That’s a Shame About Parenting

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11233000_10204465972546533_1083546834132125790_n“Ironically, parenting is a shame and judgment minefield precisely because most of us are wading through uncertainty and self-doubt when it comes to raising our children.” Brene Brown

I was at dinner one evening with a group of friends who I’ve hung out with since elementary school. While talking about our grown children, one of them said, “I’m a mom, so I’m used to being blamed.” She laughed, but I wasn’t convinced she thought it was funny.

The next week, while catching up with a friend in the middle of an aisle at HomeGoods, our conversation, as usual, came around to our children. She halfheartedly joked about spending time with her adult children and having them again and again bring up her shortcomings in conversation. She said, “I always get thrown under the bus.”

During a long lunch, another friend talked about her son, “I had to finally tell him, ‘I’ll love you no matter what, but don’t call me again until you’re ready to apologize for how you talk to me.’”

My heart ached. I’ve watched these three moms cherish their children, yet they sounded disheartened. I felt a little that way myself. Instead of encouragement, I shared that sometimes I didn’t think I could get it right as a mom either. If I hadn’t reverted to clichés like “We did our best,” I may have ended up crying in the middle of HomeGoods because I’m sorely aware of making plenty of mistakes. I know my friends are also.

After these conversations, I felt kind of desperate for a solution to the shame, blame, and judgment that comes alongside not parenting perfectly whether our children are five or 35. I’ve apologized more than once to my children for being immature and ill equipped as a mother. I’ve changed behaviors that haven’t been healthy in our relationships. I’ve prayed for guidance as a mom of young children, and now as a mom of adult children.

Still, I haven’t felt off the hook. I’ve emotionally beaten myself up for not doing a better job and sometimes my kids join in. I understand their frustration (I wasn’t happy about having imperfect parents either), but it still hurts. For a while now, I’ve wanted out from under the shame of parenting, but never as much as after talking with my friends. I want them out from under it too. I thought about a rally to free moms, a bra burning of sorts except we’d burn, oh, I don’t know, our kids’ stuffed animals or something, but a blog post is closer to my comfort zone.

I’ve also wanted something to share with my daughter who is a relatively new mom of a two-year-old daughter and a four-month-old son. Her mothering is far beyond anything I offered my children, but she still stumbles from the pedestal, that unrealistic place most of us crawl on top of when we begin our parenting journey. Up there, we decide we’re never going to hurt our children like our parents hurt us. It’s a hard fall.

All of these realizations made last week’s conversation that much sweeter. I talked for an hour in a sweltering parking lot with a dad about one of his sons. His oldest boy had recently said, “Yesterday’s conversation was the best we’ve ever had because I feel like you really heard me. You listened instead of giving advice.”

Their conversation brought my friend to tears. Our conversation brought me to tears. I could tell he was forgiving himself and I wanted what he had. That’s when he shared what he’d figured out. He stated it so passionately, I couldn’t help but be changed by it.

“I gave my kids all I had to give. That means they got the best of me and they got the worst of me. That’s the deal.”

I got in my car and, then and there, made a deal with myself. I’m thru shaming myself as a parent. Instead of making excuses for being human (like saying “I did my best”), I’m coming to terms like my friend with my imperfect love, the only kind I have to offer this side of heaven.

I gave my kids all I had to give, the best of me and the worst. That’s the deal. And that’s love.

If you’re floundering as a parent (or in any relationship), I hope what my friend shared helps you as much as it’s helping me. I appreciate your comments.

Credit: Thanks to Kristen Hawley Dutka for the photo of my daughter and her son, truly a portrait of a mom’s love.

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18 responses »

  1. No kids, but a couple dozen rescued dogs…

    Some days my best is pretty good. Some days it sucks, and they get impatience mixed with their necessities of life.

    And that, on those days, may be the absolute best I have.

    • I get it, Andrew. I really do. Our dog seems to know better than our kids when to steer clear and when to wag her tail wildly because it’s a good day in the neighborhood. She’s intuitive like that. I’m grateful for her flexibility and acceptance. By the way, her name is Hannah which supposedly means Grace of God and she has been.

      • Same here…usually. Sometimes Denali the Husky just doesn’t get it and keeps pushing (as only a Husky can!), and I have to deal with making the neighborhood pleasant again.

        And maybe she’s smart that way. Maybe that’s why she does it.

  2. Great post Kim! Thank you for your inspiring thoughts. As the mom of a 19, 18 & 12 year old young woman, they were much needed this morning.

    • Hahaha, JJ. Yes, you did need this post this morning and every morning. I think one more child (I have two) would have pushed me over the edge. I admire you for not running away. 🙂 Mine are really wonderful, but I’m still a mom and they’re still kids. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  3. Yay!!!!!!!! That is magazine worthy my dear! Oh, I loved it. Loved the added quote at the beginning and all the other additions. “Sweltering” is a much better word! LOL! Well done, good and faithful servant. I’m sharing. This will bless many.

    • I knew you’d appreciate the word change, Andy. 🙂 Thank you so much for being an honest and kind critiquer (is that a word?). I love our group so much. The post was way off on the first draft, but with a lot of input, I was happy with how it turned out. I couldn’t do my personal writing without y’all. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  4. Reading this blog entry, I felt as if I was reading a bio of my life as a mom. My daughter became a minister, and my son became a convicted felon. Same father, same upbringing – yet two widely different outcomes. My retrospective review would say that while I made lots of mistakes, if they were listening both children had to know they were loved. Perhaps my daughter had better coping skills, looked at the world as a happier place, drew upon a greater inner strength and courage than did my son. I don’t know the answer, but I know I beat myself up for years and years about it. I too have apologized profusely and frequently for my mother failings. Then finally one day I just said, “you know what? I’ve given you what I had, apologized for what I didn’t have, and now it’s time for you, child, to accept the the things you cannot change, change the things you can, and have the grace to forgive.”

    • Niki, thank you so much for sharing. Moms need to read your comment. We need to know that no matter how hard we try and how much we love, our adult children have choices and we’re not responsible for the ones they make.

      A friend used to tell me, “Praise and criticism go down the same drain.” I’ve tried to use that insight with my family and take a step back from credit or blame for how my children are turning out. However, until now, forgiving myself has been tough. I’m grateful for the transparency of friends like my friend in the parking lot and friends like you. Hugs ~

  5. Thank you for this post, Kim! I completely relate and my longest journey has been with my oldest who just had his 50th birthday. From way too much guilt to compassion and love for us both. Hugs and love to you and moms everywhere.

    • Cindy, we all sure do need those hugs and love, so thanks so much! I appreciate the comment about your son because it’s important to share our journeys so that no mom feels alone. Each one of us experiences the pain of parenting in some way. It’s easier to handle when we handle it together. Sharing also lightens our hearts so that we can laugh together and delight in the joys of parenting as well. That’s the payoff for our vulnerability. 🙂 I’m grateful to know that now!

  6. From Facebook ~

    Elizabeth Haas Morris, Megan Hunt Dell and 2 others like this.

    4 shares

    Summer Turner So heartfelt and insightful, Kim. Your writing is a gift to all of us.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 13 hrs

    Kim Henson Awww, Summer Turner, it’s easier with encouragement. Thank you! heart emoticon
    Like · 13 hrs

    Summer Turner I’m serious. You’re a healer.
    Unlike · 1 · 13 hrs

    Kim Henson I’m kind of speechless. Thanks so much!
    Like · 1 · 13 hrs

    Summer Turner By healing your own pain through writing about it with vulnerable self-honesty, you touch that place in us that needs healing and, again through your writing, we are healed too.
    Unlike · 1 · 13 hrs

    Kim Henson Sometimes I’d rather preach to my readers than feel and share about it, but I’ve been attending some workshops (yours smile emoticon ) that are helping. The healing is mutual.
    Like · 1 · 13 hrs

    Summer Turner You’re one of the most courageous women I know, Kim.
    Unlike · 1 · 13 hrs

    Megan Hunt Dell Not a parent yet, but I needed this nonetheless. Miss you, my friend!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 7 hrs

    Kim Henson I think my friend’s insight fits any relationship, Megan Hunt Dell. I need it tattooed somewhere so I can read it daily. I miss you so much! heart emoticon
    Like · 43 mins

    Peggy New No but I really liked your latest blog!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 15 hrs

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Peggy New.

  7. From Facebook ~

    Sarah Koper Clayton, Beth Caro Carson, Mikey Hough and 6 others like this.
    1 share

    Mandy Pate Well put, Kim! Perfectly imperfect…the good and the bad…the best and the worst… Thanks for your insight.
    PS I’m a big fan of your photographer!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 8 hrs

    S. Kim Henson Thanks so much, Mandy Pate. I’m so grateful for friends who can relate. heart emoticon I’m a big fan of my photographer also. like emoticon
    Like · 27 mins

    Jenine Marie I feel just like this a good portion of the time…a mom who made many mistakes….frown emoticon
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs · Edited

    S. Kim Henson Way too many to name, Jenine Marie, but I think God’s now redeeming us. We’re moving on with our lives and our kids have better examples than ever. Love you!
    Like · 25 mins

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