Me · motherhood

Motherhood Box of Shame.

help me get out of the Motherhood Box of ShameAs mothers, we all too often put ourselves in the Motherhood Box of Shame (have you seen Despicable Me?). We spend too much time stuck feeling badly about what we’re doing and not doing. Making things exponentially worse, we are bombarded with chastisement by other moms, by our friends, and the media.  Sometimes it’s direct. There’s an article about how we spend too much time on our phones, or a diatribe on a blog about being a stay at home mom is the only way to have good kids. Sometimes it’s indirect. We see on Pinterest all of the crazy crap other mothers are doing.  A friend makes an offhand remark about how much time she sees you online. As you read, watch, listen and internalize, you metaphorically pull out your Box of Shame, and climb in.

The worst part about the Box of Shame is that once you’ve climbed in, it takes a whole hell of a lot to get yourself out. Shame builds on shame. Guilt breeds more guilt. Cardboard turns to brick, walls are made out of our own self talk, neighborhoods out of the guilt we feel when we compare ourselves to others.

Today, I once again started myself out in that Box. I woke up, looked at the sorry state of my house and already started to feel bad. If I spend the day cleaning, Abby will spend the day watching Yo Gabba Gabba. If I spend my day playing with the girl, the house is a wreck when the boys come home…to wreck it further. I build further- if I clean, it will just be undone anyways, so what’s the point? I get too bored playing with Abby, and that makes me sad that I’m not the kind of mom that actually likes playing with her toddlers.  I begin to remind myself of just how much I’m not cut out for this. Then I feel guilty for not loving being a stay at home mom because I know that I am truly fortunate to be able to do so- especially given the needs of my children.  I find myself laying in the bottom of the Motherhood Box of Shame, stuck from the get go.

I’ve seen many a therapist for this very thing. I have a long history of making therapists cry. As much as I appreciate their sympathy, I need someone who is going to tell me to nut up and throw me out of my box. I get that things are hard. I get that I deserve a break from time to time. But reality is that it’s tough for every mother, no matter what the needs of her children are. I need a way out of this damn box. I need a way to take a break without giving myself a hard time. So, I’m asking you…what do you do? How do you stay out of the Motherhood Box of Shame? If you climb in, how do you get out? What works? What doesn’t?

I’m honestly asking you for help. Do you ever deal with this? Go all sorts of Dr. Phil on me. I need it. And maybe other mother’s reading will, too.


58 thoughts on “Motherhood Box of Shame.

  1. All the flippin’ time! Pinterest officially ruined motherhood for me… both because it’s addicting and because I’m not doing the stuff I pin. Like organizing my crafting supplies with colorful paper. I’m a stay at home mom, too, with just the five year old NT at home now. What you said about the cleaning… YES! Do other moms actually clean and interact with their kids at the same time? I’ve been pondering this for the entire almost nine years of being in the parenthood. Or you see those moms with careful highlights, squeaky clean cars and homes whose children never even get a snotty nose. I love to despise some of them because they make this all look easy and it’s NOT!
    We, as moms, are the most judgmental group of people I’ve ever encountered. EVER. Except for maybe the special needs parents. Because you know, if you’re not doing life the way someone else is, then you’re doing it wrong.

  2. Spencer W. Kimball: “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.”

    I have to remind myself of this constantly. When I’m far away from Him then I lose perspective of who I am and how He feels about me. I am not saying you are far away but this is what popped in my head first. Laundry, dishes, my child being the best reader in class . . . I don’t think that stuff really matters in the long run. But our relationship with the Savior matters.

    I think you know these things.


    1. Jill, I happen to be LDS too and I am very familiar with that quote from President Kimball. I agree that drawing near to God can help us, but I think you posting this quote here just has the potential of making Lexi feel even more ashamed and down on herself. Sometimes, we can be totally close to God and still struggle mightily. Mother Theresa wrote in her letters that she rarely felt God’s spirit in her life. She was constantly feeling like he had withdrawn, and if there is anyone who was NOT casual in her relationship with the Lord, it would be Mother Theresa. Or maybe you don’t agree because she was Catholic and not Mormon?

      You not-so-subtly blame Lexi for her very real depression. I really do not think that is what Jesus would do were he here. I think he’d giver her a giant hug, maybe help her clean her dishes up and play with Abby to give Lex a much needed break. He would be a friend, and not judge her. And maybe he’d even give her some antidepressants. Who knows? All I know is that this feeling Lexi is going through is NOT her fault.

      1. I don’t think Jill intended it that way at all. I think she meant to express that the one (and only one) who can help lift her is Him. And the way to draw closer and lean on Him is through the scriptures. If we’re too busy for a verse or 5 minutes or more of scripture study, then we are busier than He intended for us to be. But He is the source of our joy and pulling us out of our slumps as we lay our burdens at His feet. We learn how to do that through knowing Him and studying about Him. That’s the message I got from Jill.

    2. Thank you so much Jill. I found and find that that principle has worked for me throughout my life especially in the raising of my six young children after the death of their father. That is not a quote to cause guilt; it is a solution, that in the long run and with faith works. Honestly

  3. I have gotten myself stuck so far down in that stupid box that I was completely immobilzed, unable to accomplish anything because “what’s the point”. STOP IT! This is what helped: I was going through a bad patch in my marriage and I spoke to a lawyer. I was worried because I had no job, no money, and no work history to speak of (stay-at-home mom for 15 years), and I thought if my husband sought custody he might get it. The lawyer advised me to keep a log of everything I did for the kids or the household, it could be used to determine my “worth”. I did it, what an eye opener! I just jotted in my calender book all the things I did in a day. Fed 7 kids breakfast, washed the baby’s blankets, got shoes for softball, spent 45 minutes on the phone with insurance company, made appointments, watched tv show with son, played in bath with daughter. I wrote down everything. It was a huge validation for me. Even on the days that I felt like I did nothing, I did. I fed the kids, even if we went through a drive-thru, I cleaned them, or at least changed their clothes. I picked them up, dropped them off, helped them, loved them, kissed on them. And the things I handled for the household, bills, repairs, appointments ect., were uncountable. It’s been a couple of years but I still write daily notes in my calender, and whenever I say “oh, I didn’t do anything last weekend”, I can get it out and see that actually I did 47 things on Saturday alone.

  4. There is two things that keep me going and that is the absolute belief that guilt is a useless emotion and asking myself “whats the worse that can happen?”. In 40 or so years I’ve never had the worse possible outcome happen, and even if it does I’ve already thought about it figured out how I’d respond and be ready to implement the solution. Yes boringly practical but its working so far. Also people who say crap almost never meant what you thought they meant. If they meant to say something mean believe me they’d make sure you knew exactly what they were meaning and why. I’ve always found that rude people always make sure you get that they thought you sucked its never left in doubt.
    A messy house is simply a messy house, if you’ve got rats maybe be picking up the vacuum cleaner a little more often but if not then play with your kids, write your blog, watch that crappy tv show you know you want to. If your family aren’t complaining then why would you.
    If you play with your kids for even just a short while you’re doing more that a lot of others, maybe less than some. As for too much TV and playing on the iPad, we have Elmo DVDs but we also have signing ones and ones that have helped her learn to recognise words on flash cards (21 words and counting from before she was 2) and I know she wouldn’t be signing or flashing as well as she does without them. These kids are going into a way different world we did and being Tech savvy before they start school is giving them a helping hand as far as I can tell. As for being a stay at home mum it is friggin mind numbing, 2 year olds are cute but their conversations leave a lot to be desired, don’t feel bad about wanting to relate to people whose bum you don’t wipe, I’m pretty sure that’s normal!!

  5. I read your blog and realize I’m not alone.

    I feel like I could write a novel in response to this but most of my rambling would be about how I’m right there with you. My current solution is a well balanced breakfast of medication and a constant reminder that if my children know they’re loved and they stay fed, that’s really all that matters.

  6. Wait…there is a way out of the box? Help me. I can’t get out. I too am stuck between the giant piles of laundry and the calls of “mom! Build this hot wheels track with me!” So I hide in the box playing candy crush. If you topple my box over, I will do the same to you.
    In all seriousness…I have to be in the right place to play and the right mental space to clean. I can’t play if the house is a mess. I just can’t. Sensory overload. So I pick a room. I clean it, sometimes while I am on the phone so I can’t get distracted by other things. Then…I can be on the floor and play. Until I inadvertently fall asleep and wake up when hit by a monster truck…
    Sorry. We’re we taking about you? I digress…
    Let’s try to help each other remember we are doing the best we can. Because we are.

  7. The day can easily swallow us up (and take our soul with it at times). As most of us here, this is sure not the life I imagined when I was dreaming of my life when I played MASH as a kid. Not even one of the options. I took the motherhood box of shame to the curb last week and let the garbage men take it away. Screw it. I have enough issues, I don’t need anyone else making me feel guilty. My life gives me too many opportunities to question. Myself as it is. not going to fall into the traps anymore. Does it matter if the house is a mess? No. Will it matter to Abbey that you spent time with her? Yep. Screw the cleaning. Or make cleaning a game and do some of it together and screw what doesn’t get done. This is a short season. It will pass. ❤

  8. I’m a little confused about Jill’s response above as I think that doing all the day-to-day things and trying to find a balance IS keeping your relationship with God. I think God loves all of us no matter where we are or what we’re doing and that He wants for us to feel joy and fulfillment more than he wants us to martyr ourselves.

    Put on some good dance music and set a timer for 30 minutes. Clean/dance your way through it. Lift your spirits to the point you can mak e a SHORT list of what *needs* immediate attention. What are some small chores Abby can help you with as you dance around together? Folding a load of laundry? Let Abby fold the washcloths or dish towels…over and over if that’s what it takes. Have her stand o your shoes while you run the vacuum. SHORT spurts.

    Also, speaking of your relationship with God — WWJD? FORGIVE yourself and keep on moving on. Love yourself as He loves you, my friend. And take it one step, one moment at a time. Choose joy for THIS moment. Then, choose laughter for the next,. etc. etc. Each choice will build the rope ladder you need to climb out of that box.

    Then? Turn it over and make a giant fort out of it. 😉 xo

    1. In a nutshell: the closer I am to God, the more I’m able to see myself as He sees me. That is what I meant. That is how I cope with the temptation to punish myself for my failures and weaknesses.

      1. I don’t think your posts are at odds with each other…you both spoke to me and made good points. I think Jill’s post is practical on a spiritual level and will speak to those that have similar spiritual/religious beliefs. A good reminder to those that believe praying and reading scriptures are important and should be a priority. Beth, your post is practical on an every day life level and a great reminder that even the mundane daily duties of life are spiritual and are service to God. I’ve started to comment a few times and really, I’m stuck at the bottom of the box with about fifty other boxes on top of me today, so I have nothing to add except that you both said things that resonated with me…thank you.

  9. I really have nothing to contribute other than the support and open honesty we experience through blogs/sites like this and scary mommy is the light at the end of the box. Just knowing there are women, who understand, waiting just beyond the flap is comforting.

    I COMPLETELY understand you abt the cleaning. My daughter tells me to stop cleaning or sadly ask me “what are you doing?” And unfortunately I don’t even do all that often! When she was younger I would have to use a baby gate to get anything done in the kitchen. Or on the rare occasion I got mommy time, I use to clean the house instead of really getting a break.

  10. Really… I just lay at the bottom on the box and cry for a while, sometimes takes a few days to knock myself out of it but, eventually it happens. no magic words or insightful know-how. just feel it and move on. I don’t play with my kid much at all. we do other things together, walk, crafts, laundry (yea, she loves laundry) and while she plays next to me, I fold and put away that laundry (ok, half that laundry… then I feel like I’ve done enough and the other half lives in the basket). I HEAR YOU, the house never stays clean so why bother!? YOU will feel better if it’s clean. so just start with the kitchen. When i don’t know where to start, I wash the dishes. seeing the counter clear and the dishes clean gives me motivation to keep going (or makes me feel like I’ve done enough, the rest of the kitchen can fend for itself, and I can go sit back down lol). Make it fun, put on some music, dance and sing along while you pick up the crap your kid-tornado spewed around. If she’s anything like my girl, Abby will totally dig it. ALSO: it will get easier. When Ava was a toddler, I just didn’t clean. there was really no point because she was a wrecking ball. Now, at 5, Ava WANTS to help clean, and on days she just doesn’t, she’s totally fine barricaded on the couch with a snack and/or a basket of toys. (or plastic eggs at the moment… why? why do we buy the plastic eggs!?). Ok. I love you. Get out of that freaking box already. Your kids think you’re a rockstar.

  11. Ain’t no shame in my game! That’s the actual route I’ve chosen. I’m an unabashed slob. It basically tears down one wall of the box of shame so I can always get out of it. 🙂
    Sure I get down about how much Sam isn’t doing and how if I only pushed him harder he would. I get down sometimes about how we can never invite anyone over because the house is a perpetual disaster.

    And then I make a play date on neutral territory and get on up and over it. Seriously. Life is too short. Your kids don’t want a house that looks like it was just photographed for a magazine. They want a happy mom.

  12. Here’s what I do…….. I don’t have friends over who don’t get that cleaning a house is not my top priority (or theirs) – ever! Playing with toddlers is mind numbing after a while……small doses…. Love the moments of delightful play as the come and don’t feel guilty for not organizing 365 days of Martha Stewarts guide to perfect parenting. If you really feel like you need to do one or both – crank up some tunes and dance around and shoot hoops of clutter into a laundry basket and get the little one to help. If not kick back and relax for awhile because your gonna need some super mom energy when the older kids get home. Love yourself as much as you love your kids and stop beating yourself up cuz being a Mom is HARD and you are doing a GREAT job!!!!

  13. Honestly? I’ve found that, for me, it’s about acceptance. Accepting who I am, my faults and all. Accepting my children, accepting that I spend time making beds every day and cleaning house because it helps my husband feel comfortable at home after working all day. I do it all, accepting that I will have to do it all over again tomorrow. And, it’s all relatively temporary. This is my life right now. Will it be this way in 5 years? 10 years? Probably not, it’s likely to be busier and very different as my children get older. Things will change. This time in my life, whatever I am dealing with, it will be over at some point. In the meantime, I do what I have to do. I try to find balance even when I know I’m not balancing well. I try not to beat myself up about it because tomorrow is a new day – I tell myself I will do better the next day accepting that I might be giving myself the same speech a the same time tomorrow, too.

  14. I found myself at the bottom of the box of shame in the fetal position a few weeks ago. The flylady web sit make me see more of what needs to be done and less of a way out of the box. I watch to much TV, so much so I dream that I’m a character in the last crime show I watched. Kamryn hates it when I’m on the computer, I do it when she is asleep. Sometimes it’s only the 20 minutes she’s asleep. I know I should be doing something else. That makes it worse. How did I get out of this rute? I haven’t yet. I’m working on it 15 minutes at a time. You can do anything for 15 minutes. (the only thing I took away from flylady) The downstairs bathroom might get cleaned today. I’m working on being more purposeful. try to put things away when I’m done.

  15. I don’t think you can ever guarantee that you’ll stay out of the box. Love the metaphor by the way. The goal to stay out of it entirely is just putting more pressure on yourself to be that perfect Mom that does not exist. All you can do is, every day, start over. Practice giving yourself a break, really for me it is an ongoing challenge. It helps me to try to see it from my kids perspective- he welcomes a little down time while I clean or whatever. And as much as I feel that his progress is threatened every time I don’t make good use of his every waking moment, it’s just not true. He and I need space to relax, and to not feel guilt or stress or pressure. I focus on modeling that feeling for him and it helps….a little.

  16. I feel you on all these points. I’m not a SAHM, but I do also get bored & restless playing with my son sometimes. I can only do so much with Play-Doh, y’know? I love when my husband takes over the play stuff & I can just be the cuddle on the couch person. But I do feel bad about it.
    I feel bad every time I walk into my bedroom & see the mountain of junk on my side of the room that is there b/c it had to be removed from other rooms to make room for my son’s stuff, but I honestly have no idea what to do with it & no energy to tackle it and I know it annoys the crap out of my husband. But I can’t even tackle my insanely awful sock drawer. BUT, every weekend or so for the past couple months, my MIL has been taking my son for the afternoon. I have also recruited my brother & his family to hang out with my son every few weekends – partly so my son can be comfortable without us somewhere other than the grandparents & school, and partly so he gets to spend more time with that part of the family. It’s just a few hours, but I can get at least one chore knocked out &, if I’m lucky, some exercise. This has made a slow, steady dent in projects that need to be done by me. So a teensy tiny bit of guilt is left behind.
    Oh & I have stayed away from Pin interest. I have also been skipping fast past all the decorating & entertaining sections of magazines. That is not happening & not gonna be wistful about it anymore than usual. And then feel guilty for being wistful & not happy with what I’ve got every second.
    But I still have guilt every day about something – if I exercise at night and don’t clean or do something else, I worry that I’m being too selfish. But if I don’t exercise, then I feel guilty about not taking care of myself. If I get home late after work b/c I was grocery shopping, I feel guilty that I took so long shopping, but if I don’t go shopping, then I’ll feel guilty for not having anything to serve for meals or when we run out of one of my son’s favorite foods & he has a freakout. I was reading a book yesterday on remedies for resistant eaters like my son – and then feeling guilty for all the things I’ve definitely been doing rong.
    It’s kind of good to know that I’m not alone. Even if it also sucks.

    1. SAME HERE. Your bedroom sounds like my bedroom, Jenny. The worst part though is that it does not nother my husband at all, it bothers me! lol But there is just so much to tackle that you feel defeated before you can even get started. I am not only a Stay At Home Mom, but I homeschool all 3 of my kids. So they are here all the time and I get almost no time alone, ever. (As an introvert and fairly private person, this is somewhat problematic.)

      I love all my kids dearly, I love having them all home and could not imagine it otherwise, but I also know that it overwhelms me from time to time and I completely burn out. On Fridays my daughter spends the entire day at her dad’s house (my ex) and it is like a vacation having only 2 kids here instead of 3. And then I realize I am actually a tiny bit relieved she is not here, and then i feel pretty damn crappy…. And even though there are about 200 boxes in our garage, I don’t feel it’s enough to contain the shame I feel in those moments.

      I think that is great that you are able to get family to spend time with your son periodically. I need to find a way for us to do something like that as well. Much like Landon Bryce’s Autoon, my 2 ASD kids are very much in the “Your Autism is poking my Autism” stage right now and they definitely could use breaks from each other.

      I think we all just need a break sometimes from the perpetual stress and worry. And if playing Candy Crush Saga is all that can be managed to mentally escape for a bit, even at the expense of doing another blasted load of laundry, then so be it. Bejewelled does it for this gal. (Well, that and a whole hell of a lot of coffee. Just smelling it honestly makes me feel happier. Great, huh?)

  17. This really resonates with me, Lexi. Especially the last year or so, I’ve just had a really hard time being a mom, being a stay-at-home-mom, and feeling good about it all. I feel bad A LOT. I’m never doing enough, or the right things, and even on days when I feel like I did a pretty good job, nobody appreciates it anyway, and I just have to do it all over again tomorrow, right? I really don’t know if there is a magic formula for avoiding or minimizing these feelings. It helps to reach out to other moms and know that I’m not the only one who feels this way. It helps sometimes to write. It helps sometimes to literally take a break. A couple weeks ago, I put the baby in the truck and we drove down to San Diego (50 – 60 miles away) and spent the day shopping. The point wasn’t to buy stuff, it was just to lose myself in a crowd, where nobody was asking me for things, where I didn’t have to talk to anybody if I didn’t want to. And on the whole drive down and back, I listened to an audio-book on my iPod. It felt like a break. But the truth is, I rarely do anything like that. I should do it more often.

  18. Lexi, I do what I do and I don’t look at what others are doing–or at least I try not to. Our lives are so complicated- running to therapies, having people in our houses for therapies and all round having additional stress from having more challenging lives, do what you do and if you go to bed knowing you did your best then I think that’s good enough.

  19. Box of Shame… I thought for sure I was the only one that lived in there. Social networking has made it increasingly easy for us to compare our “behind the scene to everyone else’s highlight reel”. It’s easy to make it look like you’ve got your crap together on Facebook (ditched it before Christmas, best decision EVER) Pinterest and you know what really does it for me? Freaking Instagram. So many snooty, stuck up, holier than thou women on IG. And it’s funny because reading the comments on some of these feeds these ladies go on and on about how they’ve found such an awesome little community of women to support each other and blah blah… But I’ve tried to comment, be a part, fit in…and I’m ignored. It leaves me feeling like the kid who gets picked last in gym class. Why the hell are women so mean to one another? Why can’t we build each other up instead of creating judgmental “groups” and building walls? Sorry to vent! But I’m left wondering where the hell I’m lacking!? Perhaps if we step outside our comfort zones and dare to talk to or respond to someone we may have never spoken to we may find some really amazing, supportive women out there. We shut ourselves off to others, we stay within’ our groups, and by doing so we keep ourselves in that damn box. The way out begins within ourselves. And step number one is to stop comparing our own lives to the lives of others. Comparison is the thief of joy. I should definitely take my own advice, but it becomes hard when it’s so easy to peek in on other people’s lives. I often feel like I’m a horrible mom because I’m not doing all the things I “see” other moms doing via blogs, IG, etc. But my husband, who is freaking amazing, reminds me that what is on the internet and IG and all those other sites is only a tiny window into someone else’s life. That they don’t show you pictures of their messy house, dishes in the sink, clutter on the counter, kids with snotty noses that are still in their pj’s at 2pm…because it just isn’t the image they’d like to portray. So when I’m in the middle of hating on myself and wondering why I’m such a fuck up, I try to remember that everyone is fighting some sort of battle, whether they admit it or not. That’s how I try to cope with that damn box. But I really do wish women would be nicer to one another…but I suppose that’s about as likely as pigs flying!

    1. “So when I’m in the middle of hating on myself and wondering why I’m such a fuck up, I try to remember that everyone is fighting some sort of battle, whether they admit it or not.”

      Truer words, luv. 😉

  20. Today, the kids got a snow day off of school. Usually this means that they play with some form of electronic device until they’re cabin-fever bitchy, since they don’t like to be outside for very long stretches of time in the cold. Days like today, I totally crave unstructured time for myself– WITHOUT chores.

    I manipulated Child #2 to convince Children #1 and #3 to go tobogganing– how she succeeded in motivating those home-bodies, I’ll never know, but I can’t welsh on a sign from God–we needed to go sledding.

    So I suggested to the kids, that we should buy 200 feet of yellow nylon 150-lb strength rope.
    ‘Why’ they asked.
    ‘So right after you go down the hill, _I_ can pull the sled back up!’
    They freaked the hell out. In a good way. They hate having to drag the toboggan uphill as much as I hate having to trudge down the hill and retrieve it myself when they are too tired.

    Rope was $13 at Walmart, lunch at Wendy’s was $9 for everybody. We sledded for a long time, and at one point the rope wrapped around my leg and Child #1 was sent tumbling down the hill, having only gone halfway before the toboggan was yanked out from under him.

    Now that we’re back home, they’re all warm and giggly, cuddling up with an electronic device– if I ask, they’ll say it was the best day ever. Even though at the end Child #2 was crying because it was SOOOOO cold, Child #3 kept getting yelled at for trying to cross the street, and Child #1 was feeling acutely homesick.

    I hate being in the box, too. I really hate feeling judged by other parents, too. What I hate the most though, is feeling like I’m some poor kid’s boring disciplinarian PITA parent that doesn’t want to listen to them. It’s only when I get off of my butt and put in the time that I feel good about what I do for them, because their opinions of me today are the only ones that are going to matter when I’m in my golden years.

    So yeah, if someone wants to be a negative nancy parent and look down their nose at me, I’ll warn you, I’m going to do something unapologetically messy today. My house is going to be a mess everytime you come by; I’m never going to host parties for you hoidy-toidys, and I’m never going to compliment you on your pristine hummel collection. If you dare drop any one of your brats off to play, I’m going to reprogram them completely and they’ll never be satisfied living with you again. You’re going to pick them up and they’re going to be covered in flour, filth, watercolor paint and smell faintly of turpentine and gasoline–and they will be laughing like crazy clowns in a circus side-show.

    One day I’ll have a clean house again, and you’ll have a passel of kids who resented having to grow up in a museum where they couldn’t touch anything. So Neener-neener. 8P

  21. Oh, boy oh boy, I just and I mean I JUST crawled out of that damn box not 15 minutes ago. You know what got me out? I am doing the best I can! I am! It is not easy being a mom and it is really not easy being the mom of a special needs kid. But, we are doing it. And we are doing the best we can. It’s good enough, hon, it is. It really is.

    Love this blog, I’m glad I found you. Keep your chin up.

  22. you know what? you have to take care of yourself or you’re no good for anyone else. yep, you have to balance your best job of the day for you and your family and what’s best will change from day to day.

    and this is the important part: forgive yourself the days when even with your best work you missed some things.

    you can’t do everything every day. you just can’t.

    but if you are paying attention you can do well enough most days.

    i read this blog. i have confidence that you are thoughtful and competent and capable. i am certain from reading your words that you KNOW how to find your way but also that you personalize your failings.

    maybe i shouldn’t even say “failing”, because if you choose to clean the bathroom instead of playing with a child, you have made a valid choice in that moment and the family gets a clean bathroom.

    if you choose to play with a child, you have made a valid choice and everyone can jolly well either clean the bathroom themselves or care less.

    if you choose to have a moment to yourself and maybe enjoy the company of grownup ideas for a little while you have made a valid choice and later on you will be refreshed and more able to enjoy playing with your toddler.

    it is about balance.

    you can do this.

    the trick is going to be feeling good about it. go ahead, dare.

  23. That box is a momma’s nemesis. It tries to suck us in all the time. I spend as little time as possible in there now by doing what I can little by little. Less is so much more – less to clean, less to sort, less to stress. I started one bit at a time and have gotten happier and happier. With less in the house I can clean up even the worst tornados my kids can summon in 10 mins. Completely clean house? Not in the foreseeable future. Able to walk across the floors without wading through toys or impaling my foot on a Lego? Definitely most days. 🙂 less cleaning and more time to enjoy the kids and to take care of me – even if its only a few minutes a day. Hang in there – it gets better each day!

    1. I love this comment. I used to feel overwhelmed if I couldn’t deep clean my house in one day, and now I’m just proud of myself if I can unload the dishwasher.

      1. Me too! I HATE emptying the dishwasher. If I get that damn thing not only loaded and run, but emptied too… I feel like a freakin’ rockstar. Honestly, I don’t even know what the phrase “deep clean” means anymore. lol

  24. I just try and balance it. I sometimes let her watch more TV than I want her to so I can clean or be online. And I feel a little guilty but the alternative is playing all day with my toddler. One way I get around this is by taking her on outings. This words because she is an only child. I can’t even fathom how I will handle it if she is not an only child. Otherwise I guilt my husband into letting me do things like get my hair cut once every few months (ack!) and lie on the bed alone and awake for an hour. It’s hard. Sometimes being a SAHM makes me feel like a prisoner, like there’s no escape and no me anymore. I just keep telling myself that once she’s in school I will have other time. I will keep my fingers crossed that it’s true.

  25. Well first of i love your blog, it has made a significant impact on me!

    But yes i have recently found myself in the box. Not that i have any real reason, just that my daily life seems to be overwhelming. I have an 18 month old son, i work full time, a full time student and do mostly if not all chores around the house. And I’m only 20. I became a mom very young and that situation was just hard, not that me and the father aren’t together because we are:) but mostly because alot of aspirations went out the window i lost many friends and i don’t exactly have the life of most 20 year olds. On that note i wouldn’t trade my life for anything. But still the weight mother’s carry is tremendously heavy. And with your children i can imagine the extra things you have to do can be exhausting.

    But i found myself depressed letting laundry pile high and floors dirty, basically my house was a wreck and it made me that much more overwhelmed because i didn’t know where to start. But finally with a little help for my fiance telling me the truth i just did it. And it felt amazing to clean my house and have everything back in order, that alone is the most stress relieving thing i can do. The overwhelming feeling is just because you don’t know where to start and being lazy feels so much better. Believe me i know:) haha but start with one room and just finish each room and do some laundry in between and viola your house is clean! I generally do mine when my sons dad is home on the weekends. But since your a SAHM you could probably do a little at a time thru the week and then hit it hard on the weekends!

    You have alot on your plate and recently i have found that working out is my outlet to feeling better about my self. I feel more motivated to do stuff just because i know the pay off of finishing it will be better. You need some time to yourself to make you feel better!

    Good luck with it, i hope you can find some motivation and stick with it!
    It will help! Still with kids though it does get destroyed easily!!!

    Maybe you can get them to help out as well and do some kind of reward system!

    Keep on blogging:)

  26. I hate cleaning. I am not a fan of playing the same games over and over again. That is why I had more than one kid so they could play with each other and leave me the hell alone for a while. Not that that actually works for too long because fighting inevitably breaks out. As far as the cleaning thing goes, I keep my head above water by having Saturday be the family chore day. Cleaning seems so much easier if everyone is doing it and you are not the drudge doing it all. Mostly I keep the kids on task and am the magnet for interruptions while my husband does the majority of the work because the kids actually leave him alone to work.

    PS getting out of the box is hard and a lot of times when I think I have climbed out I really am only fooling myself.

  27. I agree with short spurts (I really think I have untreated ADHD and its VERY hard for me to get anything done, my laundry often sits for weeks, etc)…I will set a time for 15 min, choose a room or chore, and go at it with all my might. Its amazing what you can get done in 15 min if you focus, and then after its over, its time to take a break. Yay. 15 min goes by quickly. My kids who are home will either “help” me clean (follow me around and I’ll assign them simple tasks) or they have to entertain themselves if they can. Again, its all manageable for 15 min at a time. Then after cleaning, we take a break–and then later we play a game together (cars, candyland, etc) but again, for just 15 min (set timer) or else I get bored or need to do other things. But honestly, 15 min of focused, active play is really enjoyed by my kids, and isn’t so long that I get really bored. And I feel good about having given them some play attention, but it didn’t take up the whole morning or drive me crazy. After I play with them, they eat a snack or watch a show while I check email or do my thing. Then later we can repeat the 15 min clean-break-play-break scenario. Anyway, thats just what I”ve found that helps me. Good luck Lexi.

  28. oh and Leah, I take my kids on outings a lot too, to pass the time and keep us all from getting bored and having to play the same thing over and over. It can be hard to manage multiple children on outings (I have 4), but I always choose very kid-friendly places (kids museums, parks, zoos, etc) so its really not too bad. I also find getting out of the house and doing something fun/memorable, helps any depression I may be feeling, and gives me a sense of accomplishment, even if I have to come home to a messy house.

  29. I love reading your blog. Your posts are a perfect blend of honesty and humor. I’m a teacher consultant (HI) and you’ve really helped me see things from the parent perspective. Everything you wrote about the PROF is so true and I’ve been working on how to make IEPs more student/parent friendly and bearable.

  30. Lol – box of shame. Yeah. That pretty much covers it. We are bombarded by guilt-inducing images everywhere we turn: from the super breastfeeding club to the successful business woman AND mother model, to the never messy house that our husbands may want/expect, to freaking Martha Stewart and her homemade EVERYTHING. I, personally, think the secret is that everyone else in the world who isn’t like us, in this respect only, is completely full of shit.

    No one has it all. They can’t. There is always a tradeoff. Doesn’t matter what it is. Sure, you can be a size 2, have a career (not just a job, but a CAREER, damnit!), have a clean house, but the trade off is that you don’t have the relationship you want with your kids and/or spouse. You can have a perfect relationship with your kids, but maybe your marriage suffers because you never fail to put your kids first. Any way you parse this down, something has to give. Mainly it’s my sanity, but that’s another story.

    Love you to pieces. Nut the hell up, Momma, climb out of your box, and go get yourself some chocolate for you and cheetos for the kiddos. A couple more years and the kids aren’t going to want to play and/or cuddle. Enjoy it while you can.


  31. I’m at Disney World and got put into the box of shame yesterday. Off hand comment by my 11yo son that I’m going to crack open a diet coke, go downstairs and watch Dr Phil. I had to remind myself that every day after he gets home from school I give him Xbox time, I’m often finishing up stuff from earlier in the day, and a lot of it is downstairs where dr Phil or some DVR’d show(usually DVR) is on in the background. That is how I cope with folding laundry(and when he gets home the pile of clean is ready to be tackled), paying bills, weeding through papers(neverending!), filing insurance, doing volunteer work on the computer, wrapping gifts, and taking care of all kinds of things. Within 1/2 an hour of him getting home I’m off to get the 16yo, home again, and no more Dr Phil. HW demands, dinner making, taking people places, etc, and back to crazy. Sad that he thinks I’m just downstairs watching TV. But I’ll climb out of that box knowing the truth. Besides, he’s playing Xbox upstairs and can’t see me.

    Also, once they’re all in school it’s a little tiny bit easier to keep the house a little cleaner(but never perfect… It’ll never happen for me). But only because they’re all gone for hours at the same time. I only have two kids. But 5 years apart so I had a kid home with me full time for 10 years, with no built in playmate. That was me. May as well have had 4 kids. But I couldn’t so, I made do. Now it’s different stresses and many emotional ones. I cry more now than I ever did before.

  32. Wow, so many great comments! I just spent the last 20 minutes reading this blog when I should have been cleaning or playing with my kid, but we’re all imperfect and distracted aren’t we? I loved reading all the comments though. Loved the idea about making a list of every little thing you do each day. It actually IS a lot more than you’d think! I also think the internet is a huge cause of low self-esteem for all the reasons everyone said. We should stay away from it more often (but then we’d miss out on some of these great forums right?!). I loved the idea of turning on music for just 20 minutes and dancing around the house while cleaning. Everyday from 10am-10:20am should be music cleaning time. The little ones would think it’s great to clean! And I love that Spenser W. Kimball quote. I printed it out a little over a year ago and it’s hanging on my fridge. It works for me! There are many of us that feel like you Lexi. But know that even you don’t feel like you’re doing much, just by being there for your kids means all the world to them. They’ve got their own mom, who loves them more than anyone else in the world, near them and taking care of their most important needs every day. Your kids are very lucky to have you! As for going Dr. Phil on you, I’m not good at that. How about…..get your butt out of the box and do something hard that has been on your forever to-do list and you’ll feel so accomplished and proud of yourself afterward. For me it’s cleaning the fridge or trimming one of the many overgrown bushes outside. It’s therapeutic.

  33. I finally realized I’m not perfect, accepted it & put my happiness equal to the others in my family. I work 3 days a week and don’t hesitate to give myself half a day to have a little me time. My hubby recognized this as well & got be a membership to Massage Envy. I agree with a previous commenter about not having people over that can’t tolerate my “lived in” house.
    It took me many years to come to this point, but I LOVE me, which helps me love others!

  34. I have no advice to give. I’m just happy to know I’m not the only one who gets bored playing with toddlers. I get stuck in the box of anticipating the day my children are old enough to have rational conversation. Old enough to help with chores. Old enough to walk long distances by themselves. I dream so much of the future that I know I am missing out on today and I’m going to miss this someday. I’m going to want it back. Even so, that’s easier said than done. I spend a lot of time feeling bad for my kids–feeling bad they got me for a mom. But sometimes I remember that they got me and I got them for a reason. And they love me unconditionally. And we are going to be the best of friends someday. I agree with the comment above that as long as they are fed and know they are loved, that’s all that matters.

  35. As someone who also deals with depression on a daily basis (also taking anti-depressants daily, termed “happy pills” in our home), and also has two special needs kids, I feel this way often. A couple of things that have helped me is something I saw on a sign the other day saying “It is never too late to restart the day”. If the day goes by and it is 3:00 and I am still in my pajamas, not having done a bit of housework, if I feel so inclined, I know that I can resolve to make the rest of the day productive, and forget about the earlier part of the day. Another thing that I remind myself often about is who I am really accountable to, in order my Heavenly Father, my husband, and my children. The opinions of others, even extended family members or friends, do not really matter to me as long as I am feeling that I am doing right by Heavenly Father, my husband and my children.

    To be completely honest though, while dealing with depression and the very real feelings that creep up on me for no reason of worthlessness, being a bad mother/wife/person, and feeling alone, some days our house goes into “survival mode” and it seems a miracle that we get through the day, my husband and children anxious for mommy to feel better. Sometimes doing spiritual things help, sometimes some fatty food and some sleep help, other times I just have to wait until the feeling passes. I don’t think we need to feel guilty about these feelings as long as we are trying to get the help we need and pressing forward. I know I am not alone in these feelings, although I feel like it all the time. Sometimes we just have to endure to the end, keep hanging in there.

  36. Do I deal with this? Have we met? And I HATE playing with toddlers. Boooooring. You know what I’ve been trying to do lately, besides just cutting myself some slack? Not judging other moms. Because I find that when I cut everybody else some slack, I’m easier on myself. Also, rather than trying to rationalize why I paid someone to clean my kitchens and bathroom yesterday, I just accept that I hate cleaning, and reading a book is okay. We all have our strengths, and we have to find a way to just accept what they are and stop trying to be EVERYTHING at once. Every mom is different, and even the ones who are totally different than me deserve to be told they’re doing a good job. Even the mom who makes Dr. Suess meals for her kids once a week and decorates for every holiday needs to be told she’s awesome at something she’s insecure about. We need to find a way to create a better culture of understanding and support, instead of insecurity, jealousy, and snarkiness. And I am the most guilty in this area.

  37. Katrina –
    I’m so glad you get what I’m sayin’! 😉 I am SO hard on myself. But I think the moms who ARE hard on themselves…are the best moms. Regardless of our imperfections…because we actually give a crap about our kids, we worry about the little people whose minds we are shaping. And that is more important than that pile of laundry in the hall! 😉

    1. Exactly. If we didn’t give a crap about our families, none of this would matter and life would be measurably easier, methinks. We ARE our own harshest judges much of the time. But I suppose, while it can be draining, in some ways that is a good thing? It’s what keeps us honest and drives us to do better. Ok well, maybe not better about the dishes that have been piling up all week, or the laundry that has been folded but not put away since Monday… but hey, *something’s* got to give, right? 😉

  38. This is a wonderful article! I am creating a play in NYC called broken motherhood museum, and your story and the commenter’s responses ring so true to the issues we’re facing head on in the play. The expectations versus realities of motherhood and how we can self-crucify ourselves for not fitting into this imaginary mold. I shared your article on my play’s facebook page. Please keep up the brave work of sharing so these issues go from damaging solitary darkness into the light.

  39. I am not a mother. In fact, You and I have little in common other than our personalities being identical like we were twins separated at birth who took different paths and somehow found each other later on in life.
    Please know we all do this. No matter who or where or how. And I would also like to know how to climb out of this “twice married career driven no kids trail of mistakes woman now in her 30’s” box of shame. So if you figure it out, let me know. But please understand that you are at least not alone and you by far have the funniest box of shame.
    Also, I compare myself to you all the time and then climb right in my own box. You are much better than me. I wish I was you.

  40. I recognize myself in this post. Seems like a lot of people do. When you feel like you must ALWAYS be doing something it is hard to relax. My favorite Shame Sudoku is feeling guilty for not doing something WHILE I am doing another thing. It’s important to do one thing. Sometimes I say OUT LOUD, “I am not doing the dishes. I am _______”

  41. Lexi, thank you so much for posting this. I resonate COMPLETELY. I am a stay-at-home mum of three little girls, and I have lupus. I pretty much LIVE in the box of shame when it comes to the state of my house. When I am having a flare-up, I physically cannot clean or even keep up with the rate at which my kids create chaos. I’m not what you’d call a “neat-freak”, or a control freak either, but I enjoy the semblance of basic order. Unfortunately, we are a family of mad-scientist-level creative people, so each one of us constantly has at least three different projects on the go at any given time. I don’t want to be a monster and tell my kids they can’t do crafts or play (especially because it often allows me to get some much-needed rest!) but I also often don’t have the energy to bully them into tidying up after themselves.

    I find it very helpful when you start to climb into the motherhood box of shame to speak to yourself with gentleness and lovingkindness and assert that “I am doing my very best. My best may appear different than other women’s, but they also face different challenges.” Write it down and post it somewhere visible, if you need to hear/see that more often.

    And on a VERY practical level, please make sure that you are getting adequate vitamin B12. This is HUGE in being able to cope effectively with stress and have adequate energy levels. If you are currently already taking B12 supplements, do the following experiment: does your pee go fluorescent 15-30 mins after taking your vitamin? If so, this is REALLY good indication that your body is NOT absorbing the B12 and that it is literally just dumping it into your pee. Many people do not adequately absorb B12 for various reasons (diet, celiac disease, dairy allergy, gut damage, etc) and you may need to talk to your doctor about getting regular B12 injections. I get regular B12 injections as part of my lupus management regime and it helps SO MUCH. Feelings of extreme unwarranted guilt or shame are actually a symptom of B12 deficiency. My husband can actually gauge when I need another B12 shot based on the quality of my communication, when I start to express feelings of remorse or guilt or shame or failure where it is unwarranted! It’s amazing how your perspective changes when you are ACTUALLY absorbing this vital nutrient!!

    Be encouraged, Love – you are doing great, and your writing helps many other mums who feel the same.

    ❤ K8

    1. Thank you so much for this response. I hadn’t even thought of b12! I used to take that when I was pregnant. I’ll get some tomorrow.

      I’m sorry that you’ve been there, too, but I’m so grateful for you coming here and offering me support. This is an older post, but I still go back to the responses when I’m feeling myself climb into the box.

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