This past weekend, I flew up to Vancouver, British Columbia to surprise a dear friend of mine, meet her new baby, spend quality time with her toddler and support their family as they enter into the new-ness of parenting two little boys in a city with no family nearby. The trip was planned weeks prior to my departure, with a big thanks to her husband’s ability to secretly manage their calendar, but like most things these days, it came quicker than I expected.
A day before I was set to leave, and long before I even thought about what I would pack for my trip, I had a visit from a good friend of mine. (No, not that monthly friend, though she came to visit as well, but don’t worry, I won’t spend the rest of my time writing about that)… Mom guilt decided to show up in Spring Creek, Nevada on the eve of my departure, and boy all mighty did it keep me up all night.
Years ago, when I was single and living in Denver, I would question (briefly) some of my decisions, but never in the way that mom guilt makes me wonder about my every move now. Back then, I would spend a day or two thinking about booking a trip to see a friend, wonder if that was the best use of my most recent teacher-salary paycheck, and then get online soon after to schedule the trip. And I might question smaller things, too, like do I really need to go out to lunch on Friday or should I take the healthier/cheaper route of packing my leftovers to take instead?
But you see, these decisions, no matter how long I thought about them, never came with GUILT, no matter what I decided. Once I booked the trip, I started a countdown for it. Or if I decided to pass on travel this time, I would fill my calendar with other social things and move on. And once I planned to go out for lunch, I got excited thinking about where I would go and what non-adventurous item I would select from the menu. To be honest, I never actually took leftovers, so I have no idea what the implication of that would have been…
But as a mom, decisions are hard BECAUSE of the guilt. This BINGO card pretty much sums it up. There are far more times in a day that I could feel guilty for what I do or why I do it, instead of feeling proud of what I do or why I do it. I work really hard to prevent this guilt from consuming me, but some days that is easier said than done. Especially while lying in bed with a brain that won’t shut off. I suppose this is why mom guilt keeps me up at night.
As a mom, it’s no longer about if I should commit to the trip or not. Now it’s about who will be most impacted if I go on the trip, who will forgive me fastest if I don’t go on the trip, what will life be like for whatever decision I make, and how long will I be stuck with the implications of my decision.
Oh and please don’t misunderstand this… I’m no longer talking about a trip to visit a friend or bask in the sun on the beaches of Hawaii. Nope. Mom guilt rears its ugly head when I am thinking about a trip through the drive thru at Wendy’s to pick up dinner for Lincoln. Should I make him happy, keep him quiet in the car for our drive home, and insure that he actually eats dinner by making THE trip? Or should I be a “better mom” by letting him scream the whole way home, fight me over eating roasted veggies and grilled chicken, and wonder if he actually got enough for dinner tonight.
You see, there have been many times in my motherhood journey, from pregnancy* to present, where I question my decisions before I make them, question my decisions after I make them, and feel the curse of mom guilt the whole time through. But why? What is it about the decisions we make as parents that raise so many questions? Is it that we are making choices that are impacting so many other people? Is that we live in a society that is constantly comparing what it means to be “the best” parent? Is it that we are told that parenting means selflessness and so making any self-guided decision seems just wrong? Is it that we are biologically altered after procreating and this is one result?
I know I’m not the only one who experiences this feeling of mom guilt. And I know some of the causes for it seem SO trivial because, well, they are! We should NOT feel guilty that we took one hour to go to the store alone, that we took 5 extra minutes in the shower to shave our legs, that we bought store-made cookies for the birthday party or that we made microwaved popcorn for dinner. We are working hard at the most important and most challenging job in the world. We are filling lots of shoes on a daily basis. And we are doing a kickass job at being moms!
Before signing off, I’d like to share a recent experience with mom guilt that I had to laugh about. A few weeks ago we got lots of snow here in Spring Creek, so we were getting ready to go play in it. I had spent about 10 minutes getting Lincoln ready to go outside (anyone else spend longer getting ready to play in the snow than time in the actual snow?), and then suddenly realized that I did not have my own gloves. Since he was so excited to get outside, I decided that I would power through, glovelessly making snowballs and playing on the sled because I knew we wouldn’t be out there for long. By the time we came back in, my hands were freezing, and Lincoln was totally over being all bundled up. As I’m taking him out of his winter gear, I felt guilty that MY COLD HANDS were touching him. Really, Brittney? You selflessly played outside without gloves in order to appease your toddler and then feel bad that you touched the zipper of his snowsuit with your cold hands? Ehhhh, please. Just stop! But, really… Look at that face. If he was sad, you’d do anything to make him happy, just like I do! Maybe this where the guilt stems from. #cutekidsalwayswin
So now it’s your turn. What mom guilt keeps YOU up at night? Share it here or add it in the comments of this post. I promise ranting about it helps. Plus, if you submit one, I’ll enter you into a drawing for a newborn/baby/toddler/child sleep item of your choice (lovie, stuffed animal, sound machine, sleep sack, swaddle) up to a $25.00 value. But, you’ve gotta play to win. I’ll do the drawing on Saturday, March 17th at 1 pm pacific, so get me your answers before then! And, if I get any good ones, I’ll share them (anonymously) in my next email. #spillthebeans #humorme
Thanks for reading! I was starting to feel guilty that I took up so much of your time, but then I remembered that you are probably reading this while “watching” the 100th episode of PawPatrol from your DVR today, and I felt better about being a distraction for you. Unless, of course, you feel mom guilt about screen time.
*More to come in a few months on the guilt associated with a traumatic end of pregnancy and birth story, but that’s a deep one that takes up more Kleenex than I am currently stocked with. Gotta make a Costco run, so stay tuned… I’m aiming for June!