Life Lesson #587: Setting yourself up for failure

On New Years Eve a few weeks ago, I had quite the epiphany about myself, and parenting and my ability to set myself up for failure (again) almost 11 years into this parenting caper.

We were staying with Rob’s Dad and step mum over Christmas and New Years for over 10 days, which we have done for the past 12 years now. While we may not always make it for Christmas, we have never missed a New Years Eve (except for one when we were in Paris) in the past 12 years where we usually sit under the stars and enjoy a lovely dinner with kids or no kids, friends or just the four of us, it’s been a constant throughout our time together as a couple and I love it.

When we are staying with them, the four adults take turns cooking for us all to spread the effort and this year I offered to cook on New Years Eve, for the 4 of us and another couple who were coming. I wanted to show everyone that I love them, like I often do, by cooking a delicious dinner for us all and taking the load off Sue who normally has to cook on New Years. I decided on slow cooked lamb & salad which I figured was easy because it could cook for many hours and wouldn’t get overdone as I dealt with the ever changing 2 year old who may or may not have had a sleep or may or may not go to sleep easily.

See the trouble already?

Like many times in my parenting career, I tried to time everything PERFECTLY and of course plans and parenting never work well do they? The lamb was in, the kids could eat early and then I would get Maggie to bed before the adults ate late around 9pm. Surely that would be enough time right? Rob also made a heap of nibbles to keep adults from starving and or drunkeness as they waited for dinner.

I took Maggie off to bed, of course she could smell my desperation to get back and decided not to go to sleep easily at all. Instead of just going with the flow (when will I EVER do that with kids and sleep I wonder) I decided to stick my heels in. SHE WOULD GO TO SLEEP AND I WOULD GO DOWN AND SERVE A DELICIOUS MEAL EVERYONE WOULD LOVE BECAUSE THAT’S HOW I PLANNED IT IN MY HEAD DAMMIT. I stayed there waiting, stroking her hair, singing sweet nothings, getting angrier and angrier as the time ticked on….8.30…8.45….9pm…

Of course in my head at this time everyone was starving and wondering what was happening and questioning why they let me cook (of course they were happily laughing and sitting and drinking and couldn’t have cared less). I stormed down there with an awake Maggie (who was funnily enough REALLY awake now) gave her to Rob and gave him a look of death and resentment for ever knocking me up in the first place, served up dinner apologetically insisting that everyone start and then took awake Maggie (who was literally about to fall asleep on the couch) up to our room to start all over again.

I was sad.
I was mad.

Maggie eventually went to sleep (like they always do) and I sat on the floor crying tears of disappointment. Mostly in myself. But at all the times that I have sat on the floor waiting for children to sleep…it felt like out of those 12 years 9 or more have been spent pregnant, or not how I had planned it, while Rob sat out and enjoyed them all. Of course he hadn’t! Of course while I am stuck in with kids he’s likely feeling bad that he can’t help, or that whichever child only wants me, and not him, wishing that I would relax more and go with the flow. Maybe, that’s just my guess.

He came up and tried to scoop me off the floor, the big girls telling me to wipe my eyes and go and enjoy the night. But I was too far down my road of self disappointment, and despite the fresh lip and forced smile when I eventually did rejoin everyone, the food was cold and yuck, just like my mood.

Of course it was a week or so later when I re-telling this story to Nikki when she was staying with us and we were out on a morning walk/therapy bitch session that I realised I fell into an old trap of mine: the old setting myself up to fail.

That old chestnut.

I should never have suggested cooking dinner for everyone knowing what I had ahead of me with 3 kids to get to bed. I should never have forced sleep time as that shit NEVER goes down well. I should have relaxed, and not stuck my heels in.


I completely set myself up for ALL those things…of course I was alone with a kid on NYE because that’s what ALWAYS happens.

Except it doesn’t.

I wonder how much I do this throughout the year? Especially with parenting toddlers, where I seem to struggle the most and will happily own up to as I fumble my way through this shite all over again. If it’s not working….why not change it?

I know I do this weightloss or exercise: setting BIG unachievable goals (lose 10 kgs by x or walk 5 plus kms every day) that funnily enough I can’t seem to do, so I can just give up on because: TOLD YOU SO BETH. Or getting angry at Rob or anyone for not doing x y or z but then not accepting ANY help. All that self sabotage. Setting myself up to fail.

It’s a focus of mine for sure this year.

Don’t say yes if you don’t or can’t do it.
No is OK.
Set smaller goals.
Be open to help and gratefully accept it in whatever messy non-Beth way it comes.
Set myself up for success, not failure.
And fucking LOOSEN up Leeroy.

So that’s my navel gazing first life lesson for the year. I’m going to try and lean into this toddler business rather than fighting against it. You know it was one of the main reasons I thought about & questioned when weighing up having a third kid…and here it is all coming true just as I thought it would be. Sure it’s frustrating, but my GOD the joy of it. Lean into the mess, the tantrums, the fighting, the eye rolls and fighting between siblings, marriage 12 years in…of it…it’s wonderful, messy life.

And it won’t always be this way.
Despite my mind telling me it will be.

Do you have any life lessons/light bulb moments you’d like to share?
Have anything you are focusing on in 2018…?

Illustration by Brooke Smart (she has some wonderful mother/daughter illustrations you should check out).


  1. Oh my gosh I hear you sister….me all over 🙄

    I make a hell of a lot of work for myself whatever I do, overthink and over plan everything and yes, set myself up to fail.

    I had the crappest Christmas with extra friends, also my sons 1st Christmas, just because I wanted to do it all and impress people I’ve never met all with 4 kids including a baby in the house….

  2. Oh Beth, you and I could be twins! I’m sure there will be many others who will comment exactly the same thing.

    My mantra for this year is to give myself a break, say no more often to things that might be expected of me, and to be OK with my decision. Not to be a people pleaser, not to do things “the right” way & to use my words & actually communicate with my family, instead of getting the shits that they don’t do things when I want them done – because they CAN’T READ MY MIND!!

    I work as a PT & am constantly giving of myself to my clients (which I love, don’t get me wrong), but this year I have signed up for an online coaching course which is all about me. Nourishing me emotionally & physically. I’ve also made a promise to myself to give up booze for 365 days & the difference in my outlook has been quite extraordinary. I sleep better. I am a nice person. A nicer mum & wife.

    I’m 47 & have just had my own epiphany & it’s actually been pretty great. I am sure that things will come up in 2018 which will test me, but I think if we look back at this post, it will be a good kick up the bum.

    Thank you!

  3. Emma Taber says

    This past Christmas was different as my marriage ended nearly two years ago and this was our first Xmas we didn’t spend together. Although this brought many other complex emotions, it was first Christmas in forever where I wasn’t caught up in trying to make everyone happy or doing ALL the things. It was simple and all about my children. I won’t lie, it was hard but probably the most peaceful Xmas for a long time.
    We are our own harshest critics and place so much pressure on ourselves. Light and love Beth for a year of self love.

  4. Well done for acknowledging all that and realising that there are things you can do to change the situation. And even bigger cheer for sharing it here.
    Cheers Kate

  5. Thanks for sharing
    Love reading your blogs
    Cheers to 2018

  6. I am the queen of setting lofty goals, of putting a stupid amount of pressure on myself & for setting a high standard that nobody, especially me, can live up to. It’s soooooo annoying & frustrating!
    These are the things I have learnt to accept over the last few years-
    1.It is easier if I just lay down with the kids every single night. Yes it’s annoying & I wish I dint have to buy the shitfight just ain’t worth it. I take my phone or book in there & stay until both are asleep.
    2. I will never have a flat tummy or be thin again. It’s ok. I aim for veggies at at least 2/3 meals, 2 litres of water & 30 mins on my treadmill more days than not. I do not care about my size, shape or weight I just want to be healthy. So freeing!
    3. I am not a patient mum & will lose my shit fairly regularly. So bloody what! My kids all know which buttons to press, I’ve not had a decent night sleep in yeeeeeears & im kinda oldish too. All of this contributes to me not being as patient as I’d like to be but I try ( & fail ) daily. That counts right?

    We will always be our own worst critic but I am trying my hardest to speak & treat myself like I do my friends. Being kind, forgiving & encoraging to myself makes a big difference! I hope you can do the same Beth x

  7. Tamara Crowe says

    I really enjoy ( and often LOL) reading your lessons in life and pearls of wisdom. I read your post on random acts of kindness recently and decided with 2 recent online purchases I made for myself that I would keep one for myself but surprise a dear childhood friend of mine with the other (and it was your post that inspired this). You’re an amazing woman Beth and by you keeping it real it makes all us other Mums/Wives feel that deep down we really are all the same. Keep being you and here’s to 2018 being a cracker year!

  8. Sounds like you are wound a bit tight! Nearly everything doesn’t matter, honest. My kids are older… it does get better. Then you can fret about how they ignore you. A good quote from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: Two tears in a bucket. Motherfuckit.”

  9. Oh man this post really spoke to me today. I’m knee deep in this toddler business too and I have a 4 month old as well. Some days are good and some days, where I push the toddler too far or have the expectation of being able to do a simple task like going to the supermarket can just push me over the edge. Then all the feelings of disappointment, embarrassment, disillusionment and unworthiness to mother a child crowd in. This is a hard gig x

  10. I HEAR you!

    If/when you learn how to accept the work of friends who mean well and want to help but just do it my ‘right’ let me know. I have some friends who can step in and help and we work together fabulously because they get it. Everyone has a good time. Others …. well I want more. I ask what is wrong with me? Why can’t I just leave it!? Why is it more important to do things to my ‘standard’, end up disappointed and alone knowing that’s what I am doing it as I do it! Looking for wisdom! 🙂
    Looking forward to sharing another year!

    Best wishes. Sx

  11. How appropriate that I’m reading this sitting on the floor of my toddlers room feeling all those same frustrations!!!!!

    Tears shed here too although probably not as many as you as I’m only 2 and a bit years into motherhood. I can’t let things go either however baby #2 has softened me slightly out of necessity. Kids and sleep is my one thing that I absolutely can not go with the flow on though, no way, never. I can’t help getting all anxious about it all and self destruct when things don’t go well. So many times I have sat and cried listening to my husband having fun with whoever we are staying with/staying with us while I sit in the dark and wait. Stressing about dinner and what time we will eat. Imagining how they are all angry about having to wait. No, sadly I am usually the only angry one 🙁

    One thing I do try and remember that helps me sometimes though is that you can’t control every situation and the people (mostly my toddler) in it but you CAN control how YOU react to it. I still have times when I end up an angry, anxious mess crying over everything that went wrong but it does work sometimes!

    Thanks for sharing Beth and once again making us other mums out there feel normal!
    You have helped pass the time well while waiting for toddler sleep to come tonight.

  12. My word this year is easy
    Go easy on myself and choose the easy option, usually by saying NO!
    I never choose the easy option as it feels lazy.
    Easy 2018.
    Always love your insights Beth, best wishes for 2018

  13. Oh Beth, so well said. Both the need to actually achieve something important to you (serving and enjoying NYE dinner) and to be the kind of Mum you want to be.
    I had a lightbulb moment about 2 years ago.
    Imagine if we stopped trying to change ourselves!!
    Doesnt mean that I am not trying to be fitter and need to lose some weight and want to be less of a fretter but it helps me to assess some of my “shoulds”.

    Saw a quote I love “You do enough, you have enough, YOU ARE ENOUGH” Deep breath in, deep breath out.

  14. How have I not read this post until now? Yes! So much yes! But we do eventually learn and we don’t make the exact same mistakes forever. Maggie won’t be a (loved but annoying – because aren’t they all) toddler forever.

    On the days that I go with the flow everyone is so much happier. But it doesn’t happen often – it’s not in my nature.

    And you’re right about the husbands. As I sit in with whichever kid won’t $&@?inf sleep resenting my husband for doing whatever it is he’s doing – he’s feeling terrible that just once, they won’t let him do it so I can have a break.

    It gets easier right? Right?

  15. Seriously Beth… yet again it is as if you are writing about my life. Oh god… from that very first blog post I read of yours about “Great Expectations”… I just get it. Your stories really resonate with me.. This is SO ME when I was in the toddler trenches…. so me. I feel like it has taken me 13 years to wake up to myself and stop stressing and being such a control freak. I know my third is a bit older than yours but i have basically given up… he goes to bed at around 9pm with his brother now (maybe later – and on a school night – gasp….) and guess what – we all survive… he does get to sleep in because: home schooled. My other 2 would have been in bed by 7pm at his age (maybe earlier if I decided to wind the clock forward 1/2 an hour to trick them…. ha ha ha. So I get it. I have been there – in that mood, crying, beating myself up “oh you are such a cranky cow Dan, you have wrecked everyone’s NYE” I am so hearing you and have spoken those words to myself so many times… but I don’t think anyone else really notices apart from us Beth. They are all too busy drinking copious amounts of wine and having fun. ha ha ha. Thanks so much for sharing this. I just love it. I am so behind on your posts so am having a bit of a binge today. xxx

Speak Your Mind