Funny thing about mom guilt. It’s OURS, not theirs. Our kids are not going to remember these little things that eat us alive throughout the day. These moments that we look back on and feel shame and loathing for ourselves for not handling differently. The things we did (or didn’t do) that make us question if we are slowly raising little criminal masterminds because we didn’t react better.
But our kids? They have already forgotten about it. That’s the great thing about kids… they are constantly absolving, forgetting, and moving on. They are the embodiment of forgiveness. We should learn a thing or two from them, and forgive ourselves.
I have mom guilt for all sorts of reasons. For feeling like working is taking time away from my kids, for having medical issues from time to time that have physically prevented me from doing more than I would like with my kids while they are little, for not seeing my son’s cries for help as he basically screamed for almost a YEAR that he was transgender and I just didn’t see it. For getting divorced, for their dad not being in the picture. For being crabby, tired, yelling at my kid to put her shoes on faster when she just wanted to find a cute pair to show off her freshly painted toe nails (way to go, mom). Or for letting them eat pop-tarts for dinner because I just “can’t even” anymore today. The list of reasons I have to feel like an absolute shit as a mom is virtually endless….
I can pin point the exact day that my mom guilt kicked into full gear and never went away. Since that day it’s only morphed into a more potent form of guilt that makes me replay scenarios in my head all day and night that I f*cked up. Times I wish I could rewind, repeat, do better.
My oldest was an only child for only 2.5 short years. A few months before his third birthday my second came into the world and I. Was. Tired. I was overwhelmed, I was nursing and awake all night and I had some post-natal issues after that threw me back in the hospital and caused extra recovering time weeks after delivery that I hadn’t prepared myself for.
During my pregnancy I remember feeling like the literal walking dead. Every day was a struggle to make it to 7pm before I would pass out, mouth open, drooling, wherever my ass happened to land. I slept on the couch, in a chair, in my son’s twin bed more times during that pregnancy than I have in my entire parenting life. Throughout the nine months of
hell pregnancy bliss I lived off of “movie days” with my son and tried to make my exhaustion as fun as possible for him.
Once my second took us by storm, I was even more depleted and midway through the day I needed a break. I remember setting up a movie for my toddler like I had countless times in the last 9 months, telling him it was time to chill out, and once the opening credits began I walked into the adjacent room to lay down and nurse the baby. He was so confused. Quickly toddling behind me asking, “but mommy why??”. It was quite possibly the saddest, most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen, and yet…. he literally has no recollection of this.
I, however, have let it take tiny bits of my soul every time this moment replays in my head (which probably happens more often than what any good therapist would consider “normal”).
His glum little face, his crushed soul, the sweet whimpers asking me why all of a sudden just because the baby was here did I not want to lay with HIM and watch the movie together? And it’s not that I didn’t. I just had a fussy baby who woke up to every move, every loud noise. One that only seemed to sleep on when it was within my scent and in MY bed.
As I replay this day I think, I should have never walked away from that time with him. I should have sat my happy ass on the couch and let him cuddle up next to me while I nursed his sibling. I should have came back the second he showed any discontent, instead of telling him to go ahead and lay down, without me.
I should have….. wish I had…. if only I could go back….
I assume many moms have a story similar to this. A day that culminated all of their guilt as a parent, even if it was just a moment. But it’s one they wish they could take back, do all over again. And yet, as much as this day will forever haunt me and constantly remind me that I am a very imperfect parent, my kid is not an aspiring serial killer because of it. He’s completely normal, loving, compassionate, and none the wiser to the day that established all of my future “mom guilt”.
Maybe we should all be just give ourselves a little break and be a tad more understanding of our own faults as parents, as humans and stop analyzing everything we do that isn’t perfect as if its ultimately causing our kids irreparable emotional damage.
I think that you’re doing a great job, mama. And your kid? Your kid is lucky to have you.