Mommy guilt is absolutely no joke. Like if someone started a joke with “Knock, Knock,” and the answer to “Who’s there?” was “Mommy guilt”… Well, the joke would just end right there, because nothing funny can come after that.
I have no idea when exactly it hits; but sometime between the moment a mom gives birth and the moment she brings her baby home, she is enveloped in a sense of responsibility that goes so far beyond caring for that squishy bundle of joy. Suddenly she carries the future of a little life in her hands. It is her quest in life to protect and nourish this tiny human and to train and guide him.
The only way I can describe it is like this. Having a baby is like releasing a piece of yourself into the world. That baby’s heartbeat feels like yours, only it’s no longer safe in your own body. And you’ve looked into his eyes and seen pure need that only you can fill. So with every fiber of your being, you want to protect, love, and nourish him. You want to see him laugh and never cry, and to see him safe always, and to see him live a happy and successful life.
With that overwhelming hunger to be everything your child needs, it’s easy to forget that you can’t be your child’s everything.
And oftentimes, that sense of complete responsibility creeps into every other aspect of life. Just around the time that a new mom’s life is upturned and she finds herself with little to no free time, she is suddenly enveloped with this need to be everything to everyone else too. She is filled with this intense empathy that makes her sob hysterically at every Hallmark commercial or Carrie Underwood song.
Seriously, I cried during an episode of ‘The Middle’, just because it was about a mom having to leave her son at college.
I’ve only been a mom for nine months now, and I’ve already succumbed to mommy guilt one too many times. Just the other night, Brady was crying hysterically from teething pain and nothing I did could soothe him. And his tear-stained face and sobs tore at my heart, and I felt so insufficient in that moment to be the mom he needed. I also realized that I hadn’t called a friend that day as promised, I never returned the emails sent to me days earlier, I’d forgotten to send out two birthday cards, I’d left baby laundry all over the living room floor for Nate to stumble over when he got home, and the cats were following me around, begging for attention that I couldn’t give.
I felt my heart being pulled in fifty different directions. I felt myself being dragged down by that mommy guilt, which kept whispering in my ear, “You’re not doing enough.” “You need to do better.” “You need to do more.”
“Why don’t you just clone yourself already?!”
Honestly, I only imagine that it gets worse, as a baby’s world gets bigger. Right now, I worry about accidentally sleeping through the baby monitor, or not doing enough to help him reach his milestones, or busy days that don’t allow me to spend the quality time with him that I want to. But one day, his daddy and I will have to teach him right and wrong and how to be a strong, loving man. I’ll have to release that beautiful piece of myself into an often-cruel world, and I won’t be there to protect him. I’ll have to trust that I raised him right.
And this is when the little flames of guilt can turn into a roaring fire. Everyone makes mistakes. We all occasionally make choices that we shouldn’t. Subsequently, we have to live with the result of those choices. The thing is that although we alone are responsible for our choices, as a mom we very often bear the guilt of our children’s choices.
We’re flooded with thoughts of, “If only I had been a better mom…” “If only I had done things differently…” “If only I had raised him better…” “This is all my fault…”
Brady is nine months old, and I already – silly as it may sound – battle with myself over this. He’s already showing signs of being selfish and very strong-willed. When he doesn’t get what he wants, sometimes he’ll look us in the eyes and defiantly give our arms a strong pinch or our faces a slap.
My initial reaction is to be slightly impressed and to think, “Wow, you’re already smart enough to act like this?!? Are you a little genius or something?” And my second thought is, “Oh, man, where did I go wrong?”
Because it has to be my fault, right?!? Surely I didn’t cuddle with him enough or stir his oatmeal quite right and that’s why he’s acting out?
It’s my responsibility to gently guide Brady throughout his life, because he will learn right from wrong by watching my example. I believe that we’re born with a selfish nature, because the Bible says we’ve all got sin in us. And watching my precious baby boy only confirms it, because he’s the sweetest little guy… except for when he’s not getting his way. 😉 He’ll need love, and patience, and nurturing. Sometimes he’ll need to be punished in order to be taught consequences.
And sometimes he’ll make mistakes, just as I will too.
I just need to take that deep breath, ask God for guidance in raising him, and follow my mommy heart (while listening to the advise of trusted moms who have gone on before me). That’s all I can do. That’s all anyone can do.
And as difficult as it is for me to be at this place sometimes, I am at a place where my availability to friends is going to be different. At least for now… So sometimes (most times) the birthday card may be sent out late… And sometimes I might have to apologize for not calling or for taking a week or so to reply to an email. But I’ve already found that honest communication is important, because my friends totally understand when I share with them just how thin I’m stretched. I might not be quite as on top of things like I used to be and my availability is much less, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t be there for them in whatever way I can.
As for the cats and Nate? I buy them their favorite treats and all is forgiven! 😉
I’m not saying that I have this mommy guilt thing figured out. It’s very real, and I’m sure it’s something I’ll deal with… forever. But that being said, I refuse to let it get the best of me!
Because while mommy guilt is no joke, neither is this: I’m a mom who is doing the absolute best that she can! 🙂 And my best IS good enough, just as yours is too! Don’t let the guilt creep up on you or tell you any different!!
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is older, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6