Being a parent has been the most-rewarding accomplishment that I have ever experienced in my life. It challenges me every day, makes me laugh countless hours and at times makes me want to pull my own hair out. Parenthood is complicated and changes you forever. From the moment a precious baby is placed into your arms, your heart is flooded with emotions from pure happiness, joy, pride, fear and even guilt. This guilt is surprising and can be detrimental in your sanity. This guilt feeling is commonly known as mom guilt, because as mother’s we are our own worst enemy, judging ourselves for every child-related decision and we are so often judged by other moms. The guilt is real, it is a struggle that goes hand in hand with parenthood – and yes, dad can feel it too.
You are often plagued with the feeling that every little choice you make can be scrutinized and when everything goes array and falls apart – it’s all your fault. Throughout your parenting years there will be decisions to be made, some will leave you feeling on top of the world and other will leave you down in the dumps about it for days. Mom guilt can rear its ugly head at any given moment and in many very different versions. There is the second-guessing yourself, am I bad mom moment, I didn’t do enough, I don’t do enough and even I don’t measure up compared to other mom’s. We feel horrible about mom guilt, so much that we often don’t talk about it or share our feelings with others around us. We don’t talk about it with our friends or family in fear of being reprimanded for our own thoughts and personal feelings.
I struggled with a severe case of mom guilt the day my second child was earth side. I loved him the moment I saw his sweet little face and his eyes fluttered for a moment before closing in front of me. It was almost immediate that my mom guilt settled in. Kira was the first human to visit her little brother, other than my husband and I. As soon as she walked into the room I had to hold myself together from breaking down in tears. I felt like I was the most selfish person for having another child when Kira was still so young and needed her parent’s full attention to guide her though these very important years of her life. She was 2. I questioned my heart – how could I love both of them so much and how could the love be divided and shared equally. These were fears that I had to overcome. It was a struggle but in time, I learned that my heart and the love inside grows and is never-ending when shared with the people you cherish.
The mom guilt struggle is an ongoing battle that as a parent you will have to fight and conquer during your parenting adventures. The start of a new school year brings on my mom guilt. As a child, I grew up with parents that had little to no involvement in the school or with my education. I didn’t want to be that parent. I looked forward to being at school events, watching the school play, sending in special treats with the class, reading stories to the students and helping out with field trips. This was not my reality. I work – full time, 5 days a week, Monday to Friday, and business hours. I often feel guilty about this. As parents, many of us work because we have to and not because we really want to. Of course, you would rather spend your time in pajamas, reading to your children or playing games, volunteering at school events. Please do not misunderstand me, I love my job and I am incredibly lucky to have a fantastic boss who is understanding and flexible with time off requests. I know that when it’s something important I don’t have to feel the guilt of choosing my family or my employment.
- Don’t Feel Bad About Saying No, But Say Yes When You Can.
I find that I sometimes say no because I want to be lazy or because I’m trying to control the situation around me. Instead, I am trying to say yes when I can and I have stopped feeling bad when we say no. My children know that I would give them the world if I could, so when I say no I must have a really good reason.
- Ask Your Children Where Things Need To Improve.
Talk to your children. I have found that I am more worried about the small things that never even phased them or crossed their minds. Communication is key to maintaining a strong and health bond with your children. It also shows them that you recognize that you are not perfect and it’s okay for others to help you learn from your mistakes.
- Manage Your Expectations.
You can’t do everything for everyone. You might not be able to volunteer for every school event or attend every work-related function. Once you are familiar with your limitations, you can evaluate your decisions on what is best for your family.
- Take Time For You.
As mothers we often feel that our place is at home with our family, making meals, completing household chores, helping with homework – the list is never-ending. If your personal needs are not being met then you are not in a good position to meet the needs of your family. Spend time with your friends, go get a pedicure by yourself, leave 5 minutes early in the morning so you can grab a coffee on your way out and take the long way home just for 10 extra minutes of silence. You are important too, schedule in some time for you in the family calendar.