I recently came across a post in a moms group that I belong to on Facebook, in which the writer wrote about how she was returning to work full-time and feeling guilty about not seeing her toddler at all on weekdays. It was heartbreaking to read, and brought me back to those early days, when as a new mom I felt guilty about every decision I was making as a parent. Some decisions were bigger than others, but all of them stressed me out. Here’s a sample list:
I’m not stimulating my kids’ minds at every moment.
I’m not giving my kids enough time to be bored.
I’m driving the older kid to all her lessons, while the younger kid does nothing but ride around in the car.
I no longer spend enough time with the older one, now that the younger one is here.
I’m not spending the time to make a nutritious dinner from scratch every night.
I put my kids in front of the TV so I have the time to make a nutritious dinner from scratch.
I say “no” all the time.
I said “yes” to something, and now my kids are on the path to becoming self-entitled monsters.
I should be taking more pictures.
Now that I’ve taken all these pictures, I should be organizing them better.
I don’t let my kids do arts and crafts in the house because it’s too messy.
I let my kids do arts and crafts in the house, and now I’m yelling at them for making a mess when it’s not their fault.
I’m staying at home with my kids, and I don’t love it all the time like I should.
I’m working, and I don’t spend enough time with my kids anymore.
Bottom line: The mom guilt is constant and it can be agonizing. Most of the time, it also makes no sense. If I were being logical, I’d see that it’s pointless to think this way. But it’s hard for most moms to be logical. Our emotions are in charge. We want so badly to get it right.
To that mom on Facebook, I ended up posting a comment in reply about my own mom, who was recently talking to me about how she stayed at home with me until I started elementary school, then returned to work full time. This casual revelation blew my mind, as I had absolutely no idea that she was ever a stay-at-home mom! I have no real memories from that time period. All these years, I thought she just worked my whole life (which is, by the way, something that I never even considered holding against her).
So maybe a lot of our guilt isn’t warranted, especially when the kids are really young – will they even remember the gargantuan amount of time we spend feeling guilty about our parenting decisions?
Here’s what I think: At least our guilt shows that we care about getting it right. It stems from our love and dedication to our kids, and above all else, that’s what matters. If you’re determined to be a great parent, then it probably means that you are a great parent already. I’ll bet your kids know it, too.