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What's your deepest, darkest secret? Moms confess in our survey

Aug. 10, 2011 at 8:03 AM ET

Every mom has a secret.

“I cry myself to sleep sometimes because I am overwhelmed and I don't feel like I can talk to anyone about it.”

“I honest to goodness do not like my son most of the time and knowing that KILLS me.”

“I believe ice cream for breakfast is not such a bad thing.”

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Shhh! Don't tell anyone, but secretly I...

TODAY.com and Parenting.com surveyed more than 26,000 moms about their secrets and confessions – and discovered plenty that doesn’t get discussed at play dates. Even in our post-Oprah, confessional culture, there are some things moms just don’t say out loud.

Sometimes the secrets are things we do:

  • Nearly one in five moms admits medicating their child to get through a special event like a plane flight; one in 12 does it just to get some peace and quiet on a regular night.
  • Half have knowingly sent a sick kid to daycare or school.
  • 85 percent use their kids to get out of social obligations.
  • Nearly one in three uses work as an excuse to avoid taking care of the kids.

And sometimes the secrets are thoughts we don’t dare tell anyone else:

  • 44 percent of moms would rather be 15 pounds thinner than add 15 points to their child’s IQ.
  • One in four fears their partner is a better parent than they are.
  • One in ten wishes their child was the opposite sex – and of those moms, 60 percent have boys.

Top 10 juiciest mom confessions from our new partner, Parenting.com

Over the next week, TODAY Moms will be exploring the reality of motherhood – not some sanitized or dramatized version, but the truth told to us by thousands of moms.

The bottom line of this survey: You’re not alone. Someone else feels overwhelmed (lots of people, actually). Someone else yells too much, or gives in too easily, or locks herself in the bathroom for quiet time. Someone else feels judged – or judgmental. Someone else wonders if ice cream for breakfast is really so bad. (It’s just really cold milk, right?)

Related post: Moms confess to drugging kids for peace and quiet

So let’s declare this a judgment-free zone. If you’re a perfect mom who’s never made a mistake, thanks for stopping by, but you won’t be needed here. For the rest of us, let’s get real.

Related post: What's the TODAY Moms editor's big secret?

By far, the biggest secret most moms confessed is feeling overwhelmed.

One mom wrote anonymously: “People frequently remark that I seem to have everything ‘so together.’ I don't!  I find myself crying in the car on my way to work because I am so overwhelmed.”

Another shared: “I am managing to hold it all together and still be sane. In reality I am on the verge of a breakdown at any time and who knows what is going to push me over the edge!”

Bethany Greenwood Cox, a mom of two from Huntsville, Ala., relates to feeling overwhelmed and says she wishes more moms would talk openly about the sad and scary parts of being a parent.

“There is so little honesty about how things really are,” she told TODAY Moms. Sure, she loves her daughters more than life itself and she peeks into their rooms while they’re sleeping and feels that wave of love and sweetness. But there are also days when she misses her freedom, days when she doesn’t particularly like her kids (or herself) and days she feels totally unprepared to be a parent.

“This is information that seems ugly, which is why people don't talk about it.  I do know mothers who seem perfect, and who probably would be shocked and horrified to hear me admit that I don't like my little angels regularly,” Cox says. “If we could all just be a little bit more honest with each other about the realities of the situation, that would relieve at least part of the pressure.”

Join TODAY Moms editor Rebecca Dube for a Facebook chat about our secrets survey on Thursday.

Cox is exactly right, says parenting expert and mom of three Michele Borba, author of “12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know.” Opening up to other moms about the stress of in-the-trenches parenting is one of those simple secrets that can save a woman’s sanity.

Moms these days feel more competitive and less supported than ever before, Borba says.  Many don’t have extended family close by to lend a hand.

Add to that the stress of tough economic times, with many moms working one or more jobs to make ends meet – and still trying to stay super-involved with their kids’ lives.

“It’s a toxic mix,” Borba concludes. “Moms are getting panic attacks, they’re not sleeping, they’re overwhelmed.”

While confessional blogs and even books about being a “bad mom” abound, Borba says, they don’t replace the power of in-person conversations in the carpool line, over coffee or on the playground. When you actually tell another mom how you’re feeling, chances are you’ll feel recognized, relieved and validated -- not outcast.

“That’s the golden thing, when you share with another mom and you’re open with another mom, you’re going to get a laugh,” she said. “We all have deep down one thing in common: we want our kids to turn out healthy and happy.”

Share with us: What’s your biggest mom secret? When you feel overwhelmed as a parent, how do you cope?

At TODAY Moms, we're all about honesty. Honestly. Check out these links for more:

Decoding temper tantrums (the kind mom and dad throw)

Coming out of the bed-sharing closet

Wow, this raising kids thing is taking forever

5 ways dads are better parents than moms

Your photos: How we love our kids and pets

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