Do This When You Feel Like You’re Failing At Parenting

Have you ever gone against your gut as a parent and regretted it?

I did and I felt like I was failing at parenting by letting down those I love most.

Time and time again I put the needs of others ahead of those of my family ― because of my inability to speak up, my desire to not rock the boat and my need for approval. It had to stop and it finally did, but not without a tough lesson.

It was the Labour Day weekend in September a couple of years ago. My friend from out of town had called on Thursday to share her last-minute plans of visiting with her husband and two little ones. I knew my husband was already making plans for us to go away but I felt like I couldn’t say no. I wanted to be a good host and said she could stay with us without even consulting with my husband first. As the sole breadwinner back then, he never took days off and the long weekends were the only time we had more than a couple days together. I should have said we were making plans or at the very least talked with my husband. I did neither.

So, we spent the weekend hosting and we were exhausted. Although I had known this friend for years, I struggled with the relationship for just as long. I felt that we just couldn’t understand each other and our conversations often left me emotionally drained. The weekend together only made this more obvious. Finally, on the last day of the long weekend, I learned the hard way things needed to change.

“You need to come back here now,” my husband said on a phone call he made just minutes after I left him canoeing on a lake reservoir close to our home. I had gone home to quickly grab a stroller so I could go for a walk with my baby while my husband was on the water with my then three-year-old daughter.

I knew instantly something was wrong. My heart hammered in my chest as I drove back to the canoe lodge in a panicked haze. I quickly put the bucket seat with my baby in it on to the stroller and ran wildly. I screamed as I entered the canoe rental area. I don’t even know what I said to the teenaged boy that looked at my outburst nonchalantly. He pointed to the back area where I saw my daughter wrapped in blankets and my husband drenched and dripping wet.

“I’m okay, Mom,” my three-year-old whispered.

I knew it was a bad idea. I knew it, but it was a sunny day, the lake was calm and I told myself nothing could possibly go wrong. Even though inside I felt my gut telling me otherwise.

My friend wanted to take her toddler and preschooler canoeing. As good hosts we escorted them to the canoe rental shop but with a young baby had decided not to join them. Of course, my three-year-old daughter saw them gearing up and wanted to join in so my husband reluctantly agreed to take her.

He knew better and so did I. We both hadn’t been canoeing in over a decade and the young worker at the canoe rental shop didn’t seem overly concerned about the weight difference that may cause the canoe to flip.

We were lucky – everyone was wearing life jackets.

But I felt like a failure. I had gone against my instincts and remorse hung on my heart like a ton of bricks.

It wasn’t easy to overcome my feeling of utter failure. But I started the painstakingly slow process of trying to forgive myself.

I let myself feel all of it. All of the ugly parts of it. I dwelled on the pain, the hurt and the guilt. I let myself feel angry at my stupidity. I let myself cry. I left myself cuddle and hug my daughter and reassure her she was safe all evening and for days to come. I beat myself up.

Then I took a cold hard look at myself and my actions. How did it get to the point that I went against my parental instincts?

I realized that I disregarded my feelings and those of my husband for the sake of pleasing others.

I realized that my lifelong struggle with not being able to speak up was negatively affecting my family.

I realized that the long-term friendship I equally cherished and struggled with was over and had been for a long time.

In time, I came to accept what happened but I vowed that I wouldn’t let my internal struggles affect my family again. Sure, my daughter or husband weren’t hurt beyond the shock of being plunged into extremely cold water but I was.

I was living a life and behaving in a way that wasn’t being true to me. And it wasn’t the first time either. I had left my husband alone on his birthday to meet a last-minute family obligation. I took my then almost one-year-old daughter for a three-hour drive to do just that while my husband celebrated alone.

And there were more similar incidents.

I realized what my true values were as a mother, a wife and a woman.

Speaking my truth even when others wouldn’t understand.

Standing up for myself when I learned the exact opposite.

Putting boundaries in place even with those closest to me.

This was tackling years of conditioning. Years of expectations placed on me. Years of doing what I should do. Years of being the good girl.

I didn’t want to be the good girl anymore.

So I made the difficult decisions to be who I wanted to be and not who I was expected to be.

What to do When You Feel Like You're Failing at Parenting - Simply Be Mama

I ended an unhealthy friendship I had struggled with for years.

I protected my family time by saying no to obligations for the sake of etiquette and appearances.

I built a new network of friends who are truly supportive of me.

Finally, I achingly forgave myself.

I knew that my old self versus my new self had been waging a war inside me for some time and soon came the tipping point. I learned the hard way that my old beliefs and behaviours weren’t serving me anymore.

It was time to change. So, I took a hard look at myself and made the change.

I rest easy knowing that when I felt I almost failed at parenting, I gained the most valuable insight of all ― how to truly be the best parent I could be.

So do this when you feel like you’re failing at parenting.

Stand strong in your own truth. Know who you are, who you want to be and stand up for your values. Friends may change, family may be disappointed but you’ll be able to sleep at night.

Honour your feelings even the hard, ugly ones. Our feelings are there for a reason. And they’ll let us know if we’re on the right track or if we’ve fallen off it.

Trust your inner guidance. As parents, we know what’s best for our kids. So even when everything appears to be okay on the surface, if it doesn’t feel right to you don’t do it.

Protect your family time. Some people including friends and family won’t understand that your priorities have shifted after having kids. They might still expect you to drop everything to be there for them or do everything you used to do. Or you might feel like I did, that you should still be there for everyone as you once were. Things have changed and so have you. Learn how to say no and put boundaries in place for your well-being and that of your family.

Forgive yourself. We’re not perfect and no matter how prepared we think we are to be a parent ― we will never be ready for everything that will be thrown our way.

Most of all, know that you did your best back then but you know better now. And you will do better Mama.

Have you had any parenting fails? What has the experience taught you?


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  • Reply Floby Villaralvo March 14, 2018 at 9:15 am

    I am sometimes looking at myself and then my daughter how are we surpassing days together with love and grace. It is super duper ever hard being a parent. I am thankful I am.

  • Reply Toni March 14, 2018 at 9:20 am

    This was a really good read, and I could feel the anxiety of the situation you had. It’s so hard to go against your gut, but fortunately everyone was okay!

    • Reply Simply Be Mama March 14, 2018 at 10:01 am

      Thank you! It was a hard but valuable lesson.

  • Reply Hart Family March 14, 2018 at 10:20 am

    I am terrible at protecting our family time. I’ve had so much push back when I try to advocate for time back or saying no to social obligations. Thanks for this reminder – I’m going to work harder at it!

    • Reply Simply Be Mama March 15, 2018 at 9:01 am

      It’s a tough one for sure but so important to keep in mind. I hope this helps!

  • Reply Chris Hayes March 15, 2018 at 4:58 am

    “Trust your inner guidance” is a life lesson everyone should honour themselves with – parent or not. Great piece RW!

    • Reply Simply Be Mama March 15, 2018 at 9:25 am

      Thank you so much Chris! That means a lot coming from you. So true – that life lesson is important for everyone.

  • Reply Gritty Momma March 15, 2018 at 10:36 pm

    Holy smokes, this was a *powerful* read. Super respect you being completely vulnerable and honest and REAL about what happened. Often the hardest life lessons provoke the greatest growth, and I am SO proud of you pushing back against your learned behaviors to take on a completely different, healthy way of interacting and prioritizing. Super proud. I am learning very similar things.

    If you’ve never heard of it, one of my absolute favorite books for explaining where we get these “pleasing” habits and effective, practical steps for how to change them is “How We Love” by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. I seriously can’t recommend that book enough to anyone. They have a website, too,, with all kinds of resources. May it bless you, and may you persevere in this path! It’s worth it!!!

    • Reply Simply Be Mama March 16, 2018 at 9:22 am

      Thank you truly! I am so grateful to hear you are on a similar journey. So often when we go through things it easy to think we’re the only ones that feel a certain way. It’s so tough to grow past our learned behaviours but you’re right it’s well worth the effort. Thank you so much for the book recommendation. I’m an avid reader and have added it to my list! Much love to you on your journey!

  • Reply itisreal777 March 16, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Thank you for such an open and honest blog post. Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is that you have learned the necessary lesson and things are different now. PS. You have a fantastic writing style. I want to subscribe to your blog!

    • Reply Simply Be Mama March 16, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      Thank you so much! You’re right – we all make mistakes but all that matters is that we learn from them. It’s hard to be vulnerable but I believe it’s the path to true connection. I’m so happy to have you as a subscriber and I look forward to connecting with you more!

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  • Reply nikkig916 April 14, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    You said it so well. I am constantly failing as a parent. However, I finally realize that failures happen. Just as I tell my children… learn from your mistakes- and so I do.

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