Hello, my name is Lacy and I’m a self-diagnosed chronic Failure Cloud sufferer since becoming a foster parent in December of 2008. The Failure Cloud is a condition in which (not unlike Eeyore of Winnie-the-Pooh fame) a dark cloud of negativity hovers over a parent and fills them with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy and guilt. Once the Failure Cloud appears, it’s nearly impossible to shake because it follows its victims as they peruse Pinterest, scroll their Facebook newsfeed, ache over every chapter of their mountains of parenting books, and so on. Sound familiar?
In The Rocking-Horse Winner, D.H. Lawrence wrote of a home where an outwardly successful young mother is haunted by a sense of failure and the children note that the house seems to echo “There must be more money! There must be more money!”
The Failure Cloud isn’t really about money but instead: perfection (or rather the inability to achieve perfection). The Failure Cloud whispers: “You are failing as a parent! Everyone else is doing it far better than you! Failure! Failure!”
I believe T.F.C. (The Failure Cloud) is a chronic condition suffered by basically good parents. These are people who want to create the perfect childhood for their precious children with creative Pinterest-inspired crafts, educational-sensory-stimulating activities, professional-looking scrapbooks, perfectly-edited GoPro movies, magazine-worthy themed parties, Mommy-Blogger photo ops, essential oil blends for every ailment, and homemade gluten-free organic fair trade snacks served in canning jars. While accomplishing all of that, they attempt to potty train their infants, take their children to various extracurricular activities (swimming lessons, soccer practice, piano recitals, art camp, Pony Club, 4-H, Scouts, etc.) while wearing their babies in style, magically find time to homeschool genius kids who realign satellites with their “Weird Science” microwave-Lego-laptop inventions, and then update their family on everything via social media *sigh* (except Aunt Sally who must be emailed since she refuses to join Facebook *sigh sigh*). Oh, and these amazing wonder-parents are HOT, SKINNY, lift weights, run a successful home-based business, have glorious sex lives, and look fabulous naked (I’m guessing on that last one).
Guess what? Sufferers of T.F.C. honestly think they could accomplish ALL of those things if they weren’t such complete failures at life and parenting. I. Am. Not. Kidding. Let me tell you, friends, absolutely no one can do it all. Not the Mommy Bloggers. Not the Pinterest-posters. Not the crunchy Tula-wearing latte-toting parents who seem to have it all together. Don’t fall for it because it’s an illusion.
Here’s the truth: That blogger you know who is posting AMAZING crafts that she’s done with her children probably has to beg them to stop picking their noses so she can take a picture. The totally cool earthy mom who makes clothing for her children, just fell asleep in her sewing room while her gorgeous cherubic littles took a Sharpie to her face and their lovely handmade clothes. The dad who hauled his baby girl’s pony to the horse show and is now watching her jump a darling dapple grey over teeny tiny oxers… well, he can’t remember the last time he got to read a grown up book. Long after my foster children left, I experienced anxiety over my parenting. Did I do enough? Was I just another adult who let them down? Then, when when we adopted Caleb: the Cloud returned with nagging guilt over all the silly debates in the parenting world breastfeeding vs. formula, cloth vs. disposable diapers, designer carseat vs. affordable carseat, homemade baby food vs. store-bought baby food, and so on. My friends tell me that it starts before they even get pregnant: from their diet to their future birth plan for their future baby (who doesn’t even exist yet but will somehow be traumatized for life should they be born by c-section or some other method).
You know what? I got TONS of advice from other moms and dads when we announced our pending adoption, but absolutely no one warned me about The Failure Cloud — yet every single parent I know suffered its horrors at some point. So, let it go. If Pinterest makes you feel inadequate instead of inspired: delete the app from your phone. If a Mommy-Blogger seems just too good to be true: don’t visit her site any longer. Recognize your strengths as a parent and expand on them. Let no one take away your joy or make you feel guilty because you are denying your child <insert first world privilege here>.
Also, stop thinking that you’ve failed as a parent because you:
2.) Moved to a different house or apartment.
4.) Have to say, “No.”
5.) Don’t have time to do every single thing on your list.
6.) You (or your spouse) deployed.
7.) Have experienced loss, illness, or unemployment.
This is life and you are showing your child how to navigate its ups and downs as an adult. More important than anything else, your job as a parent is to love and care for your child. Forgive yourself for being human* and move forward.
Every so often, I realize that The Failure Cloud is casting its shadow over me. Instead of wallowing in it, I call a friend and we talk about our Clouds. We praise each other’s strengths and we mourn our weaknesses, but mostly we just acknowledge that we are doing our very best and that our best is still a whole lot of awesome.
*I’ve been advised to point out that none of this applies to abusive parents. Abusive parents don’t suffer from The Failure Cloud.