Of the myriad useless emotions we women cycle through on a daily basis–Comparison, Envy, and Self-Loathing, to name a few–Mom Guilt has got to be near the top of the list.
And it touches every one of us.
In retrospect–and with a 5, 3 and 1 year old under my belt as my experience, so I guess not all that much experience, but certainly plenty enough to have some perspective–I can say that the moments I experienced any level of mom guilt have all been wasted moments.
Why? Because it got me nowhere. Nowhere except feeling like I was an awful mom, which–despite all the kidding I do about my abilities as a parent–I know without a doubt, I am not.
So yeah, mom guilt. Pointless. Like bringing sand to the beach. Ice to an igloo. Umm… Something to another place where there is no point for it. (Sorry. My kid was up for two hours straight in the middle of the night last night. This is the best I can do right now.)
What I’m saying is, Mom Guilt has no place in your life. Like, ever.
Before you get all, “But Sonni, you don’t know me! You don’t know my life!!” let me tell you, while we all have different experiences with this phenomenon, it’s all kinda the same. You feel like crap because somehow, you didn’t meet that self-imposed expectation of where you should have been/how you should have done something/etc etc etc.
Now is the part where I assure you that I have earned the title of Grade A Shit-tastic Mom on more than several occasions, including the following scenarios:
- Missing my son’s first steps while I was at work
- Missing my daughter’s first steps while I was at work
- Nearly clipping off my two-month-old (other) daughter’s fingertip because I was in such a frenzy to trim her tiny, razorblade fingernails that I INSISTED (really, I insisted) on using adult nail clippers on her tiny, tiny appendages. (There was blood. So much blood. And so much crying from ME, Queen Crappy Mom of All Crappiness. Even thinking about this still makes my stomach turn.)
But I come back to this one point: No matter how much we like to dwell on the “coulda, woulda and shoulda’s” when it comes to our kids, the bottom line is, all that guilt we feel is just not worth it. Mom guilt serves no purpose except to undermine our attempts to be good parents. And let’s be honest, we don’t need anything else working against us in that never-ending job.
No matter how much we like to dwell on the “coulda, woulda and shoulda’s” when it comes to our kids, the bottom line is, all that guilt we feel is just not worth it. Mom guilt serves no purpose except to undermine our attempts to be good parents.
So, me? I try mightily to say goodbye to mom guilt, and over the past few years I have come up with some ways to make it disappear as quickly as all that free time you used to have on weekends before you became a parent.
Know That You’re Not Alone
First things first. Every. Single. Mother. Has felt this emotion. You’re in great company! Doesn’t that make you feel a little bit better right off the bat? It’s not something you’re doing; it’s all of us!
Simply put, things are always easier to deal with when we know we’re not alone. This should help ease the sting a bit.
When I’m experiencing an especially bothersome bout of Mom Guilt, I call a friend, have a major b**** session, and move on. Chances are, that friend has been exactly where you are, and can share her experience, and maybe even how she got herself to feel better.
A good friend will also remind you that you are an awesome, badass, rad AF mother who is just doing the best she can. And that’s all you need to be.
Look at Mom Guilt Right in the Face, Acknowledge It, then Tell It to GTFO
The first step in feeling better is to acknowledge that you’re feeling bad in the first place.
Like I said above, you are not alone in your feelings. You’re not the first parent to feel that you’re not doing everything right. It’s all part of the experience of parenthood. Just like with a job (you know, one that actually pays), you’re not going to feel like you hit it out of the park every day.
Mom guilt reminds us that while we may screw up every now and then, most of the time, we’ve got this. Let those down moments remind you that no one has all the answers, and no one is doing it right all the time. Feel the feels, take a deep breath, and move on.
Plan Something Special
When I experience Mom Guilt over having missed something “big” (see first two examples above), I go out of my way to plan something special for my child. This isn’t to spoil them, or butter them up; it’s to make more memories together in another way.
Spend extra time at the park. Paint your daughter’s toenails. Make them their favorite breakfast and sit with them on the couch while they eat it and watch cartoons. Just spend time together. You won’t be able to get back the moment you missed, or undo what made you feel guilty in the first place, but you will feel a little better if you set aside some time to make them feel special.
They Won’t Remember This Anyway
Eek. Kiiiinda hate to say this one, because it makes it sound like I’m trivializing big moments in our kids’ lives–which seriously, I’m not trying to do–but the truth is, so many of our kids’ “firsts” happen at such a young age that, chances are, they won’t remember if you were there to witness it firsthand.
What kids remember as they get older isn’t a list of all the things you’ve done “wrong” as a parent; they remember how you made them feel overall. The big picture. They don’t parse things; they don’t take notes; they don’t tally things up. They remember the good stuff. And I promise that you occasionally losing your temper, missing a milestone, or not being exactly where you think you need to be is not going to shape the entire experience of their childhood.
What kids remember as they get older isn’t a list of all the things you’ve done “wrong” as a parent; they remember how you made them feel overall. The big picture.
Be kind to yourself. I promise your kids are looking at you with so much more love and appreciation than you can imagine.
And the next time that guilty feeling washes over you again, just remember, it’s okay. You’ve got this. And mom guilt or no, you’re doing a great job.