If you’re a mom, you’re no stranger to mom guilt. Mom guilt: that little voice in your head that causes you to second-guess your parenting (and pretty much everything else). Mom guilt makes us ask questions like:
“am I spending enough time with them am I smothering them am I a bad mom because I don’t buy organic do I spend too much time on Facebook am I a failure because I look forward to their bedtime are they enrolled in enough activities do I have them doing too much stuff…”
and so on.
We let external forces fuel our mom guilt – friends, teachers, our own moms, Pinterest. Us moms are pretty good at beating ourselves up and questioning our parenting but we always seem to allow others to critique our choices, too. We all love to judge each other. We say we don’t, but you know we all do it.
Most moms sail through their day-to-day in conditions favorable for mom guilt. We might not give in all the time, but in today’s fast-paced, plugged-in competitive world, the “am I doing enough” or “I have no idea what the hell I’m doing” are questions never far below the surface.
My personal hot button is time spent with my kids – it’s probably never enough. I have a demanding career and I’m constantly juggling my workload to get home in time to spend more than a couple hours with my preschoolers before bedtime. I write at night after they’re asleep, which is balanced with spending time with hubs and getting stuff done around the house (like dealing with that petrified chicken nugget that is somehow lodged under the dryer, WTF is up with that?). Like most moms, I struggle to do it all and criticize myself when I don’t.
I recently took a long weekend away with my husband. Just my husband. I signed up to run a half-marathon in another city (and yes, time spent running and training is a whole chapter in my book of mom guilt) and although we would have liked to have taken our kids, we couldn’t afford it (is that really true money would be tight but taking the family wasn’t an impossibility now was it). Yes friends, mom guilt in action.
I left my two preschoolers in the capable hands of my very responsible (at least that’s what I keep telling myself) twenty-two year old daughter with a list of instructions, evacuation plans and emergency telephone numbers out the wazoo. My little voice chastised me for going on a jaunt that included not only running but shopping at stores without carts and checkout lanes and a beer tasting tour. And you know what? I decided mom guilt could suck it.
When hubs and I approached airport security and unconsciously drifted towards the family and special assistance security lane, then realized it was just us two, I thought I mom guilt was winning. When we saw the guy dressed up as the giant yellow M & M in the duty-free shop (okay, he was just creepy) I thought “ooh wouldn’t the boys like that?” When we had to stop ourselves from getting in line with the “families boarding with small children” I thought an attack of mom guilt was imminent. We were only an hour in to the trip and I was not really enjoying myself because I kept telling myself “you suck for leaving your kids.”
And then I told myself “knock it off, damn it”. And I listened. I’d like to tell you I had a good time in spite of missing my kids. I did have a good time but here’s the thing: I didn’t miss them. Not even a little.
I didn’t miss them at five-thirty when I rolled over and touched my husband. This is usually impossible because of the four-year old wedged between us. I didn’t miss them when I heard “what time do you want to go to breakfast, darling” instead of “Kid A poured his own cereal and now the kitchen floor is a sea of Cheerios and milk.”
I didn’t miss my kids when I went straight to the breakfast buffet to get food – my food – instead of a complicated tag-team effort between me and hubs (requiring a play book) to feed my hungry small humans before they demolished the hotel dining room. I didn’t miss them when I ate a meal without having to cut food that wasn’t mine. I didn’t miss walking out without shame over the carnage of crumbs and banana peel that was the area surrounding our table.
And so on. I had conversations that didn’t involve phrases like “because I said so” or “use your library voice”, although to be real, I did once ask hubs if he needed to potty. I had grown up drinks and caught a buzz in the middle of the day because I felt like it. I shopped without fear of what little sticky hands might break.
I called home at regular intervals. I gave my daughter sage advice on dealing with meltdowns, smackdowns and poopy underwear. I talked to my little angels about important stuff, like what kind of surprise I was bringing and why they couldn’t watch Frozen just one more time. I enjoyed being me instead of the frazzled multi-tasker trying to do a gazillion things at once. I enjoyed just being Jill, if only for a little while.
I hugged my kids hard when I got home. I didn’t complain about dirty faces or dirty floors. I was pretty damn happy to wear my mom hat again. Instead of sending them off to play while I started laundry and worried about stuff on my to-do list, I sat on the couch and snuggled with my boys. Well, I sat on the couch while my lap was the focal point of King of the Mountain, but it’s all good.
Being a mom doesn’t come with vacation days but getting a break gave me renewed zest for squeezing as much fun as I can from every moment. With everything piled on my plate, sometimes I feel myself just going through the motions, crossing stuff my list to keep the “I should be’s” of mom guilt at bay.
I am lucky for the three blissful days to reconnect with hubs. I needed a reminder why I picked him to ride the crazy train that is my life with me. I’m not suggesting everyone reading this should pack their bags and get outta Dodge, but here’s the takeaway: don’t let mommy guilt get in the way of taking time for your relationships with people other than your small humans or for yourself. Date night, a pedicure, or even one uninterrupted hour to do something for you (locking yourself in the bathroom with a bottle of wine totally counts) without feeling guilty might give you a fresh perspective. At the very least, it might make watching Frozen just one more time a teensy bit more bearable.