Mum guilt is real. It's part of my everyday life, and it's inescapable, no matter what I do. It's almost like the moment I became a mom, I started feeling guilty for everything. Every single activity, or thought I had that wasn't 100 percent about my kids, started making me feel guilty. Consider this list of just some things I feel guilty about now as a mom of four:
- When my kids are on their iPads too much
- When I'm working
- When I serve them pizza for dinner more than one night in a row
- If I don't spend an equal amount of time reading with each kid before bed
- If I get frustrated too easily and yell
- If we are rushed getting ready for school in the morning
- If their laundry isn't done, and they end up without clean socks
- If their hair looks a mess before school
- When I say "no" to anything
- If I say "yes" to too many treats and someone ends up with a stomachache
- If I'm on the phone (which happens almost never) and they need me
- If I'm in the bathroom and tell one of the kids to wait a minute for me to answer a question (because they're always standing outside the door!)
And this was just today! On a daily basis, I feel like if I take the time to sit down and eat something, for example, I'm taking away time that could be devoted to my kids, doing something like helping with homework. So I end up constantly eating at the kitchen counter, rattling off maths facts with a mouthful of salad. Similarly, if I'm in the shower, I'm rushing so I can help my kids get ready for bed, or school (depending on when I've managed to steal away for more than a few minutes).
Really, on some level, I don't feel like a person any more. I do feel like I'm a mum. Only.
Even though I know activities like eating are vital for human existence — or, in the case of bathing, for social acceptance — and my existence and social acceptance benefit my kids, I still feel guilty any time activities are about me. It could be something as small as insisting that we stop at Starbucks on our way to gymnastics practice, or as big as spending a few hours away from them to get my hair cut. I get the coffee, or make the hair appointment because I know I'm still a person, not just a mum, and I deserve to enjoy life, too. But I always do these things with underlying guilt. Because really, on some level, I don't feel like a person any more. I do feel like I'm a mum. Only. Like I exist on this planet for my kids.
But guess what? I think this is a really normal feeling to have, even though society tells us we shouldn't give up our lives for our kids. And we shouldn't! Self-care, and personal and professional goals, and "me" time; these things are all vitally important. I'm just saying it's OK to feel like all of that is counterintuitive in motherhood, when you are literally charged with keeping other humans alive and well. At the very bare minimum, that's the job description. But you also want your kids to be happy, and have everything.
So with that in mind, if you are taking a yoga class at a local gym, but feeling guilty the entire time because your baby is in the childcare room, you aren't alone. If shutting the door to your home office so the background of your conference call won't sound like a Gymboree session makes your heart sink on some level, you're in good company. I am right there with you, trying to have a life, but feeling guilty about it, every step of the way.
It's as if I'm second-guessing every decision I make, or at the very least, chastising myself, no matter what I choose!
As if that weren't enough, I'm constantly battling guilt that I'm not making the best decisions possible for my kids at every turn. I bought this snack instead of that one. Because it had less salt, but more high-fructose corn syrup. Now I'm a terrible mom. I said "no" to the sleepover because I'm exhausted. Should I have just said "yes" so my 10-year-old's long face would go away? I breastfed my baby even though I had a glass of wine. Sigh. It's as if I'm second-guessing every decision I make, or at the very least, chastising myself, no matter what I choose! It's a tough way to go through life, always wondering if you could have done better.
But hey! I believe there's good news behind all of the awful guilt parents like me torture ourselves with, day in and day out. No, really, there is, and I truly mean it. I think we feel guilty because we care. We care so darn, incredibly much about our kids. That's why I'm rushing to wash my hair in the shower. I want to get out, throw on the nearest semiclean clothes, and make the day better for my little girls, and for my son. I feel guilty when I go get my nails done because I want my kids to be OK, no, great, while I'm away. I suffer from guilt while I'm working on the weekends because I can't wait to get outside and play with my kids, or at least make sure they're not messing with that ant hill again.
I think we feel guilty because we care. We care so darn, incredibly much about our kids.
I think guilt is just love in disguise. It's a crappy way your emotions make you feel, when, if you strip it down, there's just a lot of caring, and a whole lot of love. So although the guilt sucks, remember, you feel it because you love your kids more than you love anything, or anyone — even yourself. You just want to be the absolute best parent you can be, every single day. So, you're an awesome parent for feeling guilty. Now, I gotta go. I feel awful for spending so much time away from the four loves of my life to write this.