I drove away. Moments earlier, sticky little fingers gripped my legs, and I knelt down to kiss my son’s sweet toddler head goodbye (am I the only one who thinks that toddler boys’ hair smells like graham crackers? But, I digress). I closed the door, walked to my car, and heard the crying begin. And although I knew it would be over in a minute – he’d be fine and on his merry way playing – I felt “it” grip my heart: mom guilt. This situation was a common scenario that really made me feel horrible. Like some sort of monster that begs you to believe you’ll never get it “right,” yet offers no real direction for what “right” looks like, mom guilt will never be satisfied. Mom guilt is real and pervasive, and I don’t know a mom who hasn’t, at one point or another, experienced this phenomenon. Great moms say and feel things like:
“I feel bad when my child eats fast food chicken nuggets – it makes me feel guilty to not feed my child all organic food. I feel bad that his favorite restaurant meal is noodles with butter and cheese.”
“I feel mom guilt when I think I’m the only one struggling with something. Whether that’s yelling at my kids, not quite knowing how to handle new situations as they grow older, realizing I didn’t handle a situation in the best way or feeling like I’m not giving each child enough time.”
“The days where I mess up are the times when I struggle with mom guilt the most. When I’m exhausted and my kiddos don’t get the best of me, it’s hard to give myself grace.”
The fact that moms worry about these things in the first place proves that they care and that mom guilt is nothing more than an ever-heightening standard, keeping moms on the treadmill of “good enough.” And so, it’s time to kill mom guilt. Because, in reality, mom guilt:
1) Motivates action of fear of not measuring up somehow, rather than love.
What our kids need most is our genuine love, not a perfect performance of what parenthood “should be.” Mom guilt invites us to embrace the fear that we’re not enough and parent from that place.
2) Steals our joy.
We all face hard moments as parents, and that’s why joy is so critical. Joy dances atop the hard moments – in fact, that’s what makes joy, joy! It’s not dependent upon everything going perfectly. It simply is – bringing its beauty to the moment that needs it most. Joy is most often ushered in by choice, and mom guilt clouds vision, making this choice much less likely.
3) Isolates you from others.
Chances are, you’re not alone. Mom guilt tends to make you feel alone. This is a lie, moms. If you’re going through it, a million moms have gone through it before you, and a million more are probably going through it at the same time.
4) Steals your energy.
Your relationship with mom guilt is one-sided. While mom guilt preys upon your already-limited emotional, mental, spiritual and physical reserves, it gives nothing in return.
5) It fuels comparison.
Need I say more? Comparison is a monster in and of itself – unless you’re comparing coffee makers in search of the best one – but that’s not the kind of comparison I’m getting at. Moms often fall victim to comparing lives with one another, making it difficult to find fulfillment with the present. Getting rid of the guilt is an important step to getting rid of the comparison.
6) Doesn’t lead to real solutions.
While mom guilt tells you what you’re supposedly doing wrong, it never takes a proactive stance in finding real answers to real problems. Rather, it clouds your perspective, making it difficult to actually solve the problem.
It’s normal to feel mom guilt. Motherhood is different for every mom, and there is no manual for every situation you may encounter. We all struggle, and that is part of motherhood’s beauty – it makes us dig deeper, grow in ways we never imagined and connects us to others who can help. So, the next time mom guilt creeps in, do yourself a favor and kill it by whatever means necessary – reach out to a friend, make a list of all the reasons why you are a wonderful parent, cry, forgive yourself for whatever way in which you feel you messed up, hug your child, apologize to your child if necessary, do something kind for yourself or somebody else, etc.