I’ve been traveling a lot lately for work and feeling the dreaded pull of mom guilt. All mom’s have mom guilt. It doesn’t matter if you work outside the home or stay at home. The mom guilt is real. Your day job just changes the focus of the mom guilt. I can say this because I was a stay at home mom for 3.5 years and have now been working outside the home for 3 years. The guilt remains.
When I stayed home for my day job, my mom guilt was about socializing the kids enough (hello fellow introverts), educating them enough, Pinteresting enough sensory activities, and the knowledge that I alone was responsible for my kids total and complete development for 10 hours every single day (in reality, this is an exaggeration, but in feelings, it’s everything).
Now that I leave home for my day job, my mom guilt is all about those 10 hours of me not being the one responsible for all my kids’ development and learning, not Pinteresting enough class snacks and birthday ideas, too many activities and not enough down time.
Raising kids is hard. Let’s just get that out there. From the moment you find out you’re pregnant to the 3 seconds of joy you experience before you google “being pregnant” and learn that from here on out everything you eat, don’t eat, do, or don’t do can in effect harm your baby, mom guilt resides. I’m fairly certain it lasts for life, though I have only known roughly 7 years of it, there seems to be no letting up.
I talked to my mom about this issue and found that yes, it’s real, and no, it doesn’t skip generations. I just can’t recall my mom being as scattered or ill prepared as I sometimes find myself, or seeming to ever question her role or path. This is where the talk about parenting and mothering came into play.
Back when I was a kid, schools educated you, families taught you, parents raised you, and community supported you (be it literal community or church or friends). Every one had a role that was important and valued. Moms, while concerned with all these aspects of their child’s wellbeing, were not the sole source. Mom’s mothered. And there was still mom guilt, but I’m guessing it sounded more tethered to reality and probably focused on providing essentials like food, shelter and clothing.
Today, mom’s parent. We parent the crap out of our kids. We plan all the things, schedule all the weekends, afternoons, brunch and lunch dates. We coordinate outfits, plan family photo shoots for every season and holiday, and document every cute, sweet, frustrating, or milestone moment on social media. We carpool, bus stop drop off, and daycare pick up.
We parent every aspect of our children’s lives and wonder why we feel so tired, or why we’ve been reading the same page of a novel for two months…parenting. We parent down to the second but end most days feeling like we weren’t present. And then, on top of all that, we still feel guilty. I’m guessing most mom’s are similar to me, and my mom guilt is an obsessive crazed rant that’s on nearly constant rotation in my brain, and centers on two things: 1) what am I forgetting? I know there’s something! 2) don’t loose your sh*t! Stay calm, you do yoga 6 days a week, why are we still loosing it right now!?
Parenting in today’s terms is absolutely unachievable for me. Partly because I can’t. I simply cannot keep up with the demand. The family photo schedule alone is enough to melt my brain. And secondly, because where is the joy? When the thing, the party, the picture, the planning, become the focus of our intentions, the people and relationships are lost. The point of the thing is to bring joy and show love. I think in the throws of parenting we focus too much on the things and lose our joy. This loss allows an awfully big hole for guilt to settle in.
So, my recommendation to myself (daily) and to all moms out there struggling with mom guilt, remember the joy. Remember that to bring joy you really only need to show up and be present. No one remembers the color of their second birthday cake, or the class gift bag mom made for third grade, or the time it took to coordinate Christmas card photos each year (that are put in the trash anyway people!). But we do remember how people made us feel. Bring the joy, lose the guilt. And the occasional bribe candy never hurts.