A lot of discussion percolates around mom guilt, and why moms just need to let it go. In most cases, this is completely true. In fact, I am the mom who can make most moms feel better about this type of guilt because I guarantee my house is dirtier and less organized than yours, my cooking scarce or bland and crispy, and I don’t even have a Pinterest account so my children’s birthday parties (if they are given) are near shameful in presentation.
Want to know a secret? I actually don’t feel that guilty about these potential shortcomings.
But there is another type of mom guilt that weighs me down immensely and stings my face with tears at night as I face the painful feeling that I was not good enough for my children that day. And the very hard truth, for me at least, is some days I really am not the mom my children deserve. Sometimes I can do better.
Because . . .
Sometimes I act my children’s age and throw a tantrum right along with them.
Sometimes I let my impatience overtake me as I bark orders and snap at them.
Sometimes I let myself get angry and yell.
Sometimes I ignore them when they want a cuddle because I am too busy on my stupid phone.
Sometimes I drive too fast with them in the car because I am worried about being late to school.
Sometimes I write a blog only to look up and find my son doing something incredibly unsafe.
Sometimes I think more about myself than my children when they are sick and how it will affect my day.
Sometimes I really am not good enough for my kids. These are the times I SHOULD feel guilty for my behavior because I am behaving less than. I encourage my kids to feel all ranges of emotions, including guilt. My daughter often escalates and immediately retreats to “I’m sorry.” Likewise, when I am not the mom they deserve, I am truly so sorry and always tell them. As parents we must show the same humility to ourselves as we expect from our children. You see, real guilt is not a useless emotion. It is a rather important one in fact, and one that we must sit with and chew on for awhile. For, we can only experience raw growth when we allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable and exposed long enough to change.
Maybe you feel working mom guilt because you can’t be in two places at the same time, or maybe you feel stay at home mom guilt because you aspire to give more financial resources. Maybe your packed lunches are sloshed together with preservatives (gasp!), or you forgot your child’s school snack. Maybe you gave yourself respite instead of laundry duty. Maybe your child isn’t reading yet, and you are convinced it is because you only read two books, not ten, to him a day when he was still a baby. And maybe you feel guilty for these imperfections.
All that stuff? Let all that stuff go. Because that’s the stuff that you have nothing to be sorry for, and could potentially be concealing our true transgressions against our children.
So about that other stuff?
When we aren’t present like we know we should be, when we can be . . .
When we let our tempers win . . .
When we forget to use our kind words . . .
When we become complacent . . .
When we aren’t acting in loving ways towards our children . . .
Let that stuff stick around, uncomfortable as it may be because that’s the gummy guilt you may need to chew on for a bit. You can understand why you acted the way you did, but it doesn’t make it right either. Just like when our children act out, we can see they are not mean hearted, but rather acting out an emotion from a depleted state.
We often say in our house, “You may feel angry, sad, tired, (fill in the blank). But it is still not OK to intentionally hurt another person with your words or actions.” I am convinced I should be held to AT LEAST the same standard I hold my children to, and even when acting out in a depleted state, though entirely understandable, it does not excuse my bad behavior as a mother.
So what do we do next? We chew on it, and then we spit it out. Because we are all a little broken regardless how we prefer to present to the world, and tomorrow is a new day. Grant yourself and others grace. Use yourself and your own shortcomings as teachable moments. They NEED to know that the best thing they can do with their own imperfections that cause pain to others, is to feel that guilt, then let forgiveness flow fluidly in and out.
So feel that guilt long enough to grow. There is nothing wrong with you. It is normal and human, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying to do better when it comes to the REAL infractions of motherhood.