You’ve joined the mommy club and gone through a labor of love. Now you have this precious angel to care for. A person in your life that you love more than you could have expected. There are no words to describe the deep bond of love mothers feel for their children. It brings out so many qualities in us like nurturing, kindness, selflessness, protectiveness, empathy, creativity and strength. It also brings out something many of us never expected — guilt.
Mommy guilt comes in many different forms. There’s the ‘didn’t do enough’ variety, the ‘second guessing yourself’ version or ‘am I a bad mom because I do/don’t’ variety. Then there’s the ‘I don’t measure up’ type, followed closely by the ‘shouldn’t I be enjoying this more?’ guilt. Over the last couple weeks I’ve talked to friends and colleagues all over the country about mommy guilt and asked them what gives them the most mommy guilt and came up with this non-scientific list:
- Too much screen time
- Yelling at them
- Being impatient with them
- Wishing you’d done ______ better
- Not giving them enough attention
When I posed this question on Facebook, one of my friends messaged me privately and had this to say on the subject of mommy guilt (due to the personal nature of her response she asked that I quote her anonymously).
“What brings out my mommy guilt you ask, well here’s the list… yelling, spanking, not doing enough housework, doing too much housework, days where they really don’t eat a single vegetable, too much TV, not enough “enriching activities” like music, gymnastics, swimming, dance (some because I hate them and some because we can’t afford it), wanting to go back to work, feeling bored when I am “supposed” to be cherishing this time, etc, etc…”
I was really moved by this mom’s honesty in her response to my question because I think so many of us find ourselves in the same position. We feel bad about our mommy guilt and don’t typically share how we’re feeling with other mothers. But I think when you talk to most moms you often find they are feeling the same way and would understand where you’re coming from. You’d find support instead of judgment and a feeling that you’re not so alone.
There’s another kind of mommy guilt that can impact a mother deeply, down to her core. It comes from having a baby or child that is sick. When a child suffers from any type of chronic illness, is hospitalized, or if the doctor’s can’t figure out what’s wrong, moms start searching desperately for answers and often attribute their child’s health problems to some failure on their part. On more than once occasion I’ve had a mom in my office break down in tears on her child’s first visit because she’s borne the guilt and worry for her child for so long and having to describe in detail her child’s health brings all those turbulent emotions to the surface.
I feel so deeply for those moms because I suffered a supreme case of mommy guilt with my first child. I had an extremely stressful pregnancy and an infant with health problems. I was just finishing up acupuncture school and studying for my national and state board exams when I found out my dad had end-stage lung cancer. He passed away a few weeks before I took my exams. Between the stress of my exams and my grief at losing my Dad, it was no wonder I had pre-term labor and was on bed rest for my last trimester. Then my baby came into this world with his sensitivity dial at 10! He needed constant holding for naps and sleeping. Crying it out did not work — it just left me more frazzled and feeling guilty! I did the standard vaccinations and after his third round of shots he developed eczema which was so bad that at one point it covered almost his entire body. On top of all of that he had food sensitivities and sensory issues which made him an extremely picky eater. His weight was so low at one point he was in the 3rd percentile! I had nightmares he would die of starvation.
Just writing about this time of my life makes me feel tense. I carried bucket loads of guilt that the stress during my pregnancy caused all my son’s problems. That somehow I made a mistake vaccinating him and that somehow how his pickiness was also my failure as a mother. When I look back now I realize I did the best I could with the circumstances I had. Maybe knowing what I know now I would have made different choices, but I don’t regret the choices I made because I learned from them and have done better since. Not only did I end up healing my son’s eczema with acupuncture and herbal medicine, I specialized in pediatrics and have helped thousands more kids. Now I’m hoping to help even more with this blog. My son is now a happy, healthy, vibrant 9 year old. He is has some minor issues with his skin, but he doesn’t have eczema. He no longer holds the title of world’s pickiest kid and eats a variety of foods and will even try new things like butternut squash pizza! Sometimes I look at him and think, “What was I so worried about?”
Where Does All the Guilt & Worry Come From?
The real reason I felt so guilty was because I loved my son so incredibly much and the thought that somehow I caused his health problems was in direct conflict with my desire to raise a healthy happy child! If we didn’t care about our kids we wouldn’t be so worried about them! We’d just ignore our babies and let them cry all time. We’d let our kids watch TV all day, eat junk food, skip homework, and let their teeth rot (gasp!). But we don’t, because we’re trying to do what’s best for them. I’m not a psychologist or anything, but I’d say our guilt mostly comes from our love! Being on the other side of my son’s health problems now, I see the mistakes I made and all the energy I wasted worrying about his skin, his diet and his weight. It didn’t serve either one of us and it didn’t help make him better — it just made me feel really really terrible
Moms strive to do the best they can for their kids. Every mother is unique and will have their own parenting style which not everyone will ‘approve’ of especially our own mothers or mothers-in-law. I think we can all agree that every child is unique and needs to be mothered differently. At one time or another we’re going to make mistakes, question our decisions, and wish we’d done things differently. So, maybe you’re just now getting into natural health, holistic parenting, or eliminating processed food from your kid’s diet. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting at in your journey — accept who you are and where you’re at. Maya Angelou said it best, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Isn’t that what this journey is all about?
Don’t Beat Yourself Up!
We can’t be perfect every day and I think sometimes we hold ourselves up to unattainable standards of what being a good mom is. Facebook, Pinterest and other social media venues can magnify those feelings. Maybe your kids watched TV all Sunday, played too many video games, drank soda pop at a party. Maybe you forgot to hand in that permission slip, picked up your kid late from daycare or opted for a quick trip through the drive thru. We are human and juggling many different roles. Don’t be so hard on yourself! We’ve all been there! If you look at and focus on all the good decisions and choices you made you’ll see it’s not as bad as you think.
How Do We Know if We’re Being Good Mothers?
Just look at your kids. Are they happy? Do they light up when they see you? Do provide them with unconditional love and stability? Then no matter what short comings you think you may have — you are a GREAT mom! Mommy guilt can help us do better, but at a certain point it only makes us feel bad. That’s when it’s time to let it go. So, I am hereby officially absolving you of any mommy guilt you are still holding on to! Take a deep breath. Aaaah! Doesn’t that feel better now?
The Story Doesn’t End There
Wouldn’t it be so nice if once you let mommy guilt go — poof — it’s gone for good? I certainly thought I had let go of the guilt over my son, but writing this post stirred up some of the sad and guilty feelings I guess had buried deep down. I found this out last night at a dinner with some of the bloggers from Village Green Network. In the course of conversation we were sharing our stories of how we learned about the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), a pivotal moment for most of us, and as I was telling my story which begins with my son’s health struggles I got choked up — even shed a few tears (way to make a first impression, right?). I was very embarrassed since I hadn’t expected to have an emotional reaction to such a simple question. However, instead of judgment or annoyance I felt understanding and support from the ladies I was dining with. They began to relate their own stories as if prove my point that we shouldn’t bury and hide our guilt but share to release us from our burden. Maya Angelou says, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Now my story is out for all to see (and that’s a little scary), but hopefully it will help another mothers struggling with guilt. It takes time to let go of emotions you’ve been carrying around for a long time. Last night I let my mommy guilt go yet again and tomorrow I’ll let it go and the day after that until finally one day it will really be gone.
Have You Ever Had Mommy Guilt? Leave Us a Comment.
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