Being a mom has been one of the most rewarding and one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I’ve had a lot of great moments, and a lot of bad moments. However, we don’t really spend a lot of time talking about the bad moments. Not only are we afraid of the mom shaming, we are afraid of our own shame as well. Some of these stories still leave a knot in my stomach, but they are real, and I know I’m not the only one.
The other day, during a dinner with all of our employees, we started joking around about the unseen moments with our kids. Not only were all of us who were parents able to relate, but we also understood the struggle and the guilt that came with some of these “bad mom” moves. All of the things we do to stay sane, or things we’d never put on our highlight reel or on Facebook, but the things we do that we never talk about. So, I decided to have a talk with my close friend (and COO of my company) Ashley Penrod to discuss some of these feelings.
As a disclaimer, know that we both love our children! We are talking about these moments in order for other moms out there to relate, and for all of us to understand that messing up is okay! Being a mom is hard, so please don’t judge us, or yourselves. Even if the thing we’ve struggled with aren’t things you’ve struggled with, know that we all have our struggles regardless.
This is Ashley
My COO, Ashley Penrod, is one of the most amazing women that I know. She’s a mom of two, super organized, super smart, beautiful, and she can put up with me every single day. She seriously deserves like 10 stars! We started working together three years ago and she runs the entire back end of my company, and she keeps all of my employees from quitting! She organizes everything and any time you see a launch (that’s executed well), it’s because of Ashley. She understands my brain, and puts up with it when I’m up and down and crazy. Ashley is such a major part of how my company runs, she’s the best! And she’s agreed to have an honest discussion with me about some less than glamorous mom moments.
Though “bad mom” stories are not going to be shared on Facebook by many moms, they are still stories that a mom and her girlfriends might share with each other. We are never going to share that we Hulk screamed at our kids today, or that we locked ourselves in a closet and cried today because our husband had to work late and we couldn’t handle it. These are stories we don’t really talk about, except maybe with our close friends. But we normally don’t pull back the curtain and really talk about it. Though both Ashley and myself were a bit nervous to talk about these things, we both agree it’s an important aspect of motherhood. With this topic, I was pretty worried that people will think I’m a bad mom, and a bad person. But I know that if I’ve struggled with it before, there are other moms who have struggled too.
We’ve All Had These Moments
It’s like my kids knew this was topic was on my radar. On my way to Ashley’s, I texted her to tell her I was going to be late because my kids were being assholes. My kids had a fundraiser at their school where if you bought food at McDonald’s, half of the proceeds would go to the school. So I decided to take them. We get there, I look in the back of my car, and Phoenix doesn’t have her shoes, her coat, or her backpack that she needed to go stay at her dad’s. She shrugged and told me she left them at the house. I told her to grab her things before we left, but instead I’m going to get judged by all of the PTA moms and teachers for having a kid outside in the cold without shoes, a coat, or a damn backpack.
Bad mom move. I could have made her late to everything by going back home to get her shoes, coat, and backpack, but I didn’t, and hopefully she will learn from that. Next time I tell her to do something, maybe she will remember that I didn’t cover her last time so she better remember to get her things or she will be cold.
And honestly, sometimes it’s about other things. Like your husband is late, your house is a mess, you don’t feel like you have any time to take care of yourself, or maybe you have money issues, or maybe your parents are calling you non stop, or whatever. Usually it’s something else that builds up that frustration, and then your kids come in and they are not listening to you. The whole reason we decided to talk about this topic was because I told this story where I got really frustrated with my kids. And I had a moment where I literally… stood in front of my kids and screamed in their faces. Even writing that makes me feel so embarrassed still. And then they started crying, and then I started crying and felt guilty immediately after. But I’ve had moments like that, and I think we all have.
I just have to keep reminding myself, with mom stuff, business, relationships, money, whatever, that just because I failed doesn’t mean I’m a failure. Just because you’re a bad mom in that moment doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom overall. But, I do really love my kids.
Ashley: “I love my kids.” I feel like all moms feel like they have to say that before we explain how we really feel. Like we feel like we need to say, “I love my kids, I love my husband,” before we say we want to kill them, or to just run away. Disclaimer: we love our kids!
Bad Mom Stories
One time, Arctic Zero sent me a bunch of free pints of low calorie ice cream. To keep my kids from eating them, I told them they were infused with alcohol so they wouldn’t eat them! I wanted them all to myself, and they were really really good! When I ate the last one, I finally told them they didn’t have alcohol in them and they thought I was so mean. And still, they bring up the time I lied to them.
Another time, I had one of those days where I was counting down the seconds until bedtime. I walked through my whole house and set back each clock one hour so I could convince my kids it was time for bed. I remember threatening them with every possible consequence I could think of if they got out of their beds. I was like, “I swear, if you get out of your beds tonight you will not have play dates tomorrow and we will not do anything fun this weekend!” When really, I was lying about what time it was. I felt guilty, but sometimes you’re just in survival mode.
Ashley: I get it. Today I put my kids in the bathtub at three. I was like okay you can take a bath, splash around, and then your dad will get home and its bedtime!
I can’t even count how many times I’ve locked myself in my bedroom or closet. Sometimes with food, sometimes with chocolate, sometimes with a glass of wine, and sometimes just zoning out on Instagram stories. Sometimes I just need them not to talk to me for a second and leave me alone.
Ashley: Yes, the talking. I have a three year old little girl and I’m blessed that she’s so communicative. I know so many people who have kids that don’t talk at all, and I respect that in her, but she just talks. All. The. Time. Finally the other day I was done and I was like, “Harper, can you just not talk, like at all.” Then she started crying and was telling me that she wanted to tell me about a show or something, and I felt so bad. She was so excited about this small thing, and it’s not small to her, but man I’m tired!
All Moms Are Different, All Kids Are Different
I do feel like there are different phases, and I tell Ashley that all the time. My kids are six and eight and that’s a lot easier than Ashley’s kids, who are one and three. She’s in the thick of it. I think back on those days and remember that there were times where I would spank out of anger, which I feel guilty about now. Some parents are really against spanking, and I’m not necessarily against spanking, but I do know the difference between spanking because that’s the consequence, and spanking out of anger. And also, every kid and every parent is different. I had one kid who responded to spanking, and one who didn’t, so I’m not saying it’s what you should do. But I remember spanking my kids’ butts and yelling at them to go to their room because I was so mad.
Ashley: I think there’s so much emotional and physical exhaustion when they are that little. You’re just literally exhausted. My husband and I recently got into a fight because he gets to sleep for seven hours straight every night. I haven’t slept seven hours straight for four years. He says he wakes up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, and I respect that, but he still gets to sleep straight through the night. I’m just tired. So when they are being crazy, I just react because I’m tired and frazzled.
The thing that irks me the most, and the thing I always see with new moms, or moms in the fitness space, are moms that jump right back into working out right after their baby. When they tell me that my jaw usually hits the floor and I just want to hug them and tell them that’s not what they need right now! I’m for sure not downplaying exercise. For me, exercise is self-care and makes me feel happier. But it’s so important to prioritize sleep over everything else. Plus, if weight loss is your goal, sleep will actually help that! Sleep, drinking enough water, etc., all of the unsexy things will help you lose weight.
Ashley: I think it’s the pressure. I remember as a first time mom I was working out to prove to the whole world that I was me still, and that I could do it all. But, sometimes you can’t do it all. Take a long nap, and that’s okay.
It is okay to say you have to put everything on the back burner because you’re so burned out from getting up every two hours to nurse a baby, or because your kid won’t go to sleep in their own bed, or whatever. That’s a pressure cooker for why we snap sometimes, because we are lacking sleep.
Those Bad Mom Stories That are Hard to Tell
When Lincoln was little I hated brushing his teeth at night. I hated it. I couldn’t wait for the day he could do it on his own. Honestly, there were times I just wouldn’t do it. I have a lot of guilt over this because when he was three, he literally had a cavity in almost every tooth. It cost us a shit ton of money, and it was traumatizing because he had to go under to get those cavities fixed. I remember when he went under, his eyes rolled back in his head, and I just remember thinking it was my fault. He’s three, it’s not his responsibility to brush his own teeth. We don’t even eat that bad, but he’s just more prone to cavities.
One time in my postpartum faze, I was really frazzled. I was throwing everything in the car, putting the kids in the car, and driving thirty minutes somewhere. When I got there I realized I had never buckled the baby. I just started bawling. I remember thinking someone could have hit us, and she could have died.
Ashley: You think about them dying in the beginning, a shocking amount. Even when you’re pregnant. You think about them dying during labor or you getting hit by a car. I remember checked their breathing constantly.
For some background information on the next story, there is postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, and baby blues. Almost everyone experiences baby blues during the first couple of weeks with the baby.. You’re really teary and you cry a lot and then usually in a few weeks things even out. Postpartum depression is when it continues after two weeks where you’re still crying all the time and you’re having issues functioning. It’s actually quite common and about a third of women will experience postpartum depression. There’s no shame in getting medication for that, or talking to your doctor about that. Then there’s postpartum psychosis. It’s a little more rare, effecting about five percent of women, and it’s where you actually have thoughts of hurting your child.
This makes me feel nervous to share. I don’t think I’ve ever said this out loud. Phoenix was little. I loved her so much. I was sleep deprived and exhausted and I lived in a state where I didn’t have any family. I remember having crazy thoughts. One time I was upstairs, and I remember thinking that I could just drop her off of the railing. Saying that makes me feel sick, and I never got close to acting on it, but it scared me. I remember telling myself not to walk close to the stairs because I didn’t want to accidentally act on it. It’s not like I actually wanted to hurt my child, but I remember moments when those thoughts would come through and I just wondered who I was.
Ashley: With a new baby, you sometimes feel trapped. When a girl on our team had a baby not too long ago, I remember she kept saying she thought it was going to get better. I remember that feeling, where you feel trapped. When you think they are never going to sleep. I remember Googling, “when do they start playing by themselves?”
And thankfully it does get easier, there is light at the end of the tunnel! However, it is hard for quite a while.
Ashley: And throwing other things in the mix just makes it harder. Like my husband travelling sometimes makes things harder. My little girl was my whole world, and then when her brother came, like a normal three year old, she was super upset. One time she threw a Vaseline jar at his head. It was the weirdest feeling because I had never spanked her, I had never really been upset with her. But every mom instinct came out, even though she was my child too. I ripped her out of her seat and threw her into her room. I remember thinking I wanted to break her arm. I’ve probably never been that upset, EVER. I remember thinking, “What if you killed him? What if you killed my brand new baby, and then I’d hate you forever, and I’d still have to be your mom??” I remember being flooded. And I didn’t know what to do. Then, of course, I felt terrible. She’d never seen me that mad and ugh it was awful.
I’ve had those exact same feelings. And the hardest part is that in that moment, it’s so real and you don’t feel guilty. Then instantly after it’s like a wall of guilt.
How Parenting Changes
I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know that the more I talk to my friends about it the more I realize it’s pretty common. Even when you’re feeling guilt, it’s recognizing that we are all doing the best that we can with what we have. It’s hard to work past it, especially if you think, like, they are going to be traumatized forever. But it’s good to remember, kids are really resilient. Sometimes I think about how things were twenty years ago!
Ashley: Totally. At no point when I was a kid were my parents worried about car seats, rear facing, until they are 47 inches! That wasn’t a thing. My dad never put a coat on me. My dad didn’t pack me snacks for when we were driving. Even now when he picks up my kid and I hand him the snack pack he’s like, “What are you talking about?” I’m more resilient, and you learn more so you do better, but we are way harder on ourselves these days. With social media, and even pediatrics is different. My pediatrician always asks me about how much juice Harper drinks, and my dad is like, “We gave you soda as soon as you had teeth.” So it’s different.
I’m the oldest of 10 kids, we had a sedan with five seats and we squished everyone plus parents in there! It was like a clown car with everyone popping out of it. We would come home from school, parents weren’t there, and we’d just play with each other. Part of the reason Ashley and I are so resilient is probably because we weren’t babied as much. Our kids are going to be okay. They might have issues with something here or there, but we are doing the best that we can, and I often say that out loud to myself. I have guilt even about being a single mom and my kids not seeing a healthy adult relationship, but someday I hope they will. Right now I’m just protecting them from seeing a bad adult relationship.
Ashley: I think one great thing we can do for our kids is to be honest and frank. Like my dad is brutally honest, but the one thing he lacked was that he’d never be vulnerable about himself. He’d never say something was a flaw he had, or that he was sorry for something until recently as he’s gotten older. That’s one thing I hope I can give my daughter is I that when I mess up I hope I can tell her I lost my temper, what I did was shitty, and that I will try not to do it again and that I hope she forgives me. Then she can see what that looks like, and that grownups apologize too. And that I do suck sometimes, and I’m sorry.
I love that. I’ve never heard it said like that. I have a lot of issues with my mom, and if she were to come back and say she screwed up, she loves me, she’s sorry, and she’s trying to work through it, that would give me so much respect for her. That’s the same with any relationship: friendships, work relationships, spouses, etc. To say you screwed up and you’re sorry but you’re trying to work through it, that’s where the most growth happens.
The Fear of Mom Shamers
I think it’s so important to show myself grace, to remind myself of the times that I did crappy things and that my kids are okay, and I try to look at others that I look up to and their struggles with this. For others out there who may be going through it, think of Ashley and I and how we also have bad mom moments! Everyone does, it’s just that most people don’t put it on Facebook.
Ashley: I’m not super fake on social media at all, but I’d still never post that! I might say that I put my kids in the bath midday, but I’d never post about throwing my kid outside and locking the door so that I could breathe for a second. I’d never do that. You’re just so afraid of one person saying you are a bad mom. Even when I went to a conference for work, I put a comment in a group on social media about it to ask if I should bring the baby. And I think I just put it in there in hopes that one person would be mean to me. My husband was like, “You’re a good mom, you’re making the right decision, go on the trip, why would you do that? When I go on a work trip, I never think about you or the kids and if it’s okay. Just go.” I thought they’d shame me for being a bad working mom, but no one did. Women are amazing, and they actually gave me great advice about a pumping schedule and stuff. Showing that compassion was amazing and beautiful.
I’ve definitely gotten criticism before for working and being a mom. And I think when you get criticism like that, it’s almost always about that person’s insecurities and maybe a struggle they are having and not about you. The best thing we can do is rally around each other. We should talk more about the stuff we only talk about with our best friends, or our closest circle of people and to realize we are all in this together. That the struggles and insecurities you have that makes you feel alone are really things everyone has done in one way or another. Whether that’s hulk yelling at your kid, or locking them in the backyard, we’ve all probably done some variation of that.
Guilting yourself over a bad mom move doesn’t help. It doesn’t make you a better mom to beat yourself up over that stuff over and over. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to talk about it with your circle. You don’t have to put it out on social media, because some people are shitty, but it’s good to talk about with someone. I also think it’s important to give yourself some self-care. And I think those moments where I’ve been my worst has a lot to do with that. We throw that term around a lot, and it’s not about bubble baths, but it’s about, like, putting in your headphones and just ignoring them for a little bit. It’s going for a walk, or asking your husband to take the reins so you can go read a book with the door locked. It’s allowing yourself 20 minutes to get a workout in, or to allow yourself to eat healthy even if your kids won’t eat those things. It made me feel selfish at first, but I found that the more I take care of myself, the less explosions I have.
Ashley: When I started working for Natalie, my little girl was only a couple of months old. I hadn’t been going to the gym because I was afraid the people watching her were going to kill her or something crazy like that. But even going to the gym for like an hour a day makes a big difference and has helped me maintain a routine. People always ask how I get to the gym at 8:00 AM every day, but my kids wake up at 5:00 AM and it’s the only time I’m alone. That’s what keeps me sane. When it’s a bad day I always think, “Well, at least I got to go to the gym for an hour.”
It’s hard at first to take care of yourself, and you’ll probably feel guilty, but then you’ll start to see the difference. You’ll see that it helps, and your spouse will probably even start to notice that you’re happier. All because you got to spend some time with yourself today. My hope is that in the long run, you realize it’s not selfish to spend a little time on yourself each day.
Ashley: My husband is a bomb dad and he does such a good job at pointing things out to me that I take to be only my job. He always tells me I don’t have to do all the things. Or that when he spends his days out of the house, he doesn’t even think about the kids. When he tells me that, it reminds me that it’s okay to not always think about everyone else. Naturally, moms tend to do that. But he’s not a bad dad just because he, like, goes to the gym or goes to the bathroom with the door closed. I’m always like, “Wow, how do you do that?”
And that can build resentment when really you can do that stuff too! Why be resentful of him, when you can literally close the door when you go to the bathroom as well without guilt! My hope is that we just remove the idea of a bad mom. Not that there aren’t neglectful parents or anything. But the mom shaming and the judging and being afraid to talk about our struggles can stop. I hope we can just build a community where we can just talk about these things and realize none of us are perfect. I’m an imperfect parent, I’m an imperfect person, I’m an imperfect boss, an imperfect friend, etc. I can accept that and use those imperfections to feel closer to others and build friendships. When you open up, that’s when real connections start to happen. Once our guards are down, we can begin to relate to each other.
You lock yourself in the bathroom too? You lie about alcohol in your ice cream too? You say food is spicy to keep them from eating it too? Those moments are great because you don’t feel alone in the whole mom thing. Really, we all struggle with the same things.
I hope some of our stories resonate with you. If so, let’s start a conversation. Tell us what parts resonated with you, or if you have your own bad mom move that you want to share with us.
Thanks for being a part of the conversation, and for not shaming us for these hard stories! If you’re going through it, know you’re not alone!
Talk to you soon!
P.S. If you’d rather listen to this post, it’s available on my podcast as well! Listen here!