“The thing about mom guilt is, we all have it. Whether you are a young mom, a single mom, a co-parenting mom, a stepmom, an adoptive mom, a working mom, a stay-at-home-mom, or whatever kind of mom you are — we are all connected through highs and lows of motherhood. We are on this journey that means the world to each of us, so much so, that we beat ourselves up when we come up short. We are only human. Empower each other!”
– Credit: @mimosaswithmoms
I’m writing to you straight from my heart today, friends; and I might even be talking to myself a little bit. One of my biggest annoyances is the “perfect” persona some internet influencers attempt to create. You know the one: that my life is perfect, I always enjoy my kids, the world is made of marshmallows, la la la la la, if you can’t do it as well as me, you’re not doing it right; persona.
I’m here to tell you, that’s not my jam. I believe there’s a fine line between airing all your dirty laundry and genuine authenticity. I have a hard time letting anybody know I’m struggling, but in this moment, I’m going for real and transparent because I believe someone somewhere will read this that needs to hear what I needed to hear for the last few weeks.
This is hard for me, but today, I’m shooting for authenticity and transparency, and maybe a hint of vulnerability, with as much grace as I have in me.
My last two weeks have felt like a series of unfortunate events, and it all darn near came to a head in the Starbucks parking lot because I had a hard time getting into the parking lot.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. A lot of little things build up over weeks or months, and before you know it, you’re crying in a random parking lot because 3 people cut you off in moments of self importance as you were stuck behind another person who was blocking you as she was trying to get in the drive through to get her much needed latte.
It hasn’t even necessarily been one big thing, but if I had to pinpoint one major thing, it would be the incredible struggle of molding kids without breaking their spirits, and one of my little spirits has been especially free for the last few weeks.
She’s adopted this new sound that’s some kind of a hybrid of forced hyperventilating, whining, and sobbing that sounds like some kind of injured goose that’s been hit by a golf cart and limped off into the woods to die.
And I try, I TRY, to keep my cool. I do. And a lot of the time, I do. We do deep breaths, hugs, take drinks of water, use “I feel” statements, talk about why she’s upset and what she can do better next time, and I try to give her tactics to get through her big emotions that overtake her small self of less than 4 whole feet. Other times, I’m not the shining example I feel like I need to be; enter mom guilt because I feel like a hypocrite.
Some day, I feel like I’m drowning. Drowning in guilt that I didn’t do their speech words with them, they didn’t do their homework this week, I didn’t play with them today, I didn’t make a “good” dinner, I wasn’t patient enough, I wasn’t this or that. Drowning in lack of time to do everything I want to do, guilt that I can’t do it all, lack of help, resources, you name it; and sometimes the very answers to why I can’t do what I want to do form an actual triangle to why I can’t do XYZ and it’s infuriating. Which leads me to bring you this piece that felt so natural and appropriate today.
It’s everywhere like the flu in November. It’s mom guilt. And if you’re a mom, you’ve likely experienced it, too.
Here’s the deal, sister (I’m talking to myself here, too): you are more than “just” a mom (in a negative connotation; there’s nothing wrong with being a mama!). You are your own individual person. You are a whole person who is worthy of goals and dreams. Having feelings should not come to a screeching halt when you created a miniature version of yourself (or 7 miniature versions).
You are still who you were before you had kids. Are you different? YES! Motherhood changes you. There’s more people depending on you, but you at your core, you are still you. The threads woven together intricately that form your being are still there.
You are more than a mom. You have your own beautiful personality and strengths and talents to offer this world and you would be doing the world around you a disservice to now walk those out. You have value and things to offer that no one else can quite like you can. And you should not allow yourself to feel guilty for being a whole, valuable human being with wants, needs, desires, dreams, or goals, for one single second.
If I’ve learned anything since becoming a mom, it’s that relinquishing any fraction of that guilt is hardddddd. HARD with 15 D’s. But we can relinquish some of this guilt by a simple choice to do so.
I know because I have to make the choice to take a stand against mom guilt nearly every day.
The buck stops here.
No more feeling guilty about:
1) Caring about yourself and taking time to be alone.
You are your own person. There is nobody in this world, I don’t care how amazing they are or how much you love them, NOBODY in this world that you could live with and never be annoyed with them or need some space.
You need that time alone to recharge and come back fresh.
2) Leaving your kids. Ever. For anything.
Why do so many moms have this sense that we can NEVER leave, and if we do, we are somehow less than a mom?
Take the help and run, sister! They’ll be there when you come back and they’ll be GLAD to see you!
3) Hating when they’re sick.
Is being sick ever fun for anybody? And honestly, sick kids are the whiniest, grumpiest, neediest little people on the planet and the days feel at least twice as long. Admitting that this is hard is not doing a disservice to anybody. It’s just being honest.
But the good news that has gotten me through many bad weeks is all bad weeks have to end. And they are inevitably followed by better days.
4) Not wanting to take them out.
I have taken all the kids out by myself. I’m totally capable. It makes it exponentially harder and more time consuming, yes; but to be honest, that isn’t what bothers me.
The biggest thing that makes me anxious about going out with all three kids is the people around me and not knowing their motives. There are 3 of them and one of me, and I don’t like to run the risk of being distracted by one kid and not fully aware of my surroundings.
That’s the main reason that nearly every time I have the option to either not go out with them alone, or not take them with me at all, I take it as often as I can. It’s harder, but more than anything, it’s a safety issue.
5) Being annoyed with packing them up and toting them anywhere with the insane amounts of stuff that kids need (which rivals a circus).
Girl, the amount of stuff my kids need for a day out can make the back of our SUV look like we’re going away for a weekend, and we always get down the road and realize what we forgot. It’s just a lot.
I remember a very distant version of Hannah and Joey who would literally say, “You want to go out for dinner?” “Yes.”
Then you know what we did? WE LEFT and now that blows my mind.
6) Hating being cooped up in the house all day.
This is for the SAHM reading this that feels like her brain is turning into Jell-O being home for 12 hours with a kid or five.
The small things are huge to them and it can be exhausting.
Their emotions are 8,000x bigger than they are, and it can be exhausting.
They want you to watch them do a hop from rug to rug while the baby is crying for the bottle you’re making and the other one is asking for the lunch you’re in the process of trying to make, and it can be exhausting.
Their ideas of good conversation are somewhere between their favorite My Little Pony and “What if peanut butter was a planet? HAHAHA” in the middle of your sentence and it can be exhausting.
It can be exhausting.
7) Spending money on yourself.
Why is it so easy to drop $50 on your kids but feel guilty for getting yourself a $15 pair of shoes? I don’t know but I think it’s ridiculous. You need things, too, and that’s valid.
8) Eating the “good” food.
The “pretty” piece of chicken, the bigger piece of cake, the folded chip. Honestly, they don’t know unless you tell them.
9) Hiding something you wanted to eat without sharing.
Yesterday I started to open a bag to eat a piece of cold pizza, and it was less than 4 seconds before 2 hands were out to me. Um, for starters, manners please. And second, that’s frustrating to not even have that small moment of peace to have a snack.
Sometimes I eat snacks or candy I don’t want to share after they’re in bed. Want to know why? Kids are hard. And they eat like starving Rottweilers so it isn’t like they even taste it anyway.
10) Going on dates with your husband.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Your marriage matters more now, not less. It matters more because you have more people depending on you. One of these days, when the kids are grown and don’t need you in the same way, it’s just going to be you and him.
I mean, think about it: How did you fall in love to begin with? You went on dates and spent time together. You got to know each other. So doesn’t it make sense to assume that repeating how you fell in love would also sustain your love?
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In any capacity. Stay at home, work from home, working outside the home. We’re all moms. It’s always hard. And we’re all doing the best we can.
12) Wanting to work.
I get wanting to work with my whole being. I get wanting to go to a place and feel respected, feel important, feel like you’re good at what you do, and even feeling like you just need a break.
Different strokes for different folks. How you choose to be a mom is not going to be the same as your friend, or the moms your kids go to preschool with, or the way your mom has chosen to be a mom, and can I tell you that that’s okay? Past okay, that’s normal! You’re normal. You do what works best for you and your family. You know what that is better than anybody.
13) Not playing with them nonstop.
Real talk: playing with my kids is hard for me. I do it. But probably not like some other moms do. But you know what I have found?
A lot of the time when kids ask you to play with them, it’s an expression that their love language is quality time. They want time with you and your attention; not necessarily the playing itself.
I started asking my girls to do something with me I enjoy. I like cooking and baking, so a lot of the time our go-to to spend time together is baking muffins or I’ll explain to them how I’m making a pot of chili. And oftentimes, that fills that need for intentional time with them without me feeling like I’m martyring myself.
14) Giving them peanut butter and jelly for dinner.
I try to ask myself, will this matter in a year or 5? If the answer is no, channel your inner Elsa and LET IT GOOOO.
15) Having dreams that do not involve your kids.
Yowza, this feels like a hot one.
Your kids will always be a part of the future you see for yourself. That said… Again, one day they are not going to need you in the same way. While they are and always will be a massive part of your world, your entire world should not be them.
You have to have a vision for who you are and what you want separate from your kids and your identity as their mom so you don’t fall apart when they do what we raise them to do: spread their wings and soar.
16) Admitting that you cannot do it all and asking for and/or accepting help.
This has been me for the last two weeks. I’ve felt like I’m drowning. I have a laundry list of things I need to do but feel like I don’t have the time to get it all done.
In the words of Rachel Hollis, You can do it all, just not all at once, and not without help. And there is no shame in that.
17) Admitting that your child was a pint-sized tyrant this week and you’re at your wits’ end.
Heyyyyo, me again! My kids are with my Grandma as I type this from a Starbucks up the road, and can I just tell you, when I got in my car after dropping them off, I sat there and stared blankly for a second, and had the actual realization: All I can hear is my thoughts.
This morning, and the last 2 weeks, has been one big long constant string of meltdowns; one right after another. Liquifying and slinkying down the couch followed by the favorite phrases: “Me not doing that”; “Me don’t want to”; and “Me not feel like it” which have been strung together like a poorly tuned orchestra. Maybe it will be funny in hindsight. Today was not that day.
18) Not loving every minute of motherhood.
Being a mom is the best, most rewarding thing I have ever done.
But being a good mom is also the most challenging, stressful, complicated thing I have ever taken on in my life.
It’s hard. No matter how many kids you have, what their personalities are, what their strengths are, what your mom style is, or how you do motherhood, it is hard. And there’s no shame in admitting that you’re struggling, because we’ve all been there. If anyone says she isn’t struggling and never has, she’s full of it. There is nothing wrong with you. You’re not broken. And you are not alone.
19) Being annoyed with the noise.
I feel like the Grinch: “All the noise, noise, noise, noise!” Kids are noise personified Their listening skills are incredibly hit or miss. Sometimes I say the say things so many times in a day that I feel like it goes in one ear, putters through and comes out the other, and it can be draining.
20) Feeling “touched out”.
Kids touch you a lot. Sometimes is nearly nonstop. It comes with developing healthy emotional attachment and security and a whole host of other things. I do my best to meet this developmental need in my kids. I don’t turn them away when they want held or tell them no when they want a hug because my wants are less important than their biological needs.
But after having 3 kids being within 9 inches of you all day for 6 or 10 or 12 hours, I don’t even want the dog to touch me. Sometimes I need a break from touch. I am telling you with confidence that nearly every mom on Earth has felt this way. And it’s normal.
21) Choosing childcare because it will help you.
If it was in our budget, we would probably have a regular sitter by now. I need help and I’m not afraid to admit that. There is more that I have to do than what I can manage without delegating and accepting help when it is offered. There’s just too much stuff, too many things, and there’s only one of me.
Knowing that your kids are safe and cared for is your sole responsibility. That does not always have to be with you. There is no shame in admitting that you need help or need a break.
22) Sending them to preschool early partly because it will help you.
Same concept here as daycare. We love our girls’ school. They go to a small, private school and I know in my being that when I leave them there, they are safe. I know they’re with teachers that care about their well-being. I know that they’re investing in them.
Ella was still 2 by 2 days when she started preschool. Because of how her birthday falls, she will end up doing 3 years of preschool. I had huge reservations about if she was ready, if we were pushing her, was this best for her or me (hi, guilt), yada yada yada.
It’s December now and she’s been in it since August, and guess what? She has absolutely flourished. She has learned so much. She’s learning who she is without being in her big sister’s shadow. She’s allowed to be her own person there. And she loves it.
Their going helps them as much as it does me. I know they are safe, invested in, and well cared for when I leave them there, so I choose to let go of the guilt in accepting that the time they are there is helpful to me, too.
23) Not keeping the dishes and laundry perfectly caught up at all times, always.
I have lost track of the times I’ve chosen to sit with my girls when the dishes could take one small tip away from falling over and injuring the nearest innocent bystander. I don’t even know how it happens because it’s like I do them, then 20 minutes go by and BOOM! They’re back. It’s like they multiply at night.
Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize: the dishes, laundry, sweeping, etc. will always get done. Always. But if you miss a moment you wanted to take, if you wanted to color with the kids, hold the baby while she slept, go out and do something to make a family memory, and didn’t take it, that won’t always be there. The dishes will.
24) Not giving them “enough” baths.
This is another one that seems to get away from me, but I know I’m not the only one that has dry shampooed her kids hair to stretch it another day. Bathtime is an ORDEAL equivalent to an expedition to the moon at our house.
Accept that it’s hard, invest in some dry shampoo, and let go of the guilt because it didn’t get done today. It will.
25) Having hobbies and passions and choosing to pursue them.
You have got to have things you enjoy, separate from your kids, that feed your soul and bring you joy. I have come to find that I love yoga and painting and I make and effort to do those things often, and I’m a better mom after doing so because I feel recharged. I feel happier.
Your kids need the best version of yourself you can offer, and doing things that bring you joy is an amazing place to start.
26) Still being irritated after they’ve said they’re sorry.
Sometimes adult emotions linger. With my kids, when they’ve done wrong, apologized, and we hugged, we don’t talk about it again; that doesn’t mean that my irritation immediately ceases. I don’t voice it to them, but sometimes it takes me hours to no longer feel frustrated. And if you’re in the same boat, friend, I’ve been there, too.
27) Putting on a show so they’ll be quiet for awhile.
One of the best parts for me for limiting screen time is the ability to use it to my advantage.
We watch very little TV (probably less than 2-3 hours a week). The time that they do watch it is when I really need them to just be still and quiet for awhile, and it has helped me tremendously.
28) Taking time to rest instead of doing other stuff.
Sometimes I choose to just sit for awhile when there’s dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, or whatever else is on my list for the day, and for some annoying reason, I usually sit there thinking about how I’m going to pay for this later, because I’m not making the “best” use of my time. In what world do I not qualify as worthy of spending time for myself?
You are worthy of spending time for yourself! I’m talking to myself here. Sometimes that simply means sitting and doing nothing for 20 minutes. I don’t know why this is a particularly hard one to let go of, but I have lots of room for improvement here.
29) Being excited for them to go to school.
I love my kids. And I love going to get them from school. I get excited to see them because I miss those little stink pots. But I would be lying if I said those 16 hours a week where it’s just me and the baby aren’t helpful to me. And there shouldn’t be shame in that, either.
30) Not being able to do it all, everyday, without help.
Did I say this already? Listen up, Mama. You are not Super Mom. I promise this is going to be encouraging, so hang with me for a minute.
I have this unattainable image in my mind of the “super mom” I strive to be. And honestly, sometimes I feel like I nail it.
I have had days where I have gone above and beyond to do things to show my kids kindness. I have thrown Pinterest worthy birthday parties. They’ve been above and beyond helpful and thoughtful to each other. We’ve done crafts I prepared. I have made costumes. I have volunteered in school parties and field trips. I have gotten down on their level. I have gone above and beyond to teach them traits of the people I pray that they one day grow into. I have had days where we had a healthy, homemade dinner, the kitchen was left spotless, the laundry was caught up, everyone had a bath, homework was done, I laughed with my kids often, and just generally, everything was great, and I felt like I had a firm grasp on this whole motherhood thing.
And then… there’s been days, or weeks, like this one; where it feels like I’m fumbling for ANY kind of grasp on motherhood (or life in general) like that guy that fell on the ice for 9 seconds straight.
I haven’t cooked all week. We went 2 weeks before we went to the store (with Thanksgiving in between), so we had “funny dinners” a few nights. I didn’t even have the ingredients for a peanut butter and jelly for dinner.
My kids need a bath but don’t ask me when the last one was.
I painted most of the day yesterday, and neglected the dishes that were overflowing, and the laundry that won’t fold itself on the couch.
I was going to work on the blog last night, and stayed home to paint. Whoops.
I’ve lost my patience more than I wanted to.
Maybe I’ve been too hard on the kids or not hard enough; I don’t even know at this point. This morning we left the house at 10:00am, and there was enough snot and tears slung and dying goose noises revolving around the loss of a cowboy hat after the choice to disobey to comfortably last the average kid a month.
They have fought like Northerners and Confederates for 2 weeks straight and sometimes I feel like my words go in one ear and out the other, and like, what even is the point? What am I doing here? Does XYZ even matter?
I’ve been back and forth on myself all week, and it’s been a hard one.
But you know what that means? It means that I love those kids.
And if you’ve questioned yourself, too; if you’re a good mom, if you’re doing __________ right or wrong, do you know what that means for you? It means you love those kids. The fact that this is crossing your mind means you care, and you’re doing better than you think you are.
I challenge you to make yourself a priority today in some way, even if it’s small.
I challenge you to adjust your mindset, relinquish some control, and let go of mom guilt.
I challenge you to release mom guilt, and replace it with mom grace.
I challenge you to let go of things that won’t matter in a year.
I challenge you to admit that you need help, then accept it whenever you need it, without feeling bad in any way for doing so.
I challenge you to make your inner dialogue towards yourself a positive one.
I challenge you to accept the fact that you are doing the best you can and that that is enough.
I challenge you to accept that you are doing your best to show up for your family, and rest in the fact that that is enough.
One day at a time, Mama. I promise you’re doing better than you think you are.
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