Managing My Mom Guilt

My two-year old son is crawling in my lap and my three-year old daughter is at pre-school. Frozen 2 is on the TV because it's my son's favorite movie and his older sister rarely lets him watch it, because siblings.

This is relatively straightforward, but in one sentence I can point several things that hit that Mom Guilt Button.

Screen time. Listen, I lie on the pediatrician questionnaire. I don't know how much screen time they get. It's not out of control, but it's not 15 minutes, or whatever. All my son wants is a cuddle while his sister is at pre-school and here I am on my computer. Speaking of pre-school, even though we have had her on a waitlist for a year and she's talked about it every single day since she turned two, it's 2020 so even this decision seems like a terrible one.

I want to be clear about what I mean when I say Mom Guilt. I mean that creeping doubt about every single thing that I do, the fear that it's not enough, and the gap between the mom I want to be and the one that I am. There are so many days when I go to bed at night and I can only think of the mistakes I've made. I wish for a break and then I immediately take it back because I wanted so desperately to become a mom that asking for a break feels wrong or ungrateful to these two amazing little humans I am responsible for. No books or articles could have prepared me for this new reality wherein every single day I am doing the best I can and it very rarely feels like enough. This is the Mom Guilt that almost drowned me when I went back to work, but still remained when I transitioned to being a stay-at-home mom.

So how do we not drown? If it's not really about working or staying home, no screen time or too much, homemade baby food or store bought, then that means our Mom Guilt can't be solved by trying harder or doing better. And it certainly doesn't mean that Mom Guilt actually helps us parent better.

Here is what has helped me: honesty. Honesty with others, honesty with myself.

In my mom life, honesty means talking to other moms and being honest about how hard it is, then listening to their honesty. We are not alone, not in any of it—the guilt, the fear, loving our children so much we might explode, and also feeling like we will lose our minds the next time we get smeared with peanut butter. Some of my moms are in my town and a few years ahead of me, some of my moms are states away and right there in the toddler trenches with me. But the most important thing is that these real, amazing mothers are right there in those smelly, sticky, unedited trenches with me. I don't have to pretend and they don't want me to, because we all get it—this gig is too hard to do if the people who support you are one more thing you have to manage.

Honesty is also getting on my yoga mat. If I am going to be real with my people, my husband and my children and my friends, then I still have to be me. And that's really hard when you can't remember the last time you peed alone or got an uninterrupted shower. So right now in this time in my life I do yoga, but it doesn't have to be yoga. It just needs to be the thing that gives you the moment to remember the person you are under the snot and peanut butter and too-old yoga pants. Walking, gardening, baking a cake, or getting a bathroom really clean. It doesn't matter, it just has to give you a breath to remember this: you are still you, and that's exactly who your children need and love.

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Tuesday, 09 August 2022

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