“Mom guilt” is as much a part of our being as our expanding muffin tops, often held back by too tight jeans. (I’m so guilty of this.)
Although not always as visible, the guilt we feel about EVERYTHING runs as deep and permanent as our crows feet, cellulite, bulging varicose veins and the random wiry grey hair that springs from our heads.
We can hide it all we want, but it will be with us forever. We are mothers. And just for being so, we will be plagued with motherly guilt until Kingdom come.
The guilt itself covers quite the broad spectrum. From feeding them too many processed foods (because we’re too cheap and lazy) to not signing them up for more summer activities like all their friends. Guilt for not even touching their “suggested” summer reading list from school.
We’ve spent a LOT of time reading. . . reading the McDonald’s drive-thru menu, the show times at the local theater on a hot, stinky summer day, all the road signs on our annual summer family trip. . .that counts for something, right?
The moment we became mothers, it was there. Guilt. Quiet at first. Now resounding daily like a megaphone in our ears. Day after day after day in this job, our ego’s call us out. . .
“YOU SHOULD BE DOING MORE. YOU SHOULD BE YELLING LESS. YOU SHOULD FEED THEM BETTER. YOU SHOULD SIGN THEM UP FOR MORE. YOU SHOULD BE MORE INVOLVED. YOU SHOULD SAY “NO” MORE. YOU SHOULD READ TO THEM MORE. YOU SHOULD HUG THEM MORE. SPEND MORE TIME WITH THEM. OH, AND DON’T FORGET YOUR SPOUSE, YOUNG LADY. PAY A LITTLE MORE ATTENTION TO YOUR MARRIAGE.”
This self-made, self-inflicted disease rooted deep in the core of our being, began to grow the moment those babies were plopped onto our chest, held high over our heads as they stitched our jelly bellies closed, never to be the same again. Already beginning a never-ending cycle of disappointment, failure, self-doubt, that we won’t be enough for them.
We have good days. Where we feel a small sense of pride at our parenting abilities, confident in our skills, occasionally boastful at the amazing things we AND our children do.
But most days? Our lives as mother’s are peppered with lots of guilt. For all we’re not doing or are doing too much of.
What I’ve learned, that our pesky guilt, much like every other negative thought in our weary brains, is just that. Simply a thought. All those “should ofs” driving us toward an impossible perfection, are just mindless chatter that can easily be replaced with, “good enough.”
We need to learn to cut ourselves some slack, not be so hard on ourselves. Trust that all we’re doing and NOT doing, no matter what the mom next door is seemingly doing with ease and grace, doesn’t matter. To stop the comparisons, and know that we are enough.
Just like we tell our children, as long as WE are doing our best, that’s all we can ask of ourselves, and let the guilt fall away. (Now if only we could so the same with our swingin’ underarm nonsense.)
Liz Westerhaus lives in Stillwater with her husband and three kids. She is a local family and wedding photographer, yoga instructor and devoted blogger. Although a big city girl at heart, she loves living in this town. You can follow her work and writing at lizwesterhaus.com or visit her at Studio One Yoga in downtown Stillwater.