Hello Guilt

I’ve been speaking with a lot of friends lately about Mom guilt. I think it’s something that comes up for everyone. I’m always the first to tell a friend they shouldn’t feel guilty for something, but we can’t avoid it. We all feel it, myself included. And it can be very overwhelming if you let it consume you. Here’s a snippet of what I could feel guilty about just for today. 

When I think back on my morning, I can think of several things to feel guilty about. I didn’t rush to my toddler, Emmelyn’s bed when she woke up. I was feeding my baby, Deacon and I spent a few extra minutes on Instagram. I fed her cereal for breakfast yet again. I did minimal tummy time with Deacon. I had them playing outside without sunscreen on. I let Emmelyn watch almost an hour of TV while I selfishly did an online exercise class. I kept Deacon outside for probably a lot longer than he was comfortable with because it was a windy day. We had leftover pizza for lunch. Every lunch we eat is microwaved. I was probably on my phone too much. When I was putting Emmelyn down for a nap I got mad at her for stalling and I raised my voice. She cried when I left the room but I needed to go get Deacon down for a sleep. Usually one of them is getting neglected at some point in the day. Em hasn’t napped in over a week and I’m afraid she might be done with naps. I feel guilty for already missing that alone time in my day. 

It doesn’t always make sense but Mom’s feel guilt for everything. My examples from this morning are pretty minor and maybe even petty, but these are thoughts women have everyday and there’s usually bigger, heavier issues sitting in the back of our minds ready to keep us up at night. Motherhood is a giant paradox of conflicting emotions. Am I doing enough for my kids? Am I doing too much for my kids? Is it good for them to go to daycare? Is it super stressful for them to be with a different caregiver all day? Should I stay home with them? Will they get enough education and social skills if it’s just me with them all the time? Am I even capable of being a stay-at-home Mom? There is never a perfect balance and the guilt is never-ending.  I feel guilty for all the time spent with my baby and how confusing it must be for my toddler. I feel guilty that my baby gets way less attention than my first child did when she was a baby. I feel guilty for not throwing the picture perfect birthdays. I feel guilty for having a messy house. I feel guilty when I spend a day cleaning and therefore spend less time with my kids. I feel guilty when I take time to myself and do some self-care. When I’m working, I feel guilty if I have to leave early because of a sick child or if there’s a daycare issue. I feel guilty when my mind is on my kids and I can’t give 100% at work. I feel guilty when I can’t give 100% at home. I felt guilty for going on maternity leave. I feel guilty when I have a list a mile long but I spend the kids nap time on social media instead. I feel guilty for not knowing if I’m parenting them “good enough”. Am I pushing learning numbers and letters too much or not enough? Am I teaching Emmelyn enough life skills so she can survive this cruel world when she’s an adult? I feel guilty for not enjoying every moment with my kids especially when I think about people who have gone to great lengths to have kids, people who can’t have kids, and people who have lost their children. I feel guilty for sometimes wanting a break from my kids. I feel guilty for missing my pre-kid life. I feel guilty for missing my one-kid life. 

The point is, mothers put a lot of pressure on themselves and there is no need to add to the guilt they’re probably already feeling but not telling you.  The stuff I’ve mentioned is just a small part of the things mothers put on themselves. I haven’t even mentioned any of the guilt put on us by grandparents, in-laws, partners, strangers, friends, co-workers, and social media. I know it’s not always intentional, but please think twice before handing out advice that wasn’t asked for. Support women in their decisions even if it’s not something you agree with. We’re all just doing the best we can with what we have and know.

For the mothers, the secret is to not let yourself think about this stuff too much and just let the guilt wash over you. Easier said than done, I know. We don’t want to let the guilt fester and grow until it is all-consuming. When it comes, acknowledge it, say hello, and then let it pass on by. Remember that feeling guilt is normal and we all experience it. And please remember, Instagram and facebook are highlight reels. I’m guilty of only posting the best pictures of my family. I only want to share the cutest pictures of my kids because they’re my favorites. It’s normal. But when we see this everyday, it can be hard to not get caught in the comparative game. We can’t be discouraged every time we see pictures of families that look like they’ve got everything together. Nobody has it all together. Unfollow the people that make you feel bad about yourself or take a break from social media if needed.  I hope as we get older and wiser, there will be less guilt and worry over the small things. I think I’ve noticed this improvement just with the birth of my second child. However I’m assuming as our kids get older, the problems will get bigger and therefore more guilt and worry to deal with. If we can get better at coping with guilt now, maybe we’ll be better equipped to deal with it the tougher stuff later on. 

I’ve heard someone say that guilt is a privilege. I believe this is true. Really, I can give my kids pretty much everything. I can stay home from work and collect maternity leave to look after my baby. I can afford nutritious fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and all the extra foods that I think we need and even some we don’t need. My kids live in a great home with lots of room for them to play, have their own bedrooms, and run around in a huge outdoor space. They have plenty of toys and books to support their growth. I have the means to access any supports needed to foster healthy development for my children. Heck, we’ve even got a cabin at a lake for them to grow up in. I’m fully capable of giving my kids everything they truly need without any question- food, shelter, clothes, sleep, safety, love, and good relationships. At the end of the day, when I think back to what I did or didn’t do with my kids, this is what I need to remember. There will always be guilt for something but for the most part, it’s unnecessary. I’m doing my best. Every Mom is doing her best. If my kids can grow up in a happy home (most of the time) with all their basic needs met and a little bit more, we’re all doing pretty good and they’ll be just fine. 

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