Let me tell you a story about a mom and a really low moment. A fail.
Once there was a mom, who, in a past life, was a Type A, double checking, ultra organized girl. She grew up with a father who would "punish" the iron by setting it in the sink before he left the house, so if it spontaneously grew legs and was still tepid from the ironing done that morning, it wouldn't burn the house down. She grew up thinking that everyone triple checked the door as they exited the house for the day, and ran through not just a mental, but an spoken checklist upon leaving the house.
She had a baby, and although she did experience both pregnancy and baby brain, and the organization started to crack, she was still pretty vigilant about routines, so things went smoothly (for the most part). She was new to this, but she had done her research. She was a good mom.
Then she had another baby. Two under two didn't just crack this careful arrangement. It started to shatter it. Sleepless nights nursing one newborn meant a day of extra cuddles on the couch. Sleepless nights with a newborn and an up at dawn toddler begat chronic sleep deprivation. Two parents and one newborn meant tag teaming - giving each other a chance to breath and maybe even a few sanity breaks. Two parents and two kids meant man on man defense - you were always on duty with someone, and if you weren't, you were frantically working at whatever you needed to do to keep the house running.
But she was a good mom. She kept up her routines with the toddler, and worked hard on establishing them with the newborn. She made sure the diaper bag was stocked with two sizes of diapers and newborn paraphernalia and toddler necessities. She tried to keep the house in decent shape and everyone fed and a relative state of order.
Then one day in those early days of two under two, she was loading up the kids to go somewhere. She was running through her mental checklist as the baby fussed and the toddler created good natured toddler mayhem. Diaper bag in car. Purse in car. Baby into bucket seat. Crap. Toddler is throwing a tantrum because it's taking too long. Ok. Buckle toddler into car. You've got this. Toddler is placated. Baby is sleeping. Whew. Did it.
They got to their destination. She unbuckled the toddler, and as she went to lift the bucket seat, realized that the newborn had shifted and was askew in the car seat. Which was odd. How did that happen?
Because that brand new baby was in her bucket seat, but completely unbuckled. OMG, she'd put the baby in the seat and never buckled the straps. They had driven across town, she realized, with an infant who was totally unsecured in the car. If they'd been in an accident, that baby, that brand new baby, would have nothing restraining her from becoming a projectile. No straps harnessing her into the seat.
The baby was fine. It had been an uneventful ride and the baby slept the entire time. No accidents, no moving violations that would have resulted in a ticket. Grace and luck were on her side.
But the mom freaked out. She was horrified by what she'd done. She was mortified that she'd had such a fail. She started shaking thinking of what might have been, and felt like a crap mom. A bad mom. What kind of mother doesn't buckle her baby in the car before driving? What kind of mother didn't check? She was humiliated and didn't want to tell anyone. She wanted to sink deep into her shame.
After strapping that baby in tight and heading home - too freaked out to finish the outing - she got both kids to sleep and went onto her online mom group and confessed. She wasn't looking for validation, but she felt so guilty she needed to tell someone.
And she was incredibly fortunate.
Instead of lecturing her on car seat safety and why she should always triple check the buckles before even putting her key in the ignition, instead of taking screen shots and gossiping about her to their friends about how they would never, how they couldn't even imagine how such a thing could happen, these moms offered her grace. They assured she she was not a terrible mom. The brain, a brain adjusting to a new routine, especially a sleep deprived brain, is susceptible to blips. Ninety nine percent of the time, she would make it out of the house without forgetting something. This was the one percent. It didn't define her.
They shared their fails. The day they forgot something crucial in the diaper bag. The day they forgot that they'd unlatched the carseat base to vacuum underneath and forgotten to latch it back in. The day they'd walked out of the house with the bucket seat sitting on the kitchen floor and didn't realize until they were at the bottom of the driveway. Each mom who'd had a fail had gone through the same guilt and shame and panic that she had, but it didn't define them. They had a wake up call that they were overwhelmed. They'd been lucky enough to avoid a tragedy, but shocked enough to give their routine some extra attention. They weren't bad moms and neither was she.
By sharing their "fails" with each other, they weren't celebrating mistakes, they weren't bragging about dodging bullets, but they were acknowledging that giving birth and acquiring a new human to care for doesn't make you perfect and even the best moms aren't infallible. A mom who feels that any mistake, even one that resulted in absolutely no harm, means she's been booted from "good mom" status is setting herself up for a very tough road. A mom who convinces herself that she would never put herself in a position for an accident to happen is walking a dangerously prideful path. Sharing a mom fail reminds all of us that sometimes mistakes are there to wake us up. They happen to everyone, and when they happen, we count our blessings that no lasting harm was done, and we remember them to try harder next time.
A few months later, another mom in this group had her second, and she almost repeated this exact scenario. Needy toddler, sleeping baby in a bucket seat. As she was loading the bucket seat into the car, she was struck by the memory of this "fail" that had been shared, and she felt the urge to check the seat. Baby was unbuckled. That mom, the one who tearfully confessed, helped another avoid that situation, just by sharing her story.
If we're too scared of judgment to be honest, too ashamed that the world is full of perfect parents and we've just lost our place among them, then we've lost that supportive mom community that we all desperately need.
If we're real about our fails, brave enough to speak up, and supportive enough to offer someone grace when she is feeling at her lowest, then we've kept that sisterhood of mothers alive. These days, our village and our community are online. It's an easy place
to side eye and judge, when you aren't looking at a mom with tears
streaming down her face.
Be brave. Share your fail. Own your story. It will help you heal, and it could help someone else.
If someone shares their mom fail with you, offer grace, not advice. Share your story with her. If you don't have one, acknowledge your good luck.
Be brave. Be kind. Share your fail, and let it help us all to grow.