05/20/2015 02:05 pm ET Updated May 20, 2016

My Greatest Parenting Failure


I wanted to get this one right. In my mind, there was no room for error as a parent, and so I put everything into it and more. I was not good enough for my children in the early days. I didn't know enough about them and I didn't know enough about parenting. I was still being me, and I was failing. So I stopped being me. I was a parent and I wanted to be a good one.

You see, being a parent requires me to be more than just me. I have to be even better than me. I am Mom -- not Kate, Mom. Even my husband calls me "Mom" now. Every waking and non-waking minute of every hour is consumed with parenting. Even when I am working, I am parenting. When I am begging my brain to turn off in the middle of the night, it won't. I am listening, I am parenting.

It seems I can never stop parenting. It is a role I cannot leave, not even to take a 'me break'. "Me" doesn't seem to matter anymore. I have conditioned myself to put my children before everything. My needs don't count. I am grown up. I am the adult. Even when I am away from them, I can't switch the parent in me off. I use the break to think about how to be a better parent.

But this couldn't last forever. Like being someone you are not in a new romantic relationship, eventually, the façade comes down and true colors shine. The real me, the 30-year-old me that existed before I had children, is pushing to come up for air. It is pleading. It wants me to know that my needs do count and if I do not listen, my children, my family, will suffer.

Last week, I hit a wall. I felt I could no longer be patient with the children. I began to resent them. With resentment came intolerance and with intolerance I was ugly. Ugly in the sense that my children saw a side of me they had not seen for years.

In an effort to find my footing, I tried indifference. Surely, with indifference, I could tread water without causing further damage to my relationship. But, no, it was worse. My children would not buy it. They screamed for me to care. To take notice.

They tested me even harder. They clawed at me, tearing at my indifference shield until it could no longer protect me or them. I locked myself in my room and I cried.

I cried for what must be the first time since I stopped being me. I allowed myself to grieve for me. My husband sought to comfort and reassure me, but I needed more time. He thought I was going to run away and leave him with the kids and I would be lying if I said I didn't feel like it.

I could never do that, though. I could never run. There is nothing wrong with my life. I am actually incredibly lucky and grateful for all of it. I just need to work out a way to live it while being true to myself.

I am a parent, sure, nothing will change that, but I am also me. Can't I be both? I need to find the right balance. There are some parts of me I don't wish my children to see and in truth, I'd be happy not seeing them, either, but if I can't be me, how can I expect them to be fully happy with and accepting of themselves?

I now need to slowly introduce them to the real me. The fun me. The quiet me. The organized me and the disorganized me. The me that likes to sing and the me that likes to run. The me that likes spicy food and enjoys volleyball. There are so many sides to me and I want them to know every one. More than that, I need to know every one.

I cannot play a role forever. Sure, I will maintain my quest to go against many of my punitive instincts and strive to be the strong, confident and peaceful parent my children need but I will not do so at the cost of losing me.

I like me, I can't wait to get reacquainted.

You might also enjoy reading:

Respectful Parenting: Have I Made a Mistake? ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

Damage Limitation Following a Parental Meltdown ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

I Think I Know Why You're Yelling ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury - Elevating Childcare)