I always heard my mom talking about mom guilt when I was growing up. I never understood what she meant. She’d try to explain, but what it came down to was that I wasn’t a mom and simply couldn’t understand.
Later on, I wasn’t someone that ever felt connected to my children in utero. I didn’t feel disconnected; I mean they were growing in my body! I just never felt that connection that everyone talks about. I wondered if I was broken. When my daughter was born, I, of course, instantly loved her. It was like a switch flipped. I couldn’t shake the fact that I never felt connected when she was in my belly, though.
When we were headed home from the hospital, I told my husband, “I just feel like I’m doing something wrong.” I was sitting in the backseat with our daughter and he replies, “Well, what are you doing?” Thinking I was actively attempting to do something, but in fact, I was just sitting there staring at our tiny human.
I explained that I wasn’t doing anything, but I still felt like I was doing it wrong.
So tiny, I was clearly going to irreparably harm her!
That is when I first understood mom guilt. The thing with this dreaded affliction is that it never goes away. There are feelings of chronic guilt and then acute guilt creeps up just to smack you over the head in case you had gotten a bit complacent.
My chronic guilt is that I never felt connected to her during my pregnancy. I loved being pregnant! I loved knowing we were having a girl and that she was healthy. I loved when she’d shift her entire body (seemingly whale-sized, but actually more like a cantaloupe) from one awkward position to another. Yet I never was emotionally invested. So, of course, I will pay for that for the rest of my life. Thank you, mom guilt!
Then, there are the ever-changing moments of acute guilt. They show up when you make the questionable decision to send your child with a borderline fever to school because you need to get to work, or when you realize you haven’t scheduled a play date…ever(!), or when it occurs to you your kids have eaten processed food for dinner the last 1, 2, er, 10 nights.
The funny thing about this guilt is, your kids (while they’re still young and sweet!) never think you’re doing it wrong. All of the pressure you put on yourself as a mom and the guilt that ensues, without fail, really seems to be just part of being a mom.
What we really should be doing, though, is patting ourselves on the freaking backs!
When you are beating yourself up because you put your children to bed 10 minutes late, try remembering that you got up early to put dinner in the crockpot before getting yourself and a couple kids ready for the day, worked 9 hours, came home and finished preparing dinner, did a load of laundry, bathed the children, and generally kept them alive all with only getting them to bed 10 minutes late. That deserves an award, not a cry fest over your failure. Before you feel guilty for having a date night, remember that it is those very nights that help you keep your sanity to be a better mother the other 364 days of the year.
When you’re getting down about all your perceived inadequacies as a mother, think about those little faces that look at you with nothing but pure love and adoration. All they know is that you show them nothing but absolute love every day, make sure they’re fed and clothed to the best of your ability, and give them a happy life. That, my friends, kicks mom guilt’s butt.