Maybe mamas will never really be able to escape guilt—maybe we’ll always wonder if we’re doing this right.
It’s actually a pretty great time to be a mama.
The Mommy Wars have negotiated a peace treaty. Empowering resources like Motherly exist (holla!). America finally seems to be getting on board with paid maternity leave. Random grandmas at the grocery store have stopped telling us what to feed our kids. (Just kidding, that still happens. But, hey, win some lose some, right?)
But in general, mamas are surrounded by support more than ever before—encouragement to make their own choices, to learn their own way (even if that means failing), and to do whatever will help themselves and their families to thrive.
Basically, this is the mama moment we’ve all been waiting for.
So…why do I feel so bad about it?
Because mama guilt is still definitely a thing for most women. When other moms huddle together, whispering furtively about the balls they’re dropping and the ways they are probably “screwing up” their kids, I go a little wide-eyed. Because, well, I just don’t feel that way. Almost ever.
I truly believe all those Pinterest memes that tell me that the very fact that I worry about being a good mom means that I already am one. That I should strive for grace—not perfection.
When I find myself queuing up Zootopia on Netflix so I can sneak in a solid hour of work...I remind myself that I’m setting an example that my daughter can be a mother and find fulfillment in a creative career.
When I give in to her moments of picky eating and agree to a “bread dinner”...I remind myself that while this won’t result in any boast-worthy palate development, it does mean she’ll sleep better at night than she would if she had gone to bed hungry (and that she ate kale quinoa with shrimp the night before, so she can’t be totally ruined).
When I plan a night out with my girlfriends and let my husband put her to bed alone...I remind myself that I can’t pour from an empty cup, and these moments when I can feel like my old self recharge me to return and pour my energy into being a full-time mama.
When my patience breaks and I snap at my fussy two-year-old...I remind myself that, well, it happens. And I take a deep breath, meditate for a moment on the lesson, and resolve to do better—to be better—next time.
In short, I let myself off that pesky hook that seems to love to scratch at our mama consciences.
And yet…it’s those moments of pride-instead-of-shame, of patting myself on my tired mama back, that the doubts creep in. Am I too complacent about the way I parent? Overconfident even? Does my lack of guilt make me more likely to make mistakes? Is it possible to feel too empowered?
Am I screwing up, just in a different way, without even realizing it?
It’s a cruel irony, this feeling guilty for not feeling guilty. It makes me wonder if maybe there is no way to escape it as a mom. (And/or if I’m a little insane...)
I’m also fully aware that my confidence stems out of privilege. I’m able to stay home with my daughter and work as much as I want to, a gift of balance not everyone can strike. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for the situation I’m in.
Maybe mamas will never really be able to escape guilt. One way or another, we’ll always worry about whether or not we’re doing this whole thing right.
But I’ve got a Pinterest board full of memes that confirm that means we’re all pretty awesome mamas.