Egos have no place in motherhood

My mommy ego took a bruising this week when my daughter’s kindergarten teacher summoned me to a conference.

I thought my daughter was sailing through her first year of school, so I was surprised to find out she is way behind in reading. You see, every day she comes home with these little beginner reading books. She turns them in and gets another one. Sometimes we read them right way; sometimes we take a few days. Sometimes we lose a book and don’t get a new one for a week until we finally find it wedged beneath a couch cushion.

Whatever. It’s kindergarten, right? Well, turns out, wrong. Other parents were taking this learning to read thing a lot more seriously, and my daughter was paying for it. She was losing confidence as other students moved on to the next level of books.

As the teacher told me this, I just couldn’t believe my laissez-faire attitude about these books was really putting her that far behind. Then she hit me with the facts: All the other kids were done with the series of 52 books. My daughter is on book 20.

I handed over my Mother of the Year Award and skulked out of the classroom. OK, what I really did was burst into tears. I don’t mean a few welled-up tears; I mean tears-pouring-while-trying-not-to-cry-by-making-an-ugly-face meltdown. The teacher (who is amazing by the way) consoled me and told me my daughter is fully capable of recovering from this setback.

I’m grateful for a teacher who cares enough about my daughter to meet with me. But I couldn’t help feeling like a failure and a little foolish for having no idea.

Once again, life reaffirmed to me that becoming a mother doesn’t mean you have all the answers. It doesn’t even mean you know the right questions to ask.

So after the initial ego blow and mild meltdown in front of her teacher, I reminded myself that ego has no place in motherhood. Who cares if I messed up? Who cares if I feel embarrassed and a little stupid right now?

There will hundreds more times when I feel like the lamest mother on the planet. There is no mothering manual doled out in the maternity wards. (Although, how great that would be?) Like most moms, I am fumbling my way through. And when I mess up, I pick myself up, lick my wounds and refocus on what is important. Today, that’s my 5-year-old daughter who is embarrassed to turn in her book at school.

Tomorrow, something else will humble me. Something else will chip away at the mommy ego I had before I actually knew what it meant to be a mother. And from each flaw and misstep, I will learn and grow alongside my children — and hope they can overlook my shortcomings.

Do you have any moments that deflated your mommy ego? How do you deal with them?


  1. Danny Chipman

    Aww, don’t feel too bad, Erin. Nobody’s perfect. As a fellow egotist, I feel your pain. I feel bad that I don’t fill in every space on the 20-minutes-a-night reading chart my own kindergartener brings home, or that I haven’t gotten around to teaching her irregular spelling rules (though we have mastered all the major diphthongs). I was disappointed when informed at parent-teacher conferences that she still needed work on counting to 100 (we had her up to 200 at one point, but I slacked off on the constant drilling) and that her penmanship was slipping a little (also the result of my lack of drilling).

    But hey, I’m 9 months pregnant, still fairly confident she’s one of the brightest in the class, and there’s still the summer to start her on times tables, cursive, English grammar, and all that good stuff. So I’m learning (with some effort) to let go for the moment.

  2. Melanie

    Maybe you can get two books to read each night instead of one to help her go through them faster? It’s great you know about the problem and that you care so you’re going to help her get up to speed. I see plenty of parents at our school who don’t even have their kids do their homework and their kids are in first grade and can’t read.

  3. Debbie

    Unfortunately kindergarten is not what it was when my kids were young. It is more pressure for moms and kids. Kids really need to KNOW how to read before entering, not just know their ABCs. It use to be more for learning socializing skills now many states have required pre-k programs and recommended half days for 3 yr olds! It doesn’t help that the other blog right above yours is about “growing bookworms” by motherhood matters (wonderful blog btw) to just stab the guilt a little deeper! Just keep plugging along-you are a great mom!

  4. Momof7

    My oldest was terrible at reading. She couldn’t read much of anything in 1st grade. However, things clicked around 2nd grade and then she loved reading. By 4th grade was the best reader in the class. My oldest son still doesn’t like to read. He thinks reading fiction is a waste of time yet the stories he writes when forced to for a grade, are amazing. The rest of my children who are old enough to read are great readers. I don’t think any of us are perfect when it comes to teaching our children different skills.

    I personally have to put my ego aside when it come to potty training my children. I’m lousy at it. I get mad and impatient which just makes it worse for the child. I finally figured out after number 4 that my husband is great at potty training. He is very patient and doesn’t get upset so I’ve turned that job over to him. Should I feel terrible when he has success but I don’t? Maybe–but I don’t give it much thought now a days.

  5. Erin R.

    Oh, dear! I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have known, either, had I been in your shoes. It’s good that the teacher finally told you. This is your first trip through kindergarten, so nobody can expect you to just magically know how things are done. Try not to worry about it. Your little girl will get the hang of reading and won’t be set back by this in the end.

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