A Letter to the Inept Parent: Freedom is Admitting you Suck

Busy multitask woman, mother managing her work with smile.

Raise your hand if you’re the inept parent. It’s okay if you’re the mom or the dad. You can be inept. I won’t judge you. Because, you see, I’m the inept parent too. I know, I know, you’re going to sit there and say, “Amber! You’re such a great mom. You research shit and you do Montessori and your kids eat good and your kids are smart and adorable.” All of that is true, but it doesn’t make me less of an inept parent.

For the last 30 years, I’ve harbored some serious animosity toward the way my own mother raised me. Maybe about… a year ago I finally had an epiphany. My mom had to deal with three super intelligent, sometimes bratty children on her OWN. Like without anyone else’s help. Can I really be that surprised that we were constantly screamed at and smacked as children? Probably not. Especially given the fact that I inherited her patience, which means she had none.

As a result, I vowed to be the most patient, gentle, loving attachment parent I could be. MY children wouldn’t be party to yelling and I would never hit them. I would harbor trust and love instead of animosity and distrust… I had it all planned out.

Then my kids both came out screaming and basically never stopped. Okay, exaggeration. But my kids are really really impossible. People think I’m exaggerating, and then we go to the chiropractor and my kid throws an insane fit on the ground of the parking lot.

And sometimes one will taunt the other one. Just to be a dick. “You’re a baby, Amelie!” “NO!!!” Or he’ll be playing with some beads and he’ll be like, “Don’t touch my work,” and she’ll just stuff her hands in it and grab a bunch until he screams. And she’ll laugh. Like who teaches that?

When you’re doing research on how to be a gentle parent, everyone says, “This is how you redirect. This is how you guide.”

But there is no guide for what to do when you’re 20 minutes late and no one wants to put on their shoes and everyone is melting down and you’ve already gently redirected in 67 different ways. No one wrote the chapter on not losing your shit.

They say that the thing that makes or breaks relationships is unmet expectations, but the epiphany that I had makes me realize that our OWN expectations of ourselves in life are what fuel our anxiety. In traffic you don’t have to get road rage at the guy that’s going 40 in a 45. You do because you expected them to go a certain speed, you expected to arrive on time.

I’m my own worst critic, so discovering that my own expectations for myself were at the core of my anxiety was a pretty big epiphany. I don’t know if it was yoga or reaching that breaking point, or what it was that made me apply it parenting – but I realized one day, “You don’t have to pretend you’re the perfect mom.”

  • You can go out and do things a few nights a week.
  • It’s OKAY that you work.
  • And it doesn’t become less okay when they’re sick and crying and reaching out for you as you stuff them in the car.
  • It’s okay that you spend money on yourself. (Because you bought enough freaking baby clothes for the next two lifetimes, you have the tubs in your garage to prove it)
  • It’s okay that you choose to focus on you sometimes.
  • It’s okay that you couldn’t take one more moment of screaming.

We spend so much time online researching, looking at photos of perfect families – and somehow, even if we say amongst our friends that we want to embrace that inept parent in us, because who doesn’t want to be the “Bad Mom” (Yes, I have a group of 30-40 women that are going to see that movie together)— our expectations continue.

The only way to free yourself from the anxiety that comes with parenting poorly is embracing the suck.

I used to joke around with one of my friends that ignorance truly was bliss. Because the guy driving 40 in the 45 doesn’t even have any clue he’s doing it. His lack of speed doesn’t bother him. He is blissfully unaware. His decision making operates on a lower frequency than yours. And that’s okay. He’s moving about his life in the perfect speed he is meant to.

Don’t let your expectations fuel your anxiety.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense because I thought this blog was going one direction and it turned another. But allow yourself to embrace your inner shitty parent. Whether you have support or not. Take the expectations of yourself, and eliminate them. Sure, strive to be good, strive to make your children happy… but don’t do it at the expense of your own happiness.

I don’t do much yoga, but I do yoga with a chick I recently met who I think is pretty badass. She has this saying as she’s guiding our breathing that she uses. It’s, “Let it go. Release that which does not serve you.”

And you know what? Ultimately, this life is about you. You can do nothing for anyone else (no matter who it is. Yes, even if its your child) if you don’t take care of you first. So admit it. Admit you suck. Lose your expectations because they’re not doing anyone any good. Expect less, get more.

There are entirely too many angry, bitter people in this world. Don’t be another parent that pushes themselves to the breaking point. High fives for the inept parent. Not just the one that pretends they don’t give a shit, but the one that actively releases their expectations and just does their best.

You’re doing an incredible job, and you’re not the only one that feels this way.

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