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Thursday, August 30, 2018

I broke up with mom-guilt



Mom-guilt is everywhere. 

You see it in books and movies, on Facebook and Instagram. I think we expect it and accept that it is part of the thought process we go through every day. We beat ourselves up every night for our failure as a parent. We cry in the shower because we are not the patient, wise, ever-loving people that we desperately wish we could be. 

But my dear, sweet mama friend, mom-guilt is not doing you any favors. Mom-guilt does not make you a better mom. In fact, I have experienced that living under the shame of mom-guilt made me quicker to explode, more likely to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like zoning out or getting distracted with unimportant busyness.  Mom-guilt is not your friend.

I don't know everything about motherhood. But this is what I have learned so-far. 

I am going to mess up sometimes. 

I might be very well-intentioned, or I might be selfish or weak but I'll mess up. That is a fact. I'm going to expect my daughter to do something that she is just not developmentally ready to do yet, or I'm going to press an issue too hard with my son and in a way that is actually counter-productive. I'm going to over-discipline and I'm going to be lazy. I'm going to lose my temper when I should have been patient and I'm going to let my kids walk all over me when I should have been disciplining more firmly. This has been my reality. I mess up. Kind of a lot actually. Mothering is hard. It pushes me beyond my breaking point - regularly. 

This isn't a bad thing.

Becuase I am learning that one of the most important things I can teach my kids is how to handle failure - when you say something you regret, do something that gets you in trouble, or unintentionally hurts someone else - how do you handle this? Do you run and hide? Do you blame someone else? Do you get angry? Do you cry? How do we sincerely apologize, especially when someone else took it in a way we didn't mean it? How do we correct behavior once we realize it's not right? 

My kids are learning from my example. I want my example to be a good one. 

I want my kids to learn to be honest with themselves - not so hard on themselves that they are paralyzed by fear, and not so easy on themselves that they are not trying to do their best. 

I want my kids to listen to other people's perspectives. Even when, especially when it is different from their own. I want my kids to be able to deflect unkind criticism, especially when the person being a bully is themselves. I want my kids to be able to take constructive criticism. 

I want my kids to learn from their mistakes. 

My kids are going to fail, sooner or later, at something or another. Big or small. A quiz, a test, a conflict, a relationship. One of the most important things I can do is show them the pattern for dealing with failure in a healthy way. 

That when we fail it is okay to be hurt or feel embarrassed but that we get back up and try again to do the next right thing. 

The reality of my journey has been that I have made course corrections. I have had to realize that yes, indeed I really was allowing my kids to spend too much time playing video games and we had to set new rules. I catch myself being too lazy, and I catch myself being too strict. But the average of all of this is that my kids are doing okay. 

The hardest thing, I think, about being a mom of really little kids is that you aren't sure if they are doing okay yet. You haven't had time to prove your skills as a mom. Maybe they are doing okay. Maybe they are turning into tiny psychopaths. It's hard to tell. She's only two. When your kids get a little older and their teachers say "she's so delightful!" and "I can tell you spend a lot of time with your kids" you sort of take a sigh of relief, and release the breath you didn't realize you'd been holding for the last five years. (Of course when their teacher calls you up to tell you what one of your kids did that was not so stellar, then you have to do the whole "dealing with failure" thing with yourself... but that is a post for another day.) 

On the days when you think "Is she eating enough fruits and veggies?" this is what you do - you make sure to try to add some carrots to her lunch tomorrow or you add "go to the farmer's market" to your planner, or text a friend who is good at this and ask if you can have lunch together. Or throw some extra veggie pouches into your ClickList order next time you order groceries. It's all good. Take one small step to do it better, or let yourself off the hook. You are doing the best you can. 

If you lay awake at night because you feel like your kid might have spent too much time on the iPad that day - then schedule a screen-free day and go to the park or set up a playdate or take a walk around your neighborhood and go at their pace and maybe let them bring home a little piece of gravel in their pocket or some leaves in a paper sack. Do a little better today than you did yesterday. Do a craft or whatever makes them happy and keeps your sanity intact.  You are doing the best you can. 

Mom-guilt is not my normal, everyday, mode of operation anymore. 

I do have moments of overwhelming feelings of failure, especially when all my kids seem to be having different shades of bad attitudes simultaneously. That is just a feeling though and feelings aren't the same thing as reality. I can feel like I'm failing at motherhood when in reality I'm doing okay. 

Here is the bottom-line. I want to be the best mom I can possibly be for my kids. Mom-guilt doesn't make me a better mom, usually it makes me worse. So I don't hold onto it. 

You don't have to either.