Jessica’s poignant breastfeeding post yesterday prompted me to write on a topic that’s been on the agenda for a while now: The Mommy Guilt. To me, it seems like mommy guilt and mommy competition (mompetition) are two sides of the same coin—the need to be a perfect mother coin. (I don’t imagine that dads stress about these issues like moms do, but I’d love to hear from anyone suffering from daddy guilt. Seriously.) Some comes from within, some comes from outside sources. That doesn’t mean any of it is fun.
It starts with pregnancy and the idea that every little thing you’re doing could be harmful to your baby. It continues, probably until your kids are old and gray themselves. I think it stems from having an image in mind of the mom you want to be to your kids. And when anything you do falls outside of this perfect, blissful notion, you feel like a failure. But don’t we need to cut ourselves a bit of slack? We’re not perfect citizens of the world. None of us is the perfect employee, the perfect daughter, cook or driver. Why do we feel we should be perfect at being a mom?
For me, mommy guilt is at its worst when it comes to my work/life balance. I’ve always wanted to stay home with my kids. It’s what my mom did when I was younger, and it’s what I had in mind that I would do. But after putting two years of blood, sweat and tears into my work, there was no way I was going to be giving it up. Besides, I love my job.
All was fine and manageable while I had just one child. I was busy, sure, but I could work during naps and manage to get everything done. Once baby two arrived, I reached my breaking point with trying to be a hero, a super mom, and do it all. There were simply not enough hours in the day to do it all, even if I skipped sleeping.
When my husband would bring up daycare, I would cringe. Sure, I was stressed to the max, but I couldn’t fathom the idea of sending my daughter somewhere else. Yes, millions do it daily, but the guilt and sadness I felt about that option was palpable. Because of that, I opted to get an in-home babysitter for a total of six hours a week. Yes, it’s not enough hours, and I still have over a hundred new emails at a time that need attending to, but I’d rather face the work guilt than the crushing mom guilt. (And I know that once Jenn is in my shoes, she’ll totally understand.)
And even though my daughter is just in the other room with the sitter, I still feel bad when I have to work when she wants my attention. But I’m trying to cut myself a little slack. Not feel guilty that I want to work. Not feel guilty that I enjoy that brief break from the kids for work or Zumba. That I can’t hold my son every moment of the day on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The mom guilt trigger can be anything, and I’m sure it’s different for different women. Maybe it’s having caffeine while pregnant or breastfeeding. Or using formula. Or taking your kids to daycare. But we need to give ourselves a break. Maybe when we stop giving ourselves such a hard time, we’ll start cutting each other some slack and not be so judgmental about others’ choices. Maybe we’ll stop using our own insecurities to attack others’ parenting decisions.
What issues trigger your mom guilt the most? —Erin