Mom Guilt.

If you are a mom, I’m sure at one point or another you’ve been here. You’ve felt the flood of guilt wash over you at the end of a long day and question all your motives and perceptions of the day. Every decision you made you lay there and second guess, wondering what if I only had a little more patience or a little more time? What if I understood a little better, or knew something more? Did I give each of them enough time and love? These are just some of the thoughts that can fill your head when you are being dragged into the hole that is mom guilt.

It’s been a long day. I’m counting down the minutes till bedtime, I have to reclean the whole house. I burnt dinner so pizza is on it’s way, I can’t help but feel guilty.

It’s hard not to second guess ourselves from time to time, and even harder when we are raising tiny humans and meeting all of their needs and making sure they also grow into good people themselves. It’s consuming and feels self-destructive, but it’s also normal. I remember calling my mom a few years ago crying telling her I felt like such a bad mom, and that I didn’t know if I was doing a good job at being a good mom for them. How she responded has stuck with me since then and when I’m having mom guilt and need to calm myself down. I just replay her words through my mind. “If you were a bad mom, you wouldn’t worry about being a bad mom.” Now I’m not saying this will fix your feelings every time you are having mom guilt but it’s a good place to start.

A big factor of mom guilt for me, is I always question if my children know I love them all equally. If they know that just because I can’t always divide up my time evenly between them all, they are all still loved so very much and loved all the same. With having 4 kids and one still being under a year, it’s difficult, to say the least. As we speak my 8-month-old is sitting in my lap, with her being so small she is with me more than any of them. Which makes me worry they might get upset, or resentful because of this. When I know they love their baby sister and they know that she needs mommy a little more but still, I worry.

I told you she is always there.

When I’m feeling as though I may not be dividing my time between them well enough, or that one child isn’t getting that little extra attention they might need. (Because like adults children have days or periods they need a little extra love and affection.) I make a point to talk to my husband and say “hey can bubs help you when you work on the van this weekend?” Or “our oldest needs a little extra mommy time she and I are going to go watch SpongeBob, paint our nails, and eat snacks in our bed for a couple of hours.” Sometimes that’s all they need to feel a little extra special and a reminder that even though there’s a 2-year-old and baby that need mommy and daddy’s attention a lot. We will still always make time for them and we will always love them just the same.

Now before the pandemic started, I wasn’t worried I wasn’t doing enough, we did crafts multiple times a week, we played outside, we would go for family outings, have picnics and hikes. I knew I was doing enough to help them make the most out of their tiny little lives and make all the memories. But once going to cool places, and not being able to go to the park, and so many actives being deemed “not recommended” or closed. I felt like all of a sudden playing in the yard, going on walks, and doing crafts wasn’t enough anymore. It just all of a sudden felt like I was failing at giving them all these experiences and giving them chances to make amazing memories. That mom guilt ate me for the first year of the pandemic, and then it wasn’t until one night after putting the kids to bed. I sat down on the couch and just broke down and started venting to my husband, and he stared at me like I was crazy. He told me I was doing enough and when I tried to argue, he listed all things I do with them in a day let alone in the week, and asked me “how is that not enough?” At that moment I realized, just because one day you do all the things and then another you do nothing but just sit on the floor and play with them. It’s still enough, being present is enough. Knowing that when your child grows up they will be able to look back and remember you just being there. Is enough. Don’t ever second guess yourself when it comes to being there and doing enough for your children, when you make that effort day in and day out that my friend is enough.

Now I guess we should talk about the elephant in the room… How do I deal with the mom guilt when I have a day that I yell a little too much, or when I have little to no patience with my children? First off let me be very honest and upfront when I say this. A lot of the time I will go to the bathroom have a good cry and breath take 5 minutes to re-evaluate the situation at hand. I remind myself that just like how I can have a bad day so can they. They are tiny people learning how to regulate their thoughts and feelings. They don’t always remember the rules, and sometimes they want to see how far they can push the envelope before it pops because they are kids. (and let’s be real sometimes kids suck) However, all that said. After I have my good cry and a big breath, I will come back and talk to them. If I need to apologize for getting upset and yelling I will. If I need to explain better why I got so upset, I will. I will ask them how they feel, what they are thinking, what the goal of whatever it is that they were doing was. I will ask them if something is bothering them and if they have a lot of big feelings and don’t know how to let it out. At the end of it all, I will ask them if they need a hug or if they need some time by themself or both. We will figure out why they are having a bad day, or I can step back and look at why maybe I’m having a bad day. It can always be fixed so we can move forward and have a better day.

On the topic of getting upset with your children. Please always remember if you need to step back and walk away for a minute THAT IS OK. When I was in parenting class in high school the teacher stressed that if your baby is extremely fussy and you are getting overwhelmed. You should set them somewhere safe (like their crib) and walk away for a minute or two to calm down and that’s okay. That stuck with me, and I have taken that into all stages of parenting. I would much rather tell my five-year-old “mommy’s having really big feelings so I am going to walk away for a minute, when I came back we can talk about this” instead of yelling at him for being frustrating when that probably wasn’t his goal at all. I would much rather hand my two-year-old some crayons and a colouring book so I can walk away for a second instead of yelling at her when she’s only just learned pretty much everything. When I can acknowledge that I need to take a step back and walk away from the situation for a second I will. I would much rather set that example for my children than, have them think mommy is some crazy mean lady who yells too much. (I’m not saying I don’t yell because sometimes I do I’m only human but if I can go about it a better way. Then I’m going to.)

There is also no shame in feeling so done at the end of a long day, that you order a pizza instead of the meal you planned. There’s no need to feel guilt because your child ate chicken nuggets for the third time this week, or the hot dogs they demand once again. You fed them, you made sure food was in their belly, it doesn’t always have to be the most nutritious thing ever. Like yes as parents, we try our hardest to make sure they eat three square meals a day and delicious nutritious snacks in between. (But, just like with feeding a baby) FED IS BEST. You fed your child, you made sure food was in their belly. You don’t need to feel any mom guilt for that. My 2-year-old just recently went through a solid two weeks she wanted to eat nothing but bread, yogurt, fruit snacks, bacon off my husband’s plate in the mornings, and warm milk. (I did switch her yogurt out for Greek yogurt, and talked her into a couple of apples, and a few other foods.) However, she was not giving up on the few things she wanted. So I took the loss and was just happy she was eating rather than refusing.

Did I feel guilty about it?

 Absolutely.

Did I let myself get lost in that mom guilt about it?

 No, because if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture it was a phase she started to eat like normal again, and kids will go through all kinds of periods like that, it happens. You just have to remind yourself, that as long as you keep trying to do what’s best for your child, you are doing what’s best for your child. Even if that means sometimes we eat, pizza, chicken nuggets, and hot dogs.

Mom guilt can come for a thousand reasons, it’s unavoidable. But you need to remind yourself, just like your child you are learning too. You are still growing as a person, you are still learning. That sometimes you need to walk away, that you being there is enough. That breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table no matter what it is, counts. That if you are worried that you are a bad mom, repeat back to yourself. “If we’re a bad mom, you wouldn’t be worried about being a bad mom.” You got this Momma, go have a good cry, tie your hair up, and get back out there and be one hell of a good mom because you are one.

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