We all know the feeling. It starts in the pit of your stomach and then morphs into an all-consuming sense of doom. No, it’s not indigestion. It’s mom guilt.
Mom guilt can come in many forms. I can’t think of many other situations where a person is more judged for a role they play in life – whether it’s by our kids, our families, our friends, or (worst of all) ourselves. And I can’t think of many other situations where the decisions we make can have such a big impact on the development of little humans.
No matter your role during the day, the age of your kids, or your philosophies in life, mom guilt can sneak up on you. But there are ways to work with and overcome guilt of all shapes and forms.
“How can you possibly be leaving me”
If you’re a mom, you know those eyes. The ones that say “how could you do this to me? You aren’t seriously going to walk away, are you?” And then the tears. Those giant welled-up tears start dropping like raindrops from the rooftop. Those tears are the true test of parents. It’s like a standoff of the greatest proportion.
My kids were the master of this. I still remember drop-off days at daycare, leaving the kids with a babysitter to go to dinner with my husband, or even just leaving to go to the store for five minutes. But you know what? It got better. Every time I left, they got less sad. And they got to know so many more people in their little lives. They looked forward to babysitters, they love school, and they have turned into social butterflies. Me forcing myself to leave has been good for my kids, and it makes me value the time we spend together even more.
“But all the other kids can”
Nails on a chalkboard to my ears. It’s like peer pressure, only in this case your peers are little ankle-biters. I’m sure we’ve all faced this, and even given in every once in a while. Whether it’s watching endless Youtube videos of people playing video games (a concept I will never understand) or moving to a later bedtime, comparison is one of my biggest aggravators.
And as they grow, the comparison only gets worse. Whether it’s the clothes they wear or the compromising choices they will be faced with, peer influence will continue to be a thing. By teaching our kids now that they are their own person and should never do something just “because everyone else is,” we can instill a sense of independence – and a mechanism for defending those differences – as they begin to spend more and more time away from us.
“Oh, I could never…”
This is my personal monster. The implied “you are not good enough” from other moms. As a traveler, I hear it all the time. “How can you leave home so often? I just couldn’t do it!” or “who takes care of your kids when you’re gone?” (even though I have a perfectly capable husband). It also happens to stay-at-home moms, split families, and all everyone who needs to make any kind of choice as their kids grow.
Although it can get to me at times, I’ve learned that this may not be as much about judging as it may be a lack of understanding. Each mom is unique in her own way. And while I’m sure I’ve done the same thing to some great moms, I think it’s important for us to recognize that we’re all on the same team. We all want to raise happy, healthy kids. Let’s support each other, not tear each other down.
Like the do-it-all people we are, mom-guilt guilt is part of the circle of life. Whether an internal pressure or one we put on our friends, feeling guilty that we feel guilty is a common evil. But it’s also an opportunity for self-reflection. If we can step back and check ourselves about not only the root of the guilt, but the necessity (or lack thereof) of the guilt, we can evolve to channel those feelings into something constructive. And we can help each other work through guilt by talking about it.
We owe it to ourselves to be true to who we are and to let go of the mom guilt. As long as we are making decisions with the best interest of ourselves and our kids in mind, there is no need – or room – for guilt. Yes, we can make wrong decisions and yes, our kids might not always like what we do or say, but we’re doing the best we can here. And it’s time to own it.