mascara and took Alex and I off into the woods. I had spent the whole day feeling rubbish and allowing mum guilt to take hold and I realised it was time for me to take charge again. We were in the woods within 2 minutes and the effect the fresh air and the magic of mother nature had on my mood was almost instantaneous.
As I watched Alex run around, picking up sticks and inspecting the trees with the curious twinkle only found in a child’s eyes, my epiphany struck, bellowing above all the worries and smashing my negative train of thought to pieces. Yes, I had a bad day. Yes, I stayed in my pyjamas with matted hair and eyes brimming with tears for hours. Yes, my plans for a day of fun with my toddler came crumbling down all thanks to my low mood but, guess what? Alex was happy. He ran amongst the trees, his arms swishing around above his head, his eyes alight with excitement and a big smile plastered on his face. As he kept turning to me with his arms in the air, opening and closing his little fists in a plea for me to pick him up, I could tell that this boy of mine loves me no matter what. Just because I had a bad day, that doesn’t mean I am a bad parent. Crunching through the forest floor, with my happy baby on my hip, I felt like anything but a bad mother. I breathed in the fresh air, soaked in the beautiful woodland scenery and apologised to myself for giving myself such a hard time.
We all have bad days. Sometimes we might shout at the kids too much, we might mess something up at work or let a friend down. There are those days where it just feels like the whole world is against you and the occasions where, no matter how hard you try, everything just seems to go wrong. We all have bad days but it is important to be kind to ourselves when we do. You are not a bad mum if you lost your patience with the kids, let them eat fish fingers for tea or allowed the little ones to watch Cbeebies while you had a sneaky hot cup of tea in the kitchen. Similarly, you are not a bad person for allowing life to get on top of you and spending a day letting yourself just feel every negative emotion, instead of putting up the usual fight. Just as a bad day doesn’t make you a bad parent, neither does a bad week, month or year. Life is complex and though it may be full of lots of incredible highs and truly joyous times, inevitably there are some difficult roads thrown in to every persons journey too. Don’t let your bad days define who you are.
You’re not a bad parent, you just had a bad day. We all have bad days, remember?
Do you struggle with mum guilt when you have a difficult day? How do you cope when you feel like life is too stressful? Would love to hear your thoughts on this post in the comments below.
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