Are we commiserating or just reinforcing our parenting mistakes?

Parenting is SO hard. You’re only human. You can’t keep your temper / watch what they’re doing all the time / *insert some other good decision*. There is so much pressure on mothers these days.

True.

We are going to make mistakes, some of them big. There is no question about that. What’s been bothering me lately is how obsessed we seem to be with putting bandaids on each other when we admit that we’ve done something wrong. Wrong. Because parents do things that aren’t OK. Good parents do things that aren’t OK. There is a world of difference between acknowledging someone’s feelings about having done something they consider wrong while trying to help them not be consumed with guilt, and rushing in with, “It’s OK, we all do it.”

For one thing, that’s not really listening. I’m not saying we should sit in judgement over other people’s parenting choices. Their kids are theirs to parent. However, I find it really weird when I’m with a group of mums and one admits that she’s done something she’s ashamed of, like shouting at her children or spending the day pretty much ignoring them, and all of us hurry in with stories of when we’ve done it, a flurry of “I understand” and reassurance to high heaven. I have many times been this mum and I have many times been the one to tell her that it’s fine.

How is it my right to dictate that she must feel about the situation? Sometimes, it’s OK for us to feel a bit crappy about doing something that doesn’t hold with our morals and standards. Maybe it’s OK for a friend to just listen and be there with no value judgements either way. It can help to just get it out there with someone else who’s had to face the toddler tantrums, sleep deprivation and the social isolation that many mothers experience.

Not only does insisting that it’s OK to mess up and keep messing up the same way again and again ignore what a mum might truly be feeling but it opens up potential for reinforcing negativity. For everyone involved. I might go away feeling better about losing it with my toddler and lose it even more, for example.

Are we so enveloped by a culture of complaining about everything – our children, our parenting, our own parents, the government – that it’s just easier to say that kids are resilient so what we do doesn’t matter? Is that easier than really listening to each other, noticing the beauty in each other and simply saying, “You’ve had a hard day. I can see how much you love your children and that you’re disappointed in yourself for what you’ve done. Tomorrow is a new day.” The responses sound similar but the latter doesn’t reinterpret, praise or criticise the other person’s experience, I feel.

All of this is just me having a little think out loud. I’d love to know your thoughts. When does commiserating cross the line?