In writing this article, I have hit delete and started from scratch three times now. (Third time's the charm!) Truth be told, I feel conflicted about this story. The struggle has probably been around since the cavemen and even more prevalent in today's age of “Pinterest parenting."
Mommy guilt.There, I said it.
We have all felt it. From the moment baby is conceived (or maybe even before), our entire being is flooded with this feeling. It may ebb and flow, like the tides, but it is always there.
During pregnancy alone, I could have filled a diaper pail with all of the guilt I placed on myself. In those 40 weeks, I ate too much chocolate, not enough leafy greens, and I even drank a Diet Coke or two (or six). It only got worse when my son was born.
Mommy guilt consumed me on a daily basis.
Why lie? It still does.
When I walked in on my son playing with the cords on my husband's laptop, I felt guilty for yelling…and a little worried that my neighbor heard.
I then proceeded to feel guilty about passing by the park to run errands instead.
After a re-route to the park (in lieu of grocery shopping),I felt guilty for pressuring my son to take one bite of fish at dinner.
After dinner, I felt guilty for letting him watch 15 minutes of a movie. What can I say, I was too wiped to do anything else with him.
After he goes to sleep, I will feel guilty for taking 45minutes to watch House of Cards instead of catching up on work.
My whole day is filled with guilt. From sunrise to sunset (and it's spring in Sweden, so we are talking about loooong days). With the constant struggle to face this guilt, isit any wonder I am so exhausted at the end of the day?
I have a feeling this nagging sense of culpability consumes many of us mamas. We almost feel like there is some mystical presence peeking through the window, keeping an eye onus and judging when we fall short.
We have all had our fair share of fails as parents. Whether we are running on 3 hours of sleep and literally can't stop the “Just go to sleep!" rant before it pops out, or we accidentally bonk little one on the head while lifting him from the car seat, I know we feel those moments even more than our precious babes.
So, what's the solution?
After much consideration, I have decided that it is unrealistic to simply “stop feeling guilty."
Guilt is what makes us better parents, after all.
The fact that we feel guilty simply means we haven't completely given up on caring. It may be a pain, but I think guilt is an adaptive trait, promoting better parenting (and happier kiddos) with every generation.
Instead of trying to ditch it completely, there are a few things us mamas can do to harness and channel our inner guilt.
Embrace it. Just a little bit.
If there is something in your daily routine that regularly makes you feel uncomfortable, think of ways you might change it.
Of course, we can't change everything that makes us feel guilty. We must choose our battles.
I will probably ignore my guilt and concede a few minutes of screen time for my tot after dinner tomorrow (and forgive myself later). But, I will also embrace my guilt and try to cut down on yelling at my little one for making mischief. He is a child, after all!
Stop comparing your apples to another mama's oranges.
Even as a child “expert," I still feel like I am winging it most of the time.
I dare you to find one mother out there who really has it all figured out. I don't care how many picture-perfect family photos we are bombarded with on social media. It simply isn't a representative picture of reality.
This is why it is crucial that we stop trying to compare our parenting realities to other parents' showpiece moments.
The time spent comparing ourselves to other mamas could be better spent enjoying time with our children…or at least folding the laundry.
As long as our children's needs for safety and security are being met, everything else will get done in your own uniquely effective way, mama!
Focus on your accomplishments.
Some of my best friends are the most inspiring (and intimidating) mothers I have ever met.
One entrusted her one-year-old son with a Montessori bed, another gives her daughter daily outdoor time to “become one with nature," and one actually added a custom-made backsplash to her daughter's play kitchen.
These women inspire me to be a better mother...when they aren't making me question my competency as a parent (and human being). I simply must remember to think of my own accomplishments as a mother when thoughts of inferiority start creeping up.
It's true. We could all benefit from a little self-praise each day.
Before you go to sleep tonight, ponder 2 or 3 things that went well with your little one during the day.
Even if it's just that you spent 15minutes playing with your babe without checking your phone, or you didn't burn dinner during the witching hour.
Being a mother is hard. Without a pat on the back once in a while, burn out is imminent.
Take criticism out of the equation.
Sure, we know that every child is unique. Every family has different needs. Every mother has different philosophies and principles. Yet, it is almost second-nature to judge a mother for making different decisions from our own.
As mamas, we know firsthand how challenging motherhood is.
The next time you feel yourself judging another mama, try to remember how hard parenthood really is. Whether a mother chooses to introduce a pacifier at one week or uses a front-facing car seat before four years (gasp), she probably has a good reason for her decision—and has likely already faced her inner guilt trip.
If it helps, try to think of one specific reason that mother might be doing what she is doing.
Today I did a mini-eye-roll at a mother for jaywalking with her impressionable daughter on a busy street. But, I stopped myself and tried to think of why she might be in such a rush. Maybe she was hurrying to pick up a second child from preschool. Et voila. Judgment replaced with compassion and empathy.
Sometimes I notice myself worrying about what other mothers will think of my actions as a parent. I even find myself justifying and prefacing every questionable decision I make as a mother for fear of being judged.
Yes, yes, my son is having a piece of blueberry pie for lunch today. But, I promise, he has eaten vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy nuts for every other meal this week…
Why do we feel the need to explain ourselves? We need to own our parenting choices. Scratch that. We need to rock them. #babyfoodie#enjoylife #onfridayswehavepie
We are our own harshest critics. What we all need from each other is support, reassurance, friendship, and inspiration.