On the way to school one morning, my children and I ran into a friend and her children who were also on their way to their school. Happy to see them, we greeted them. But my friend’s normally friendly children didn’t answer. They had frowns on their faces and my friend had an exasperated look on hers.
She apologized for her children and said, “We had the worst morning.”
“Say no more! We have many of our own,” I said.
Later, I got an email from her; she apologized again. What I witnessed that morning did not even warrant the first apology, yet here was a second. Clearly my friend felt embarrassed. Or, more likely, the aftershocks of their bad morning remained with her into the afternoon.
No one escapes “bad mornings.” So many of my clients have told me about theirs. K. J. Dell’Antonia, the former lead editor of the New York Times Motherlode blog, devoted an entire chapter to bad mornings in her book, How to Be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute.
Yet we mothers all seem to feel so ashamed about something that happens to all of us. We all want to put up a good front. We feel compelled to show the outside world, “We’re doing great!” It’s no wonder we put up such defenses, the world is often quite critical and harsh toward mothers.
So, how can we stop feeling guilty about bad mornings?
Perhaps it would be more helpful to expect that things can go wrong and know that mishaps are the norm. We could reassure ourselves that it happens to everyone. No one has a picture-perfect life.
And, more importantly, we could share with one another how exasperating motherhood is at times. We could let down our guards and be more open with one another. This would remind us that we’re not crazy and we’re certainly not alone.
I wrote back to my friend, explaining there was no need to apologize. I told her that in the morning I often end up yelling at my children (“For the seventh time, will you please put on your jacket!”)–so much so that I’m sure that my neighbors are going to call Child Protective Services. I then admitted that I was once so mad at my children for their morning dawdling that I threw my tennis racket and tennis shoes on the floor. I ended up scaring my little one so much that she started to cry, which of course slowed us down even more.
The next time I saw my friend, she thanked me for sharing my tennis racket story. What was surprised me was how much relief I got from her acceptance of my weak moment.
Note: This post was updated. My daughters are teenagers now. So bad mornings are mostly about last-minute plans/requests, not eating enough for breakfast, and not watching their “tone of voice.” So, I’m still trying to stop feeling guilty about bad mornings.