Overcoming Feelings of Failure as a Mother

I recently had a chat with a friend who was having a hard day as a mom. Sound familiar? She described feeling the same way that I have felt many times - essentially, like she is failing as a mother! 

At first, when I heard her say this, I was happy to know that I am not alone. But then I was saddened at for her and the realization that there are probably a lot of other moms who experience these same feelings of failure from time to time.

Since then, I have learned first-hand of the wide-spread epidemic of discouraged mothers. If you are one of them, please know that you are not alone, and that there is hope for you! Please don't give up. Hang in there and you will have happier days ahead.

After talking with my friend, I saw things in a better perspective. I was able to stand back and see her situation for what it really was. And in that moment, I also saw my own situation more clearly. I thought what a shame it was that such a good mother could feel like she is failing! Especially in an area like motherhood, where you devote all of your time and energy to your family...and then to still come away feeling like your effort is not good enough. No mother should ever feel this way. Not her. Not me. Not you. 

With all these thoughts, I started to ask myself questions like, "What causes me to feel like a failing mother?" and "what is the antidote for feeling this way?" 

Click here for my response to her and any mother who feels like she is failing.

And for those who like to share...I want to know what YOU have to say about this. Please tell me how you overcome these feelings, or how you would help a friend to.



  1. A couple of years ago I was feeling the same way! I would cry and I couldn't tell you why. I just wasn't happy, yet nothing was bad. I came across the Time Out For Women events and felt like I REALLY needed to go. So I did and it was amazing and rejuvenated me! When I came home I felt like I could conquere anything and I had a lot more patience for my kids. I was spiritually uplifted and now look forward to going every year!!!

  2. Hi Jen! I think I feel the worst when I'm comparing myself to another mom or comparing my children to other children. I've learned a bit about this, but still struggle with it occasionally. Comparing ourselves is really a form of pride and when we are proud we don't often have the spirit with us, leaving us vulnerable to feelings of doubt and discouragement. President Benson gave an awesome talk on overcoming discouragement, listing key steps. That has helped me a lot. Also, most of the time I think we just need rest, which is so hard to get as a mom.

  3. I feel like a failure as a mom when my kids are disobedient despite my best efforts. I also feel lame when I don't carry out the grand plans that I make for the kids' schedules. For example, this summer I am "suppossed" to be facilitating consistant art projects, nature excursions, Hooked on Phonics lessons, writing practice, educational outings, mommy music lessons etc. etc. In reality, these events are truly hit and miss. I try not to feel too loser-ish by taking comfort in the fact that we are consistant with the basics, and I attempt to feel OK that the other things happen at least once and a while. Also, in a effort to curb frequent feelings of guilt, I have thought through all aspects of motherhood to determine what comes really easily to me -- with the idea that I would make sure that I did at least that thing very well. For me, that is hugging, snuggling, wrestling, and verbally affirming the kids. Even if I'm frustrated at them, or if I am currently "failing" in many other areas, this is easy for me to keep up. If I make sure to just "be" with them like this several times a day (as you have mentioned in a previous article), I sense guilt washing away and feel restored through that connection to them.

  4. I love these comments so far! Thanks, Ladies! Everyone has a different perspective to share, and each one is helpful. Please keep the comments coming! Don't worry about putting all of your thoughts out there--even just one simple idea is great!

  5. I don't know if "failure" is the right word for me but rather feeling like I'm not reaching my mothering potential. Sometimes it comes from children acting up (usually in public it seems) or even something as simple and not knowing how to respond to an innocent question posed by one of my children. Either way I sometimes feel that I need to be that poster perfect role model and honestly that gets TIRING! I have learned--and still am learning--that I just need to take these moments one at a time. When I'm having a bit of a "down" day, I have a small journal that I write down those things that I am doing well at. I look back and laugh at some of my entries one of which reads:

    "Having a rough time trying to get everything done. My littlest one smiled at me for no apparent reason today. If I had been busy trying to get dinner on the table or doing a project with my other children I might have missed it. Sure needed that today."

  6. What's my antidote? Making time for me and my hubby. Whether it's just a date night, or little get away, when I make time to reconnect with my husband and make our relationship stronger, then I feel better about my purpose in all of this.

  7. Keeping in mind that my oldest is 2 and my youngest is 12 weeks in gestation, my feelings of failure were worst for me when Katie was a baby (under age of 1). (Who knows what the future will bring!) I had PPD and serious prolonged sleep deprivation, which didn't help. It's hard to think and write about and share, but my birth experience didn't get me off on a good start (52 hours of labor only got me to 5cm, so I got a c-section, which made me feel very ineffective even though there Katie's size and position were really the issues). Nursing was also really hard and there were two times in the first week where I truly hit rock bottom emotionally because of it. It was hard to feel physically incapable of providing Katie with her needs (things worked out and I nursed her until 15 months). Overall, I had almost no confidence in my ability to nurture for the first year of Katie's life even though the evidence was against me: she was growing and thriving. To be honest, her becoming a verbal, more independent toddler (and me weaning her, straightening out emotionally, and getting better sleep) made a huge difference in my level of confidence. I just don't think babies are my best stage as a mother, although I'm hoping this next time it goes a little better. I do know that when I feel like I have a good relationship with Katie (it was hard for me to feel connected to her when she was a baby and we couldn't talk or interact much), I feel good as a mom. And when I have time to be me and not just a mom, I feel better as a mom. For me, this is writing in my blog, keeping up with my friends (through reading blogs, talking on the phone, and actual get togethers), some kind of exercise/activity, and staying engaged with something intellectually, even if it's not formal (reading a thought-provoking or informational book can be enough).

  8. Oh, and to go along with Emily's comment, I was so stressed out in the first 6 weeks of Katie's life about stimulating her with songs and talking and setting up a bedtime routine and giving her tummy time. All of which I just did not have the energy for (healing from a c-section is really hard) and at that point really doesn't matter too much I think as long as you are still providing physical contact and normal levels of interaction because they are still so sleepy. But I felt so guilty and stressed about it then. Now I feel like I know to just do what I can in that very early period and that most of that stuff can wait a few weeks/months to become regular routine when they are more alert and responsive to it anyway. I don't want to make it sound like I'm going to not interact with my newborn, but the point is that the pressure to do all the things they say to do in magazines right away made those first 6 weeks made it harder for me to really provide good care to my baby and myself. I feel better having confidence knowing to trust myself to provide what my baby needs given general principles, not strict rules about what to do.

  9. I remember not too long ago I was caught in the hustle and bustle of running and not walking to get things done with my kids. Although my kids are still young they are now all in school. I just wish I would have slowed down and enjoyed them while they were preschoolers. But the demands of being a Mom gets overwhelming at times and there are days that you think that you'll never get through it; but you do. My famous words were No, Hurry up, wait a minute, stop! Now I just try to say yes as much as I can to pacify them for just a little while.

    Mom's your doing a good job, the little things that get to you on some bad days are not as important as the overall character of what your kids become eventually.

  10. For me Failure is not paying close enough attention to the obvious. I am referring to my son's addiction to drugs. I did not pay close enough attention.

  11. I am really struggling with feeling like a failure. We adopted our son as a newborn and he is now 8 months old. I am convinced he 'hates me' most of the time (can't give you a specific reason...just my gut feeling.) I was a nanny for 12 years prior and felt so much pride joy and fulfillment and anticipated motherhood to be just that wonderful plus some. Instead it has been so hard and has made me feel more like a failure than anything else I have ever done. :( I hate that I couldn't nurse. I can't get him to have a good sleep routine no matter what I do. I don't know what's wrong with me I just feel sad and like a failure all the time. I should be filled with JOY right now! I should be constantly delighted in my precious child! I'm a failure as a mom :(

    1. Emma,

      Thanks for sharing. My heart just breaks with you! I think I know what that feels like to some degree. Please know that you are not alone! There are other mothers who search "I'm failing as a mother" each day on google. It's like an epidemic! It's the most important thing you could be doing, so the adversary wants bring you down.

      After I read your comment, I started thinking of what I could say to you. First, I would say that there is hope. You can overcome these feelings. There can be bright, happy, fulfilling days ahead. Please believe me!

      Did you read my follow-up post that actually gives my advice on this? If not, here's the link again: http://www.raisingrubies.com/2011/08/overcoming-feelings-of-failure-part-2.html
      It's funny. I articulated an answer for you in my head, and then realized that it was just a repeat of what I already said on the follow-up post. I wrote this a couple years ago, but my answer is still the same. I hope something in that post hits home for you.

      I will be praying for you. I don't know if you believe in God and the power of prayer...but I do! I cannot overstate how much prayer alone can help you out of this hole. Pray specifically for what you need, and you will see specific blessings come. For example, pray to know of God's approval of your efforts. Pray to see your successes. Pray to be more positive in your thoughts about yourself. Pray for your son to get on a better sleep schedule. Pray for the knowledge that your son loves you and appreciates you. Pray to know if you need additional help with this, such as therapy, medication, books, etc. I will be praying for you as well!

      You are better than you think you are. Don't give up. Don't lose hope. When you heal from this, you will forever be more compassionate toward other mothers who are struggling. Motherhood doesn't get easier. There are always challenges. But if you can see the good in what you are doing, and stop beating yourself up, then you can enjoy each day. And it will be easier and better for you.

      Do you have a support network? Family, friends, spouse, who you can express your feelings and get help? Open up and talk to them. Don't deal with this burden alone. They can offer advice and help.

      I bet you didn't expect such a long reply from me! :) I'm sorry if it was too much and not what you needed. I wish you were here in my living room where we could just talk and cry together! Hang in there, sister! You'll make it through. Remember...there are many happy days ahead.