Mom guilt. I think it’s safe to say that every mother experiences it. And the reasons why we feel guilty are endless.
Since the day my oldest was born, I have felt some form of guilt. Want to know what my first reason was for experiencing mom guilt? I didn’t have clothes small enough to fit my baby boy. You see, he was born three weeks early, weighed only 5 lbs., 11 oz. and the smallest undershirts and sleepers I had for him were size 0-3 months, which he was swimming in. I had no way of knowing that these clothes would end up being too big for my newborn and yet there I was feeling guilty for having baggy clothes for my tiny, skinny son.
The guilt has continued since that day, and when I think about some of the things I have agonized over as a mother, when I really let it sink in, I realize that I have been incredibly hard on myself, as I’m sure other mothers have.
From not being able to breastfeed to experiencing postpartum depression; from having to go back to work to missing firsts or missing school drop off and pick up — these are some of many reasons I have allowed myself to think that I am letting my kids down.
Over the years there have been many times when I have thought to myself “I’m a bad mom,” but this year is when I have felt it the most. In the thick of my depression last spring I had days where it was challenging for me to get out of bed (though I did any way), let alone keep it together to be a parent to my son and daughter. I was heavy with mom guilt; every move I made I felt like I was failing somehow.
I needed to make changes; to lift some of the weight off my shoulders and find happier days again. I saw my family doctor, sought help from a therapist and started taking better care of myself again. Mom guilt was a major topic in the conversations I had with my therapist. She helped me see that I needed to pick my battles and that I needed to learn to let go of the guilt. She also urged me to do things that make me happy and not feel guilty about doing it. So I made more of an effort to give myself breaks by going to a yoga class or spending time in a coffee shop with my laptop to work on my writing. I also resolved to find a job that was more fulfilling…and I did.
In August I started a new job, one that has given me the chance to work from home four days a week. When I accepted the position I felt so excited about being home and being around for my kids more. Finally, I was escaping the reality of working in an office Monday to Friday and spending many hours a week commuting to and from the office. These were reasons that kept me away from my kids more than I wanted to be, and thus I felt a lot of guilt about.
Yet here I am over two months into this new chapter in my career and the guilt is still there, but now for new reasons. For example, when my son and daughter come home from school and want me to sit and play with them, but I have to work so I quickly get them settled with a snack and occupied with something to do before I rush back to my laptop.
When I found out about my new job I thought it was going to be the solution to part of my mom guilt problem. But the truth is, while it has brought positive changes to my life, it didn’t change the fact that there will always be something that I feel guilty about.
Through all of this I have learned something very important about mom guilt. It doesn’t really go away, does it? It simply changes as you move through the different stages of your life with your family. But what matters most is that you don’t let the mom guilt consume you. It’s like that quote from Jill Churchill. “There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.”
That honestly has to be my favourite quote about motherhood because there is so much truth behind it. Moms tend to put so much pressure on themselves to create a perfect life for their families. It’s unrealistic and quite frankly unnecessary. Our children are not looking to have picture-perfect lives. They are not expecting us to give them Pintrest-worthy food, clothes and birthday parties or homes that look straight from the pages of magazines. What our children need most from us is to be loved, and what they want most from us are mothers who care for them, support them and encourage them. They want us to be their biggest fans and greatest comfort.
There is no right or wrong way to do this for our kids, and this is something I think moms need to remind themselves of more often. So if you feel guilty because you made grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner or your house is a chaotic mess, remember that your children are fed and have a roof over their head. And if you feel guilty for losing your patience or being too tired to play with your kids, remember that it’s okay to have a bad day.
Don’t beat yourself up over mom guilt. Dwelling on it is an added stress not worth carrying. When you feel it, give yourself a moment to take a deep breath and let it go. And if you reach a point where you let mom guilt knock you down, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move forward. You will thank yourself for it, and in their own little way, your kids will too.