Before I became a parent I heard all about Mom Guilt. I assumed it was something everyone just said they had. It was the thing to say!
They felt guilty about everything. Taking a shower, going out for an evening without the baby, not having the same kind of relationship with their husbands, their friends, as well as guilt for not working and guilt for working. It seemed to me that having a kid was more trouble than it was worth!
Then I had one. I didn't go all Martyr Mommy but I got it. I understood Mom Guilt.
We moms will latch onto just about everything that's guilt worthy. We had dinner before feeding the baby! Get the firing squad! We hired a personal trainer to lose baby weight even though we're not financially contributing anymore - cue a collective gasp!
A lot of mom guilt is instinctual. As mothers, we are hardwired to focus on our newborns. Female animals do it and everyone says it's natural. Women do it and we're neglecting everyone else or we fuss and over- protect our babies. Go within two hundred feet of a cub and a mother bear will quite literally tear a human being to pieces. But the new human mom is supposed to be chill....and to head back to her high flying career within weeks, all while wearing a size 4 suit and supplying her partner with endless sex the night before.
"Hey, New Mom! You CAN have it all! And Right Now! " those annoying headlines say on magazines.
"43 Ways to Flatten Your Tummy Before Heading Back to Work!"
"67 Ways to Assure Your Husband He's Still Your #1".
I don't know 6 ways to do anything, never mind 67. I don't want to have to think of 67 ways to do anything unless it's about how to vacation on a tropical island. Alone.
No wonder all this guilt and confusion abounds.
Let's get rid of the cliches and all the advice about what other people did and focus on us. Dump the guilt by:
- Remembering that some of it is instinctual. It's not so much guilt, rather a consciousness about the fact that babies needs are to be met first.
- Remember that happy kids have happy parents. If they see us stressed and guilty over them, they'll be stressed and guilty over us.
- Our babies and kids have bubble baths. Why can't we?
- We may have been 'born to be a Mom' but we were us, way before we were Mom. We still are. Identifying with only being Mom is not a good place to be. Stay in touch with former co-workers and talk about business. Don't bore current workers with endless anecdotes about junior. Remember when it used to annoy you when other people did it? Enjoy songs that don't rhyme and watch R rating movies.
-No baby or child was harmed in this production! Once we're fully recovered from birth, baby is growing like a weed and a well qualified sitter or family member is available - we need to go out - see a play, a movie or to to a restaurant or pub! Go only with our partner and have a night with the girls. We'll feel better about ourselves in the morning and a better mom to baby!
-Having a baby is not a good enough reason to not shower, to not make an effort with dress and a little makeup. It takes 15 minutes. Everyone feels better when they do it, so do it!
Guilt can be contagious! One mom starts and it becomes a gaggle of women practically competing over who is the most stressed, who sleeps the least, who has it the hardest and who is the least supported. Stop! We must embrace motherhood or we'll sound to others as if we regret it all and lose support we need and deserve.
Working and at home moms both work hard so no competing please!
Enjoy the moment, embrace growing babies and kids, embrace work (we're lucky to have it!) embrace the busyness of life and learn to laugh at it all.
Sometimes we need a moment to vent. I think we all need that. But allowing guilt and frustration to overrun the joys of life will curtail our own happiness. Reach out to friends, when asked how we're doing, let's not immediately roll our eyes and launch into schedules and craziness and endless complaints. We moms know. We're all there at various times of the week. We want to support each other in life, not drown ourselves in collective misery. That only adds to guilt - weren't we fun and carefree once? What happened? Kids don't ruin the happiness we had then, they merely change the kind of happiness we have now.
We can wallow in guilt, or take it for what it is : a natural feeling for many women. We can use that guilt as a learning mechanism to center ourselves, find out what's right for us and our family and strike a decent balance so that everyone is as content as real life allows.
And don't forget to have fun! Kids are a blast and delight in all things 'ordinary'. It's us adults who are the groaners. Let's take some advice from our own little ones and 'go out and play!'. Playing along with our kids and having plain old-fashioned fun, is probably the best guilt reliever of all.
So let's pick up and examine the guilt. And then put it back down. As a parent, we know it'll never quite leave. But carrying it around all day will do a disservice to us and everyone around us.
Oh and have a margarita tonight, when the kiddos go to bed.
Do you have Mom Guilt? How do you cope?
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