A mom’s goal.
Becoming a mom naturally brings self-doubt. As new moms, of course we want to do everything perfectly for our precious babies. We wonder constantly if we are doing it right. I took being a “perfect mom” to an extreme. Growing up as a girl in a world where doing things right, being smart, and acting nice was the ultimate goal, set me up as a woman to apply those same rules to mom’s life. I saw my dream of creating a happy family as my life purpose. I expected myself to get all of the mom moves exactly right. I thought I should know what to do in any given situation, and don’t forget – I needed to be calm and friendly at all times.
Special kids have special needs.
Becoming a mom of kids with disabilities, mental illness, and substance abuse, elevated me to the “supermom” world, whether I was ready or not. Having kids with any of these diagnoses demands a whole new level of “mom skill”, but every mom I know who finds themselves in that situation accepts this role willingly and with bold determination to get it “right.” I was no different. I just had my perfect mom script playing plus the added intellectual and emotional demands of specialists, therapies, medications, treatment plans, and new rules for diets, discipline, and life skills. Overwhelm, fear, and exhaustion became the new normal. On top of that, the challenges were ongoing and life-long, with no light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to. My marriage was buckling, my family unit was fragile, and I thought it was my responsibility to make it all better for everyone. All of this was not even the part that scared me the most.
A secret pain.
The one thing moms with kids in crisis do not want to think about, the one thing we desperately hope to prove wrong comes from this single question:
“What if it’s all my fault?”
Because this is the answer we believe to be true:
“It is all my fault, and therefore, I am a bad mom.”
Moms with families in crisis hide this painful belief about themselves any way they can. Some try to eat or drink it away. Some are fixers who do anything and everything to try to fix the problems. Many get so enmeshed with their kids’ lives they forget who they are, and what brings them joy. Some wake up one day to find they are resentful and negative, and then they feel extremely guilty for feeling that. As for me? I did all of the above, and if not enough, I added some good old-fashioned shame.
A new day.
I still remember the moment. One of my four kids was in the hospital, another one was sending me crisis texts from another state, still, another was having panic attacks, and it happened to be our fourth’s birthday, for which I had not planned a celebration nor bought a gift. I was pretending that I was okay and I acted as if I was handling this day just like all the others. But I wasn’t.
I was in my car, alone. I let the tears come. I screamed and cried at the enormity and associated shame of the whole situation. I allowed myself to think of the painful thought, considering the possibility, that it actually was all my fault. I let that sink in.
I stopped crying and forced myself to really think about it. And then, I challenged it. I saw that yes, there were times I was an imperfect mom. I made mistakes along the way as a parent. I saw this for the first time as normal, as being human. I had compassion for the young mom with big dreams of a perfect family. She was doing the best she could all along.
I also saw that thinking it was all my fault was creating a reality for me that had me perpetually stuck in a spin cycle of blame, guilt, and shame. For each new struggle my kids went through, I would put myself on “rinse and repeat” in that cycle. Once I saw this, I also saw that I could interrupt it. I decided on that beautiful day in a Safeway parking lot to believe new things about myself as a mom.
A new goal.
First, I noticed the thought “It’s all my fault and I’m a bad mom,” was 1) just a thought, and 2) pretty revealing, but definitely not true.
Next, I decided it was time to bring my shame out in the light. Once I let myself process all my emotions including big bad shame itself, I felt the biggest relief.
From this emotionally clean and clear place, I decided how I wanted to feel as a mom with a family in crisis. I finally knew exactly how to do that. I wanted to feel unconditional love for each of my kids and my husband, so I decided to think thoughts that created unconditional love. I also wanted to feel peace and trust – even though everything was a mess at the time, it was nothing that our strong family could not handle. And I wanted to feel brave like I could handle any emotion that came up. My new thought:
This is really hard and emotional and I will love everyone through it because I am a strong, brave mom.
There was one last thought I had to make sure I believed. It was the belief I am a good mom. I decided that a good mom loves her family and does her best to care for each family member with her whole heart. That’s absolutely all that is required. By that definition I was definitely a good mom. By that definition every mom I know is definitely a good mom.
Jodi Schilling is a 52-year-old mom, teacher, principal, friend, and life coach living in the suburbs of Seattle, WA. She has over twenty years of experience in the public school system, but really found her way teaching about #reallife in her life coaching business established in 2019. She loves reading in the sun, driving in the rain, and drinking coffee with her husband, four kids, and two dogs in any weather. Follow Jodi @RealLifeLifeCoach on Facebook and Instagram for more inspiration and good vibes.
The Good Mom Coach
Jodi is a compassionate and relatable life coach for moms who have neurodiversity in their families. Jodi helps moms uncover who they are and what they really want without apology or guilt, through her proven personalized coaching program! She is a mom of four herself, with 20 years of experience in education plus expertise in autism, bipolar disorder, positive psychology, and DBT. Jodi holds a M.S. in Educational Leadership and is certified as a life coach and weight coach with The Life Coach School. You can learn more by chatting with Jodi on a free Turning Point call.
Jodi invites you to listen to her weekly ad-free podcast, The Good Mom Podcast, where she shares short stories with unconventional solutions that will uplift and inspire you.
Listen here: The Good Mom Podcast
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