Dealing with the Mom Guilt

Mom guilt... It's a gift that keeps on giving, an internet meme, a stark reality that really only comes into focus with impending or ascended motherhood.  It seems to be a fact of life when living with children in 2015.  In fact, it's not even really just for moms! Jim Gaffigan devotes an entire chapter to feeling guilty about his "insufficient" dad skilzzz in his hilarious parenting memoir, Dad Is Fat!

It would probably be easier to write a list of things I haven't felt guilty about as a parent.  However, recently, the constant nagging feeling of not measuring up has gotten tired and so have I.  So, 3 years and 2 kids into this parenting gig, I've decided it's time to do something to fight back the niggling feelings of inadequacy.  They say identifying the problem is the first step to finding a solution.  So, here is by no means an exclusive list of thoughts that have passed through my addled sleep deprived brain at some point, often in rapid, contradicting succession.

Things I've felt guilty about

Food

  • - OMG I'm not feeding my child sufficiently healthy food!
  • - OMG I'm depriving my child of a "childhood" because she doesn't know about cookies!
 

Relationships

  • - OMG am I doing enough to foster a good relationship between my kids and their extended family?
  • - OMG I'm a horrible, neglectful mother for how much time my daughter spends with her grandparents, aren't I?

Sleep

  • - OMG I just accidentally let my baby cry himself to sleep because I dared to use the bathroom for literately a minute... and he was crying... and then he fell asleep!
  • - OMG I'm not fostering good sleep habits because my baby is still not sleeping consistently...

Play

  • - OMG I'm an ungrateful parent because instead of getting on the floor and playing with my daughter I'm tooling around the internet while she plays by herself!
  • - OMG I'm failing at teaching my child persistence by not making her play by herself more!

Body Image

  • - OMG I need to lose this baby weight or my kids will never learn to respect their own bodies and value their health!
  • - OMG what if my calorie counting leads my daughter to have an eating disorder!

"Having it all"

  • - OMG What if my children won't know how much I love them because I am always rushing them out the door in the morning so I can get to work at a reasonable hour?!
  • - OMG But if I don't work I'll be a terrible role model for my daughter (also we'll get evicted)!

The best part of course is that often these opposing thoughts on a given topic enter my head within seconds of each other... all... the... time!

Ok crazy lady... so what's your plan?

Returning to the basics

We all know that many of life's problems can be solved with the obvious trifecta of sleep, therapy, and wine.  Sure the former is illusive with a toddler and a 5 month old, but even prioritizing just 10 minutes of "me" quiet time a day can do wonders for the psyche.  Making time for therapy can be hard too but worth the effort when necessary.  At least, wine is easier to schedule and always takes a rain check.

Finding my peeps!

Some people find their tribe in fellow parents at the playground, some strengthen their bond with their own parents once they are humbled by their own offspring.  These are all great, but ever since I was a nerdy little teenager, I have found solace in reading essays by people who've been there and done that.  For this reason I love, and often reread, the wonderful essay of how no one is failing at motherhood from Pregnant Chicken.  Likewise, the collection of essays in The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality is a fantastic solace.  This book normalized so many of the feelings I've outlined above, and others I hadn't even verbalized to myself yet.

Treating myself like I would a friend, or better yet my child...

Finally, it occurred to me recently, that if a friend of mine said any of the guilty thoughts I outlined above out loud to me,  I would instantly reassure her that she was a fine parent and silly to worry. But, I never extend that kind of charitable thinking to myself.  Better yet, when dealing with my children, I know that I need to parent to their strengths.  I would never advocate teaching a cautious child to swim by throwing them in the deep end (metaphorically speaking).  I know better than to try and talk or cajole my stubborn daughter into a new food, because I know that unless she thinks it's her idea, it's a lost cause.  Parenting to the child you have is a Parenting 101 move.  However, for some reason, I never use this most basic of techniques to reassure myself.  Instead, I feel guilty for not being crafty mom, a bento box ninja mom, a super involved school mom, etc.  

So here goes.  I am not, nor will I ever be, doing Pinterest worthy art projects with my kids.  It's not my thing and that's ok.  I have nothing but adoration and respect for parents who can entertain their kids at home with projects. I bow down to your patience and creativity... but that's not me.  My mom super power (and we all have a couple, if we're honest with ourselves) is getting everyone bundled out the door for an outing, in all kinds of weather.  I take my kids outside to play every day.  It's my thing... often we are one of only a few families out there in the Boston cold.  So if you pass me and my kids and think to yourself "I wish I could do that," know that I will never be making use of the puppetry kit you're taking home to your children. It's not my strength and I'm not that mom (though you should totally invite my kids over sometime... I'll bring snacks!).

So from now on, I resolve to focus on my super powers and appreciate yours, without guilt, as best I can.  And if that fails... there's always the wine.


Photo credit: Working from home - babywearing style! under Creative Commons License.
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