There are many glorious feelings that go along with motherhood: bursts of happiness as we enjoy our babies, gratitude that these precious creatures have entered our lives, the way our hearts feel so full of love they could burst. However, the one feeling that caught me off guard was this re-occurring feeling of not-good-enough.
While I generally feel like I’m succeeding as a mother – my kids are happy, healthy, well fed, clean, and generally well taken care of – I also feel like I’m screwing up ALL THE TIME. Way more than I did during my pre-mommy days.
Motherhood slapped me upside the head, shattering my identity and everything that was familiar. I felt like I wasn’t coping well. The snail’s pace of early motherhood left me feeling unproductive and inefficient. I spiral into panic when my children are sick with a mysterious illness and instantly burst into tears when the doctor’s office calls to give me bad news.
The dreaded mom-guilt washes over me as I stumble through imperfect parenting decisions. Over and over and over again. The feeling is uncomfortable but becoming familiar.
Everything about motherhood is new. Missteps are inevitable.
And guess what? EVERY other mom is in the same boat. Every other mom is screwing up just as much as you are! And it’s OK.
In fact, it’s more than OK. It’s making us better.
Rather than pushing these difficult feelings aside, I’m going share with you what I’m learning about failure and why it has been and continues to be a wonderful blessing (despite the discomfort).
11 Ways Embracing Failure Will Help you Raise Happier, More Successful Children
1. Failure is a learning tool that we are born with. Babies, toddlers, and small children make mistakes. They topple over when they try to sit. They push themselves backwards before they ever crawl forward. Attempts to walk result in head bashes and bruised knees. They test theories, push boundaries, and experiment in an attempt to understand the world around them. Making mistakes is how they learn and its not upsetting to them. They don’t take it as a blow to their self-esteem. Winston Churchill said “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” This is something a child knows without ever having to be taught.
2. Failure is something we are taught to fear. If failure is an innate learning tool then the fear of failure is a learned behaviour. Our friends make fun of us for falling down. A low grade shows up on our report card making us feel stupid. We’re scolded by our parents for taking a risk. Be aware of how you discipline, how you speak to your kids, how you talk to them about their decisions. Are you instilling fear? Or are you helping them learn from their mistakes?
3. We learn to dig deep and find out what we’re made of. When faced with adversity we are forced to take a hard look at ourselves. We enter flight or fight (or freeze) mode. We learn about our fears and if handled courageously, we learn about our greatest strengths.
Think about the birthing process. If you’re like me, you probably faced some fears the day you delivered your first, second, third baby. Yet you preserved and found strength you didn’t know you had. In a similar manner, failure forces us to face our fears. To dig deep. To find strength.
4. Failure helps us figure out what we’re good at and what we enjoy. When we come up against a brick wall we are forced to reconsider. We learn what is important to us, what is worth fighting for, and what needs to be let go. Failure is our barometer, letting us know if we’re on the best path.
5. Failure teaches us to be flexible and adaptable. When we are headed down the path to success and a wrench is thrown at us it forces us to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge. OK I may be using the popular movie Dodgeball as a reference here but you get the point. The hiccup in our plan forces us to change course, look at our path from a different perspective, adapt to the new situation, and make a shift that brings us closer to what we really want.
6. Failure forces us to act. We might dream of changing careers, leaving relationships, pursuing an odd hobby, but we let our fear prevent us from taking the leap. We might think about repairing our roof for years but a leak will force us to act immediately. Failure shifts our priorities and forces us out of our comfort zones.
7. Striving for improvement is better than striving for perfection. Don’t expect to be a perfect mom. It’s not possible. It will make you feel like a failure – something that will paralyze you. Instead, strive to improve and learn from your mistakes. This mentality will allow you to see failure as a lesson rather than a road block. Failure is not fatal.
8. If you’re not failing, or at least prepared to fail, you’re not trying hard enough. My husband loves to tell me I haven’t started living my life because I’ve never broken a bone. While I may not agree 100% with his assessment there is danger in playing it safe. If you’re too afraid to try then you fail by default. Or as one of my favourite TED speakers Ken Robinson says “if you aren’t prepared to fail, you will never come up with anything original”.
9. Successful people fail more than unsuccessful people. Contrary to what some people might have you think, successful people aren’t any smarter or luckier than the rest of us. They have just tried more. Really successful people fail over and over and over again before achieving greatness. What sets them apart is the resilience to bounce back, to view their missteps as part of the journey, rather than concluding that their ideas aren’t worth pursuing. The road to success is littered with failures. Failing is how we become successful.
10. Be open about your failures and imperfections with your kids. Ooops…I didn’t mean to yell. I was very frustrated about something that happened at work and I took it out on you. I’m sorry. This will demonstrate to your children that everyone messes up and it’s ok, as long as we can learn from it.
11. What example do you want to set for your kids? I feel like this question is on auto-repeat in my head, pushing me past my fears. I don’t want my children to simply hear me telling them to strive for greatness. I want to lead by example. And to be that example I know I will fail over and over and over again and I need to be ok with that. Because I want my kids to have the courage to try, the courage to be themselves, the courage to go against the grain if it feels right to them.
If you’ve made it this far and are thinking yeah, yeah, I already know all this then let me paint this picture for you. A baby learning to walk finally works up the courage to take that first step and down he goes. Imagine if he were to conclude that he’s just not cut out for this whole walking thing. Seems ridiculous right? Yet that’s exactly what we do as adults. I tried to start a business but that didn’t work out, I guess I’m not cut out to be an entrepreneur.
When we fail as adults we internalize it rather than use it as a tool. But the truth is, we never get it right the first time. Instead, you are ALWAYS on your way to getting it right. No matter how much you fail, you are always on the path to getting it right.
So be brave.
Dare greatly, push yourself to be better, learn from failure – it’s your friend, your greatest teacher, teaching you to be a great mom.