Forgiving My(self as a) Mother

We didn’t see the sun when we expected to. Rain fell. It was gentle, delaying the morning. I wanted to listen to the patter, but Monday means breakfast and off to school. So I focused on being a mother, keeping the kids to our schedule, tuning out the usual whines and protests and tears because only one of three wanted to go to school. Only one of three packs her bag with joy. Soon enough, even she was crying because her school starts a full hour after her brothers’.

I got the boys to school on time. Neither would get out of the car. The tears and protests turned into wails and threats. I pulled out of the drop-off line to try and understand the tearful middle child. His stomach hurt. His brother was in the middle of a meltdown. There was nothing to be done there except hold my tongue and drive him home. No point in dropping off a child at school when the school will call you before you get a block away to come back. I used my best judgment.


Two of three kids did not make it to school. They came home with me screaming and crying the whole way. I was ill-prepared for the morning. Uncaffeinated, overtired, exhausted from another night of nightmares and children kicking me as I tried to sleep. The emotional barrage was too much. I broke.

I became my mother.

My mother in her least fine moments. She had plenty of beautiful, loving moments. I became her when she uncoiled her tongue, revealing it to be a whip. I lashed my children soundly. For a few minutes, I hated them and the small window of freedom they’d denied me. To be honest, I hated the world. And when it was over, I hated myself because all I could think about was how much I had hated my mother when she spoke harshly to me as a child.

But I pulled myself together. It took enough tears to wash the dishes in my sink, but the pieces of me reconnected.

Forgiveness begins when I recognize how difficult the moment was for myself. I achieve clarity when I recognized that, while it was not my finest moment, just like my mother, I was doing my best.

Parenting is hard. It doesn’t serve me or my children if I punish myself for my mistakes. I have to forgive myself and try again. Otherwise I will be stuck defining myself by my mistakes.

A friend said, “I expect what we do to nourish them far outweighs our bad.”

He was right. My mother gave me more good than bad. If I look at the day by hour, I am clearly doing more good than bad.

I am a human being. I am going to make mistakes. I try my hardest every day to be the mother my children deserve. Today I fell short for a few minutes. But I was not born knowing how to be a mother. I am learning as I go. I often have to take it minute by minute. Yes, I lost myself for a few, but I found my way home again.

Instead of mentally berating myself, I am having a cup of tea and another good cry. Then I am going to celebrate how much I care about my kiddos. Even if they can’t see it right now. Just as I see it with my mom, that goodness is there. I am succeeding.

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

2 Discussion to this post

  1. Yes to all of this. We all have moments when we fail—to expect anything else is madness. But forgiving ourselves and moving on models to our kids that we all make mistakes and that’s ok. They’ll be better off because of it.

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