“Mom guilt”…it’s an actual thing. For some women, it starts before they’re even pregnant with their first child. When my husband and I started the process of trying to conceive, so many questions popped into my head. Did I wait too long to try? Am I too old? Too young? What if I want to continue on with my career? Then, once I was pregnant, new feelings of shame arose. I shouldn’t have had that glass of wine. Or that sushi. I’m not getting enough sleep. My cravings are controlling my life. Oy!
And all this before I was even an actual mom! Being a mom brings a lot of emotions. Nothing can prepare you for how you’ll feel once you have another person completely dependent on you for everything. Of course, love is the major feeling most people associate with the mother/child relationship, but coming in at a close second is guilt. Often, I wonder if guilt is built in to us moms in order to keep us on our toes and ensure we’re doing the best job we can raising our kids.
However, I also think feelings of shame are thrust upon us through entertainment and media outlets…going back to the 40s and 50s, when Mary Bailey and Donna Reed (coincidentally played by the same actress) portrayed the perfect housewife and mother, who none of us felt we could ever possibly be like. TV moms throughout the decades continued to make us all feel inadequate and like we couldn’t live up to the hype of what the prime example of a mother is.
Fast forward to today and a little thing called Pinterest. Nothing makes a mom feel hopeless and helpless like the perfect lives that are portrayed on that app. Do these kinds of mothers really exist?! The ones who throw the extravagant birthday parties for their children? The ones who have pert body parts daily displayed in expensive yoga pants despite having birthed multiple babies? The ones who cook a seven course dinner each and every night for their beloved family? I cry foul. I believe these mommy bloggers are either robots or fake personas invented by men who dream of having this kind of wife and mother for their children. Or, at least maybe pert yoga mom sucks at cooking, and nightly feast mom’s house looks like it’s straight out of an episode of Hoarders. Something’s gotta give! And maybe we well-rounded moms who are mediocre at everything we do are the real winners!
But, I digress. I personally like to give myself a break in a lot of areas that other moms may feel guilty about. I hate to cook, but I only feed my kids organic food, so that cancels out the guilt of not having a huge dinner on the table every night. And, I do buy a lot of my kids’ clothes at the thrift store, but they never leave the house with a wrinkle, hole, or stain on any of their garments, so I’m good there. And as far as them having enough “stuff”, my children are blessed with the most generous relatives known to man, so they have plenty of material items.
Of course, I do suffer from my share of mom guilt. As an insomniac, I spend a lot of time lying in the dark and overthinking every aspect of my life. How I’m failing my daughters usually tops the list. I find the most shame in my inability to control the volume of my voice when speaking to my kids. Okay, I’m talking about yelling. Yep, I’m a bona fide “yeller”! I try to start my days as calmly as possible, and promise myself I’ll at least attempt to count to ten before blowing my top. Unfortunately, my three daughters are not morning people, and we usually don’t make it out the door to go to school before I let loose on them. My husband is woken daily by the loud communication style my daughters and I engage in at the beginning of each day.
My other sore spot is that I feel like I don’t spend enough time with my children. My oldest daughter is thirteen and I see my time with her slipping away as she rapidly approaches adulthood. What you don’t realize when your kids are little is that as they get older, they spend less and less time with you, so it might be too late when you realize that you hardly see them anymore and that they’ll be flying the coop before you know it. This year was the first in my oldest daughter’s life that she didn’t go trick-or-treating with us as a family. Be still my heart. I thought I was going to die when she asked if she could go with her friends. Wish I’d known last year was the final time I’d be walking her around the hood to get treats from our neighbors…I would have savored that time a little more.
And just this past weekend, while she was out-of-town at a soccer tournament, I painted her room for her. A while back, she’d asked if we could paint her room blue, and it occurred to me that if I didn’t pull the trigger on this project now, it may never happen and she’ll be packing her things to go off to college in a room with white walls. Yes, I’m an extremely sentimental being who already dreads my kids leaving me one day, and I’m forever haunted with feeling like I don’t spend enough time with them while they’re here under my roof. I’m sure plenty of empty nester moms wish they could go back in time and pay more attention to their kids while they were around.
But, all in all, I think I’m a good mom. In fact, I try very hard to be the mom I wish I had. I had an excellent mother, but growing up in the eighties, all moms were more laissez-faire about raising us kids, so we kind of did our own thing and found our own way. I try to strike the balance between “hands off” mom and the now ubiquitous helicopter mom. Whatever I can do to keep my daughters from hating me one day, that’s what I do, and I think I’m pretty adept at it. That said, we’ve only just started to navigate teenage territory, so I’m sure I have some surprises in store for me as each of my kids get closer to adulthood.
I don’t know if all moms feel guilty all the time like I do. I suspect they do. I know most of my girlfriends definitely carry the burden of shame through each day of raising their kids. Like I said before, perhaps it’s a healthy kind of shame, one that makes us the best moms we can possibly be. If so, that’s something we can be proud of.