All these Mums who are on Pinterest, making rainbow spaghetti and homemade playdough…… I’m all like, “I had a shower today and kept the kids alive – Go me!” Source
Is mom-guilt a thing?
You bet it is. Parenting has become a big competition, like the Olympics with shitty, invisible medals. With the invention of the internet, websites like Facebook and Pinterest and so many wonder “Mommy groups” we are better informed and connected than we’ve ever been. But as the old adage goes, sometimes ignorance is bliss. When you are pregnant you are like a sponge for information on a subject you probably know nothing about, “How to successfully raise a human child”. Looking for the current standard on child-rearing and finding out what the “right way” to do things seems like a tall order. Everyone has the best intentions when wanting to do right by their children, not wanting to repeat their parents mistakes or “screw up” their offspring. We have these crazy ideals for ourselves when we enter into parenthood because quite honestly we just don’t know better. Did you ever say things like: “When I have kids, they’ll be seen and not heard.”, “When I have kids they’ll never watch tv.”, “When I have kids, they will never eat junk food”. If you’re an expecting mother and you’re saying these things, I don’t mean to be that jerk mom in the corner snickering at you but I can’t help myself.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this adventure into #Momlife.
The day has come, you feel nervous as you pee on the stick and wait for the lines to appear while trying not to peek. Two lines are there right in front of you, excitement or dread (depending on where you’re at in your life) fill you up, everything is about to change, everything. Then your cloud of bliss dissipates when you realize, “sh*t, I definitely drank while I was pregnant. (This is the first encounter with mom guilt). For awhile the outer changes of pregnancy are not obvious but inside so much is going on. The first three months can be tumultuous; morning sickness, bloating, head aches and more, none of it “fun”.
Then you come into your second trimester, all is right in your world again and you can start to enjoy this special time in your life. You slowly begin to connect with your baby and prepare your life for their impending arrival. The third trimester rolls around and people start to comment on how big you’re getting, (such a helpful observation!) people are breaking space barriers by regularly touching your “bump”, and then there’s the endless stream of questions (When are you due? Is it a boy or a girl? Have you chosen a name?). Along with all these fun daily activities you might be starting to have a few small worries come up; “Will the baby come on time?” “Will I be able to deal with the pain?” “Will I poop in the delivery room?”.
Eventually baby comes along, maybe easily or maybe not (in my case I had a last minute emergency c-section instead of my calm home birth and then a successful VBAC that turned into a hemorrhage and two blood transfusions – good times!) As soon as you have that beautiful bundle on the outside and in your arms reality hits, BAM! You are now responsible for taking care of this little angel; feeding, diapering, rocking, soothing, burping, the list goes on. You are forever changed, your care-free days of coming and going as you please? You can kiss those goodbye! At first this is no biggie, you wanted a baby after all. You feel lucky just to have them and are stoked to be on this new adventure. But as with all experiences nothing stays perfect forever. Love getting your 8 hours of rest each night and sleeping in on weekends? Gone. Drinking 5 cups of coffee to stay awake (unless you’re nursing and sorry that’s a no no) and “sleeping when the baby sleeps” as your Grandma has kindly advised, are your new normal.
“Working mothers are guinea pigs in a scientific experiment to show that sleep is not necessary to human life.” -Unknown Source
You’re wild nights out dancing, drinking, eating and making love? Nope. You’re so tired from being up at night that you wouldn’t even make it through your first drink at Happy Hour. The sex, what about the sex, surely there’s still passion in the bedroom? Ummm excuse me but a human being just came out of your vagina, it’s a disaster down there. Like a grenade went off at a deli counter, not to mention your boobs leaking milk all over the place, the last thing you want for at least the first month post-partum is “sexy time”. Now I know this is starting to sound pessimistic, like being a mom isn’t “fun” or “rewarding. Well I want to assure you, being a mom is great, nothing fills your with more pride and love than seeing your child learn, grow and succeed but it is by no means easy.
“Raising children is part joy and part guerrilla warfare.” -Ed Asner Source
The reason I say mom-guilt exists is because with the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves and with the competitive nature between some parents, we are left with a lot of room for failure. Kids are unpredictable at the best of times, there are so many scenarios that will come up over the years that you may not know how to handle. This pressure to be the best mom and to appear as though you have it all under control is exhausting. We live in a day-in-age when we are super busy, our schedules are jam packed with activities and social obligations and cases of anxiety/depression are sky-rocketing. Something has to give. Trying to keep the facade going that we do all the housework, entertain the kids with educational activities, keep our husbands satisfied in the bedroom, shuttle the kids to and from their multitude of extracurricular, see all our friends and family, keep our bodies healthy and keep that side hustle going without becoming stressed, unhappy and in need of a stiff drink is unrealistic.
Here’s a tip: get a group of “realistic” mommy friends, by surrounding yourself with people who don’t try to “out-do” you and your kid, are realistic and honest about their own struggles as a parent and love to kick back with a glass of wine on a Friday night you are setting yourself up for success. Here’s why; by being able to chat with other moms about the good, the bad and the sh*tty of parenting, you get to admit you’re not perfect, you are supporting one another in the struggle rather than competing (which let’s be honest isn’t fun or productive) and you get a lot of great laughs not to mention a sense of sister-hood. Another tip? Cut yourself some slack mama! There is nothing wrong with admitting you’ve messed up. Kids are incredibly resilient, admitting you messed up and apologizing to them shows humility, a quality you probably want them to have someday.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on this 6 year journey is to throw the negative opinions and judgments of others out the window. I used to feel really self-conscious of what other people were thinking about me and my parenting, particularly when my kids were misbehaving in public. At the end of the day, my job is to stay happy for my family and to show my girls how to be functioning members of society, so caring what people think isn’t at the top of my to-do list anymore. The main takeaway here? you’re doing fine, just do your best and if you fail or run into setbacks; there’s always tomorrow.