The internet buzzes with stories about so-called irresponsible mothers. We all know the headlines. I’m sure the prairie trolls are circling the pasture waiting to hear about the next black sheep wearing mom’s clothing.
Judging others is not my modus operandi. But today I feel entitled, actually obligated, to share a story about a mom living under the radar. According to the new rules of public shaming, this mother deserves the spotlight of serious condemnation.
The reason I’m writing about this failure of a mom?
And here’s a short list of reasons why in today’s sad world I’d be lambasted across social media for my child raising fiascos:
My daughter, the last of three kids, fell down the stairs three times before her 4th birthday; once as an infant. The infant thing happened when I laid her on the floor next to my bed located on the second floor. My daughter hadn’t yet reached the rolling over milestone. Since the bed sat seven feet from the door and the top of the staircase another eighteen inches away, I felt safe leaving her so I could go downstairs to make a quick bottle.
While in the kitchen, my mother’s intuition sent up a red flare and I raced over to the steps to check on my baby. As I rounded the corner my daughter rolled into my arms off the last step before hitting the vinyl floor. Her first “roll over” equaled a combined distance of over eight feet with a built-in navigation system leading her precisely to the stairs. I thought my decision to remove her from the bed just in case she rolled off demonstrated on-point mothering. Imagine…
After a full examination in the ER, she was fine. We were lucky. But I was broken.
At one year old my daughter decided to test out the moxy of her baby walker. While I stepped away to change a load of clothes in an adjoining room, she maneuvered her walker to the basement door which opens off the kitchen. I inadvertently left it ajar and in less than a minute she managed to tip-toe forward just enough to send the front end over the edge, careening her down fifteen steps onto a cement floor.
The walker stayed upright all the way down, landing on its wheels. She wasn’t harmed. We were lucky. But I was broken.
At five, while on vacation, my Princess Knievel climbed up an armoire holding a television in pursuit of a toy I purposely placed on top, out of her reach. Before she collected her prize, the dresser fell over pinning her between the armoire and the bed behind her. If not for the bed cushioning the blow, she would have been crushed.
She was not hurt. We were lucky. But I was broken.
My middle son fell out of his bouncy chair at four months-old because I left him unattended and unstrapped on the kitchen table. His older brother let out a terrifying scream from upstairs and in a panic I ran off to check on him. In the few minutes of my absence, my baby wound up slipping out of his seat, rolling off the table, bouncing off the chair below, and landing on the floor.
After a full examination in the ER, he was fine. We were lucky. But I was broken.
I let my five year-old jump up and down on my bed without warning. He fell off and broke his elbow.
After surgery and months in a cast, he healed up fine. We were lucky. But I was broken.
Twenty-two years of raising three children is littered with moments I’ve hurt them emotionally, let them down, stolen their joy, and broken their spirit. I’ve errored in accusing them for things they didn’t do, screamed and yelled for no good reason, withheld forgiveness too long, gossiped about them to other people.
But I’ve also heaped on an enormous love, parented with grace, extended mercy, showered them in kindness, listened with understanding, held them in tenderness, and walked beside them in compassion; actions which have prevented permanent scarring.
We were lucky. But each blunder left me broken.
Why do I share these epic fails and irresponsible moments in my mothering journey? Because I hope revealing my shards of glass will jar the ego of millions of individuals spending their days judging moms across the globe for honest mistakes, tragic accidents, or missteps.
I’m positive there isn’t a mom out there with a white glove mothering resume. But our culture stoops beneath this truth by feasting off private affairs made public. And the messy mistakes undergo damaging promotion through the viral spread of online gossip.
We should be praying for our fellow moms, not painting scarlet letters on their foreheads. Even if we think they screwed up. God knows even a shred of compassion for their loss and emotional scarring will go a long way.
I say this because my kids were all in high school when a lunatic kid shot it up killing three, paralyzing a fourth. There are no words to describe the haunting fear which gripped every fiber of my being that day. My husband and I drove up to the school for another reason mere minutes after shots were fired, clueless about what was happening. We ended up getting blocked in at the stop sign caddy-corner from the school with a front row seat.
I sat there helpless, watching, waiting, and terrorized as kids, MY KIDS, and faculty were under siege.
For those feeling justified to pass sideline judgments (from behind a screen no less), please, please, harness your heartless accusations. The lives of mothers who lose or almost lose a child in a tragedy, accident or misstep have undoubtedly been split wide open, wounds deeper than we could ever fathom.
I feel qualified to make this assessment because by the grace of God, my kids survived the shooting and my world STILL shattered that day. My heart turned inside out. My gut twisted in on itself. I have yet to recover.
And if I feel this as a survivor, what on earth are grieving parents feeling?
Shooting aside, as a mom who made careless decisions which risked costing my children their lives, I can assure you the self-bashing inflicts more pain than any mom deserves. We treat ourselves with brutal harshness and emotional bludgeoning by others can break us; permanently.
For the love of anything you believe greater than yourself, will those who take pleasure finding fault in others please let your heart bleed and keep your words kind. Offer a line of encouragement, a small gesture to let hurting moms know you feel their pain. Then thank someone, anyone, hopefully God, that you are one of the lucky ones.
I’ve braced myself for the backlash my honesty will receive, recognizing the realness of people who rise above by drowning those below. I’ll take the abuse if my veracity lessens the heat on traumatized and grieving mothers.
But deep down I know those of you who choose to shun me are better than the judging you impose. The pain you inflict on others is merely a projection of something stewing inside your soul. And I think it’s possible for communal healing to overcome communal bashing if we change the attitude in our hearts.
We are all in this journey together. For better or worse, humanity is connected. And when we make a conscious decision to choose love, we strengthen the ties that bind us. Fear merely tears us apart.
For the record, I’m not proud of my poor mothering moments. The brokenness from my mistakes still bleeds through my veins. But I’ve learned to forgive myself. I have three incredible kids – all healthy, happy, and loving young adults now.
I must have done something right.
And I know I can do better.
We all can.
Mothering takes a village.
About the Author
Shelby is a Christian mom to three beautiful knuckleheads who have left her with an empty nest in which to ponder what the mom thing has (done to her) meant over the past twenty-two years. You can read her open book of revelations, screw-ups, gaffs, and joys at http://shelbyspear.com and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.