Last night I had major “mom guilt.” We’ve been really laid back about letting our kids stay up late this summer and now they are totally out of their routine.
At 10 p.m. I had had enough. I was so tired and just wanted to get some work done, but I kept hearing little footsteps running around downstairs. My boys asked to “camp out” in the play room and I figured it wouldn’t make a difference if they slept downstairs or in their room.
It really doesn’t make a difference, because they have a hard time falling asleep when they are in their room too. We let them sleep together which keeps them up later because they play and giggle. If we separated them, they might fall asleep quicker, but then we’d have to lay with them until they fall asleep because they are scared to sleep alone.
So after an hour of repeating that it was time to settle down and go to sleep, I finally stormed downstairs and yelled, “You have to go to sleep now! It’s 10 o’clock and you should be asleep! No other kids stay up this late. You should have been asleep two hours ago!”
My oldest responded with, “Mommy we can’t help it. We’re trying to go to sleep!”
“No you’re not! You act like you aren’t even tired!” I shouted back.
“We’re not tired!” replied the 7 year old. “I AM tired,” yawned the 4 year old.
The thing is I knew they were tired. They played hard all day! We went to the Botanical Gardens and walked around for almost 3 hours. They actually ran most of the time. After dinner we went down to the field in our neighborhood and played baseball, so they ran some more. Not to mention, the night before they were also up until 10 p.m.
So I helped them remake their bed on the pull-out couch and walked away. Seconds later I heard tiny voices again. “I better not hear another sound!” I yelled. Finally, I went down to the basement to move the laundry to the dryer and by the time I came back upstairs they were either asleep (or too scared to make a sound for fear of getting the wrath of mom).
I succeeded in getting them to sleep, but for some reason I felt worse. The mom guilt had set in. Why wasn’t I happy that they had finally listened and gone to sleep? Because I felt horrible for yelling and blaming them when it’s our fault. We were the ones that let them stay up until 9 o’clock and we let them sleep downstairs together instead of separating them.
I felt like such a failure as a mom.
I started to think that my kids didn’t know how much I love them and all they could think of is how much I yelled at them. The thing is, this feeling isn’t new.
I’ve been dealing with mom guilt since I became a mom. It started when I was pregnant and my first son wasn’t even born yet. I felt guilty when I gained too much weight during my pregnancy and thought that I wasn’t providing the right nutrition for my baby.
After he was born, I felt guilty when he wouldn’t nap and I had to let him cry it out for a few minutes just so I could take a break. I felt guilty when breastfeeding just didn’t work out for me and I had to pump exclusively and then bottle feed him. Even though he was still getting the nutrients of breastmilk, I felt like a failure because I had given up and that maybe he wasn’t getting the same bonding experience as he could if I stuck it out longer.
Of course I felt even more guilt when I switched to formula feeding at 5 months, because it was too much. Even though I pumped, and then fed him through a bottle, and then had to wash the pump parts and bottle pieces at every feeding. I should have earned a metal for all of the effort, but instead I allowed myself to feel bad about giving up.
I felt guilty when I let him sleep in the swing for the first 4 or 5 months of his life, because that was the only way to get him to sleep. Then when I started a full time job and put him in daycare to be “raised by someone else,” I felt the most mom guilt of all.
When my 2nd son was born, I felt guilty for not even trying breastfeeding because of all the challenges I had with my first. I also felt guilty for not giving my oldest enough attention and having to split my time and energy between them.
Lately, I feel guilty when I allow my kids too much screen time and when I let them have too much sugar. I’m sure there are so many other reasons I’ve felt “mom guilt.” It would be impossible not to. Social media sets us up to constantly monitor our status as a mom by comparing ourselves to the other moms out there. We quickly forget that people post the best versions of themself on social media, and then we think we don’t measure up. In reality, no one is perfect.
An article on Huffpost by Taylor Pittman, 5 Ways to Cope When Mom Guilt is Getting The Best of You, quoted tennis star Serena Williams’ post on Instagram about how she felt guilty for not spending enough time with her daughter. She’s a famous athlete, and no doubt she has had to sacrifice a lot of family time to get there. Yet she hasn’t missed a day of spending time with her. Her post had over 3000 responses last year of other moms saying that they’d also missed their kids’ important milestones and had experienced feelings of guilt.
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Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom. I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with. I like communication best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends let me know that my feelings are totally normal. It’s totally normal to feel like I’m not doing enough for my baby. We have all been there. I work a lot, I train, and I’m trying to be the best athlete I can be. However, that means although I have been with her every day of her life, I’m not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes. I’m here to say: if you are having a rough day or week–it’s ok–I am, too!!! There’s always tomm!
Pittman also writes that the best way to deal with mom guilt and these feelings of inferiority is to stop comparing yourself to Hollywood’s take on the perfect mom. Carol Brady doesn’t exist and we have to stop trying to be someone who isn’t even real!
Based on my own experience, the best way to deal with mom guilt is to ask yourself these 3 questions:
1). Am I providing my kids their basic needs? If you are giving them food, drink, shelter, and love then you are doing a good job as a mom and you don’t need to feel guilty.
2). What do I need right now? It’s so easy to focus on what your kids need and forget that you as a mom have needs to. Sometimes the feeling that you can’t measure up is a result of burn out and you just need to take a few minutes to fill your own cup. Check out my post on self-care to see my top tips for ways moms can take care of themselves.
3). If one of my friends was feeling guilty about this would I tell her not to? If the answer is yes, why are you holding yourself to higher standards? I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to be better, but you have to cut yourself a break when things don’t always go as planned.
What do you struggle with feeling guilty about most as a mom? Have you found anything that helps you get past it?