Most mothers I know — myself included — see our parenting mistakes in stark relief against a backdrop of feelings of inadequacy.
We feel like we have to make up for the ways we have failed, for the times we were less than patient and kind, for our inability to always be what our children needed us to be.
At times we try to make up for that lack by overcompensating. This can look like a lot of different things, but I will give you an example from my own life.
Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.
When my older daughter was getting married, it brought up all kinds of feelings in me, but the feeling that I could not express (but was right under the surface) was my need to make up for the ways I had failed her.
I wanted to make her day amazing. Our family had gone through times of crisis when I was unable to steer the boat to calmer seas, the consequence of which made me temporarily unable to meet my children’s needs.
This was my opportunity, I thought, to make up for all those times I wasn’t — or couldn’t be — the mother I had always hoped to be.
In essence, I was trying to earn my ‘good mother’ badge back. (It was only in my head that I had lost it, but that wasn’t even the point. I was convinced that I had been less than a good mother because I had not been able to do it perfectly.)
A Perfect Storm
My daughter was a thousand miles away, and the wedding was taking place near my home.
My daughter had given me the reins to take charge and plan her wedding. Only she didn’t really mean it. However, I was already in supermum-mode, taking charge and making things happen.
She was mostly in ambivalent-mode, unable to express what she really wanted, driving me crazy because she couldn’t.
I didn’t have time to wait around for her to figure it out, so I pressed ahead, knowing that I could make this a fabulous day. I exhausted myself taking care of all the details.
In the end, my daughter did have a beautiful wedding day.
I worked as hard as I have ever worked to make it perfect in every way. But all my work, all my overcompensating for my failures, came back to bite me in the end.