I'm convinced. Motherhood is one of those ever-evolving journeys. It is a never-ending lesson. An emotional roller coaster of sorts. Mommyhood is severely unpredictable. One day you are at ease, believing you have it all under control, then BAM! The very next day, your kid is having a meltdown because he pooped in his pants and hates the way it feels. So, he tries to wipe it away with his bare hands. True story. Motherhood...You gotta love it right? I love it… most of it. Guilt is one of things I am not loving as of late.
Mom guilt. I never heard of it until after I had my son. Even then, I was unaware that it was a thing. No one ever told me about this overwhelming presence of guilt I would feel. It started early. As a working mom, I had no choice but to return to work after my short, three months, maternity leave. I felt so guilty leaving him behind so early. I felt like I was letting my son down. Sure, he wasn't aware of all of the circumstances. But I was fully aware of the guilt that followed me as I quickly kissed him "see ya later" and rushed out the door. I can still remember all the thoughts that enamored my mind that first day back to work. What if he starts crying and doesn't stop? What if he feels like mommy is far away? Will he resent me? It was horrible. Absolutely horrible.
After a while I got used to leaving Alex in the mornings. I looked forward to when I could escape home for lunch to kiss on his chubby cheeks for a few minutes. I loved coming home for the day. I could tell he was excited to see mommy. That's always a great feeling. For a while the guilt let up. But eventually it reared its ugly head again. I started to feel guilty about EVERYTHING.
I wasn't spending enough time with Alex.
My apartment wasn't the cleanest.
I ordered out because I was too tired to cook dinner.
I didn't return phone calls because I was too busy changing diapers or putting Alex to sleep.
I thought "once he gets a little older it will get better". In some ways, it did but the guilt remained.
I said no and he kicked and screamed because he couldn't have a cookie.
I didn't take him outside to play.
I am too strict.
I let him get away with too much.
He's annoying me.
I hid in the bathroom for 25 minutes.
I gave him a piece (or 3 pieces) of candy.
He watched his iPad over 30 minutes.
I left him with my mom so I could get a mani and pedi.
I mean, the guilt was real. Way too real. And as a single parent, it's even more real, but I will spare you of all those gory details and save them for my therapist.
My take on mom guilt: it's absolutely normal. I am sure it's not productive but I know I am not alone on this mommy guilt train. Most moms, like me, feel an overwhelming sense of guilt because we want to be the most perfect mom we can be. We have voices inside our heads that tell us hundreds of different things for thousands of different reasons and as a mother, we feel the need to adhere to most of them. Especially the ones we think are leading us to excelling at motherhood. Truth is, there is no perfect mom. We make mistakes, we let our children down sometimes and that is life. Only if were that easy to embrace. The sometimes, paralyzing sense of guilt is a clear indication that I care. I genuinely care about my son. If I didn't, I wouldn't feel guilty about locking myself in the bathroom to eat the last of the gummy bears without the kid blurting out "what's that mommy", forcing me to share. I guess it would be safe to say that the absence of any guilt would mean I stopped caring, or I reached the pinnacle of perfection. To which we know both are not true.
Dealing with mom guilt isn’t an easy task but I am learning to embrace it. I am grasping the fact that I am not going to be a perfect mother. I am learning that balance is essential. I may not get to do everything for my son when and how I want. He may not be able to get his way all the time and he shouldn’t. Yes, I will feel guilty about it and may even want to overcompensate for those things but I have to remember there is a little brown boy watching me. He’s witnessing how I deal with the guilt and one day he will use my actions as examples to how he will govern his own life.
Now that I am fully aware of the effects of mom guilt, I am better prepared when it arises. I will remind myself that guilt is actually a valid emotion. Even now, I am learning to just let some things go. Ok, I forgot to pack him something for show and tell. Monday comes around again. With each guilt trip, I am not endeavoring to find practical solutions to the things that make me feel guilty. Each day, I remind myself that feeling guilty is sign that I truly care about my son and want what’s best for him. What helps the most… I am a mother to an amazingly kind and forgiving son. It makes it all worth it.
Are you a parent? Have you experienced mom/dad guilt? How are you embracing it?