The Truth About Mom Guilt
It starts early, doesn’t it? Pregnancy and becoming a mom are SUCH blessings, but for some reason there can be this undertone of guilt. Guilt that you’re screwing it all up somehow, which in turn leads to screwed up kids =
One thing I have noticed is that it was higher during my first pregnancy and when I just had one child… now that I’m pregnant with baby #4… I actually have made it to a place where mom guilt no longer consumes me, and I wanted to share some observations in hopes it would help other moms get there, too.
As a first-time mom, mom guilt really comes from a place of insecurity. I mean… it’s all so new and there are a MILLION different ways to do things, so it’s really just about you figuring out what works for YOU, YOUR BABY, YOUR FAMILY. It can start even before birth if it turns out anything is “wrong” with the baby. Was it something I did or didn’t do while pregnant that caused it? Then after birth, it can come from small things like feeling like your baby cries too much, doesn’t sleep enough, doesn’t get enough to eat, is too cold or too hot, being held too much or not enough, causing incidental pain (like cutting skin while trying to trim nails), and it can come from bigger things like dealing with premature baby/babies (we lived in the NICU with our twins for 8 weeks, it’s no cake walk!), not feeling connected to your baby, dreading caring for your baby, or feeling like you’ve lost yourself in MOMVILLE (some of these may be signs of Postpartum Depression, so if you are seriously feeling any of these regularly, talk to someone… NO SHAME!). It’s easy to say when I’m not in the throws of newborn-hood, but RELAX, your baby will be fine & you are doing a great job!
Once you both survive the first year of your baby’s life, you start to gain a little confidence, BUT it seems like as soon as you master a phase of life, your baby enters a new one to figure out all over again! You may start feeling guilty about what you feed your child, letting them watch too much tv, not really knowing how to “play” with your toddler, REALLY looking forward to those mom’s nights out, and possibly still battling sleep issues.
As they get older and more mobile, it becomes harder to keep your cool when they’re into EVERYTHING (our twin boys make new discoveries around the house daily!)… so, sometimes there is yelling. We try to provide a safe environment, but they still manage to hurt themselves. Kids can get more picky when it comes to food as they age, so trying to provide healthy meals can be challenging. After having multiple kids it’s not as easy to get out of the house, so there may not be as many trips to the park or out of town as there were with one child. Having multiple kids also means shared attention & love. It can be especially challenging when you want to take time to take care of yourself in ways that require TIME like working out, food prep, and bonding with friends without kids around.
As they get even older, guilt may come from forgetting to send your kid’s lunch to school or turning in that permission slip on time. Maybe they’re already wanting things their friends have or wear. It seems like the ways you can disappoint your child(ren) multiple as they age as well! My oldest is only almost 7 years old at this time, so I’ve only been through so many stages of parenting so far.
Can you relate? Keep reading, here’s my point…
Over the last handful of years I’ve been focused on becoming a better person… physically, mentally, emotionally, so that I can be a better friend, wife, and MOM. Turns out that as I’ve increased my confidence and health, I worry less about not being a good mom. I’ve adopted the mantra BETTER NOT PERFECT, which helps motivate me to be better in every way but takes the pressure off of being perfect in every way. I provide healthy food for my family most of the time, but sometimes we eat hot dogs and mac & cheese. We may not travel much as a family, but my husband & I both work from home and get a lot of quality time with the kids. I get my workouts in most days, but I either include the kids or do it when they are napping. I get together with girlfriends when I can, but realize that that time away from my kids is good bonding time for my husband with them, they need to be cool with me gone for a few hours or days at a time, and I come back refreshed & excited to jump back into mom role after a break. Sometimes I still yell at my kids, but I spend A LOT more time snuggling & laughing with them while telling them I love them.
Once I embraced the fact that there’s no 100% perfect way to be a mom (just like in my journey to health… there’s no perfect body, perfect diet, etc), the MOM GUILT MELTED AWAY! So, as we get ready to welcome baby #4, I can honestly say that mom guilt no longer consumes me like it did in my early days as a mom. Those hard days & weak moments are PART OF THE JOURNEY OF MOTHERHOOD. There is no mom out there who doesn’t go through the same/similar thing, so stop comparing yourself to the perception that anyone else has it easy & all figured out! Do what works for YOU, YOUR CHILDREN, YOUR FAMILY without the burden of measuring up to anyone else’s expectations. Life is too precious & short to waste on big negative emotions like GUILT. Your kids deserve a healthy, happy mom who knows it’s okay to screw up a little… that is part of life!
“DO YOUR BEST AND FORGET THE REST!” – Tony Horton
UPDATE: This is especially hard to keep in mind now that I am no longer pregnant and our precious daughter will never get to join our family on Earth. Go here to read about how we are Finding Nora’s Light while navigating these stormy waters, and I’m doing my best to continue fighting off Mom Guilt.
RIP sweet Nora Anne Sanford