05 Nov 2013

Having a bad day doesn’t make you a bad mother

You’ve kept your temper all day against the onslaught of his. You’ve given grace and he’s yelled that he’s running away and started off down the block with face red and furious.

You’ve chased after, you’ve told him people don’t leave this family, you’ve loved and patiently intervened one hundred different times when he’s been angry in one hundred different ways that his little sister is sucking up the time and attention he wants, needs, demands.


You’ve given him the right color cereal bowl, you’ve helped her put her shoes on, you’ve cleaned the dishes and packed the snacks. You and your man have juggled whining and zipping coats and finding socks; who cares if they match or not – everyone finally has shoes on.

You’ve done it right, you’ve been reasonable in the face of irrational toddlerhood.

And you’ve bent low to meet the needs of three tiny humans straining against their own limitations. You’ve reminded yourself you’re the grown up and you’ve tried real hard to act like it.

You get it right.

Some days you get it right, right up to the finish line.

And then he flings his tooth brush, he dunks his head in the bath water while already dried and wrapped in a towel. He refuses to quit asking for that one last snack and it’s easy – it’s easy to let the temper pour out of you like a hot rush of lava and it can feel so good. Clenched fists and jaw and gut, you have a bad moment easily as irrational as his.

Then you take a deep breath. You sit down on the sofa. Your husband tells you you’re doing OK. And it’s hard – it’s hard not to let the wind of the day get knocked clean out of you. It’s hard not to wash your hands of it all and listen to the voice that tells you you’re no good at this. The voice that whispers you’re a disaster of a mother.

You know the one.

The voice so familiar it sounds almost like your own. The voice that’s always there when the dinner doesn’t turn out right, when you forget to sign the field trip form, when you’re days behind on their math homework, when the dog jumps the neighbor’s fence. Again. That voice that alternately laughs like a manic jackal at the long list of everything you get wrong or whispers into your soul that you’re no good at this. No good, again.

The voice that thinks bad days make bad mothers.

Maybe you’re too tired right now to recognize it, maybe you’re too overwhelmed by a new week, maybe those dishes from last night with the pasta still stuck in little chunks make it hard for you to see anything that isn’t in the line of sight of the sink, so let me say it for you.

Let me remind you, friend, that that voice is a liar and a cheat. It will rob you of the rest of the day, it will hack away at the good parts, it will spit on the beautiful moments that happened right there in the minivan in between meltdowns. Those magical, parenthetical moments when everyone is laughing and the world is full of the glory of new beginnings and they look like an eight, five and nearly three year old.


Buy ear plugs if you have to – turn up the music, dance to the fact that you are doing it – you are mothering and it’s the hardest gig for the most demanding audience.

Don’t waste the good moments on that voice. Don’t listen. Learn to tune it out and run to your kids instead. Run and hug and laugh away the bad moments. Say sorry when you need to and stay down on your knees a little longer, look around and see how the world is small and big at the same time and it’s right there in your hands.

You haven’t dropped the ball – you’ve just had a bad day.

Get up friend. Keep getting up. This is how we learn to walk. By falling down a lot and then getting right back on up.

Because sometimes the best way to help our kids is to encourage their mothers, so this. This is my daily reminder. To you. To me. To us.



My book – Surprised by Motherhood – shares my own journey of grace and you can order it right here.
Or download the first three chapters for free over here.


{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    It’s been a long day of fighting the good fight and I have lost my temper and repeated myself more times than I care to admit. I was almost in tears reading this post. I only have two words… Thank you. :)

  2. 2

    You don’t know how much your posts help each and every day. Thank god for you!

  3. 3

    Thank you for this today – I have spent the day beating myself up because of a small thing that happened with my teenage daughter….I felt like a miserable failure until you pointed out how truly insignificant one small moment is in the grand scheme of things. Thank you….

  4. 4

    Thank you for writing this!! It was one of those days where that voice wouldnt go away.. I needed to hear this! Thank you, thank you!!!!

  5. 5

    Thank you so much for writing this… It was needed more than you know.

  6. 6

    That is how I feel today. I spent four hours cleaning up after the kids only for a toddler to pull all the nicely folded close I worked hard to organize out of each and every drawer when I was cleaning the other room. I lost it! I felt horrible the rest of the day. Thanks for helping me to realize that those are just moments and that I need to let them go, take a deep breath and regain my patience and that its normal to loose your patience like that. As long as we always end the day with I love yous and hugs and kisses. Parenthood is so hard sometimes!! Thanks for this Lisa!

  7. 7

    “Thank you so much for that; being a single mother of two I don’t get someone else to lean on and tell me it’s going to be ok. For the past two days my children have been in trouble with their teachers at school and it doesn’t seem to phase them when I am the “mean” mom and my mother; their grandmother talks to them…so I am at a lose as to what to do. Hopefully with me going to their school and doing a “surprise” visit; hopefully will help.
    I really needed this post tonight, someone else beside me having a “bad day”

  8. 8

    I so needed to read this today. By 10 am my day was already shot….I had given up. I must admit that I let the day get away from me. After a few tears and some rest, I was able to recharge and give the day another shot

  9. 9
    Shay Putnam Kemp says:

    Thank you. I have been learning to walk for 14 years as a mama, falling down, then getting up again, over and over and over, through 5 babies, now with two teens, two tweens and a toddler. And still…still that voice just comes back again…so thank you for the reminder that my bad moments don’t define me, and there is Grace for them, and it’s ok for my babies to see me mess up bc I can point them right back to Jesus who never, ever does. Your posts are so real, so beautiful, so timely. Love to you from this lady you don’t know but who appreciates you.

  10. 10

    You’re just brilliant!

  11. 11

    Lisa-Jo, you have such a gift for writing about the things that we all go through. I struggle with stress since I’ve been a mum. I vow not to snap, to stay calm, to be rational and parent in a positive, strategic way. And then out of the blue I yell. I revert to the two-year old in me. And then I hear that voice. Thanks so much for your reassuring encouragement that we don’t need to let our mistakes form our identity as mums. Grace is hard to accept from God and hard to give to ourselves at times.
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions

  12. 12
    Amy Tancreto says:

    I so much needed this. The last week or so leading up to yesterday I had a lot
    Of “bad days”. With the 2 and 5 year old. Newest trick to keep my cool=listening
    To Xmas music! Do you know something? I do: God was working on me through
    You and your post. Thank you.

  13. 13
    Mary Ann E says:

    Thank you God for inspiring Lisa Jo to write down your words!
    It is well with my soul (long sigh) :)

    Mary Ann

  14. 14
    Robyn Chilcoat says:

    How do you always know the posts that my mind and soul need to read? Thank you for writing this! I had a adult temper tantrum the other day and felt absoultely horrible about it, so much so that it kept me up that night tossing and turning. Even after I said my sorry’s to my son and hugged him extra tight, that voice inside my head saying I wasn’t good at this was hard to drown out. I NEEDED this. THANK YOU!

  15. 15

    Oh, mercy, I needed this today (and everyday). On this day, when I tasked my 6 year old with watching one of his baby sisters on the bed and he dropped her getting her down and I yelled at him for being irresponsible (wah? he’s 6!) and then I refused him a waffle in his lunchbox because he had wasted two at breakfast and we were late in the drop-off line and he jumped out without hugs or kisses and one of my twins has a spider bite and a crusty eye and has to go to daycare anyway because I have no choice but to go to work, I NEEDED this on this day. THANK YOU.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  16. 16

    This is absolutely beautiful and was music to my soul this morning. Truly a direct answer to a prayer. Thank you for your ministry!

  17. 17

    Well said! I’ve definitely had my bad days, although I try not to take it personally or equate it with being a bad mother. I just knew that the act itself (yelling, losing my cool, etc) was bad, but not me. We all make mistakes, and will continue to make mistakes. That doesn’t make us bad people, it just means we’re people who make bad actions. I think moms need to separate those one-off bad actions from themselves. It doesn’t define them, really.

  18. 18

    Geez glad I’m not the only one.

  19. 19

    Thank you for this!

  20. 20
    AineMistig says:

    Let me share with you the funny story I just posted on Facebook:

    So, this summer in PA, my mother-in-law mentioned to me that she didn’t like the use of the word “freaking.” When I responded that I didn’t think it was any different from using the word “darn,” like she did, she responded that it was because “freaking” sounded too close to the actual word.

    Apparently another child frustrated my kiddo in school today, so he said my replacement word of choice. Only he didn’t enunciate it very well. And it sounded like the real word. Which I found out about when I picked him up from school.

    I guess now she gets to tell me “I told you so!”

    This ever happen to anyone else?!
    Right after posting that, I read this. It was such perfect timing! Thank you! I’m not going to let this ruin the rest of the day! :)

  21. 21

    Thank you so much for writing this post. It is just what this momma needed to read today!

  22. 22

    This is a wonderful post, and one that I really needed this week. Thank you.


  1. […] Having a bad day doesn’t make you a bad mother – Lisa Jo Baker […]

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