Mommy guilt is real. And it is soul crushing. The thing about mommy guilt is that you will get it no matter what you decide to do. The thing they don’t tell you about becoming a mother is that every decision you make from the moment your cute little bundle of joy comes into your life is wrong. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s wrong, and you are wrong for thinking it is right. Change your mind? nope, still wrong.
Now, I’m a hyper-rational person. My husband jokes that I am so logical that I might be a robot (who has been programmed to cry to make me appear normal). There is no rationale for parenting. There will always be something, somewhere that tells you that you are setting your children up for failure or lifelong therapy bills, or probably both. But the truth is that I thought I would know. And in many cases I did, at least after carefully weighing both sides.
I knew cloth diapers where the way we wanted to go. Until I had a baby that was too small to fit in them. And by the time she did I was so far behind in baby pee and vomit covered laundry that I couldn’t imagine making more.
Well, I knew that we wanted to delay vaccines and I was debating whether I wanted to do them at all. Then Tempest contracted whooping cough at 2 weeks and almost died. And despite not being old enough for vaccines, I felt like the worst mother in all of the world for even considering not vaccinating. So, right on schedule, my children are vaccinated.
Well, I knew I was going to breastfeed until at least one. Until Tempest refused to breastfeed despite a fantastic lactation consultant. And to be perfectly honest, I hated it too, every second of it.
Well, I knew we wanted to stick with freshly made baby food. Until we received about 3 million jars of food from WIC and ended up just using those.
Well, I knew I didn’t want to ever let my child cry without comforting her. Until she had been crying for 3 straight hours, with me holding her and I couldn’t take anymore crying in my ear. And after a minute of her screaming alone in her own bed, she started playing, then fell asleep.
Well, I knew we would never co-sleep. Until I was too exhausted and hurt to get out of bed even one more time at night
Yes, the truth is I didn’t know. I don’t know anything about being a parent. It may come as a shock to you, but I am not the perfect parent ::gasp:: I know.
We are all still figuring this parenting thing out, including me.
So, why do we still feel so much mom guilt? Because we think we should be perfect. We shame each other for our children acting out. We worry about what my child will turn out like if I don’t tell them “no” enough, or maybe I am saying “no” too much. We worry that they are getting too much screen time or junk food. We make fun of parents who opt for random conveniences like fast food, or formula keurigs, or wipe warmers. We shame parents for not controlling their children when they are crazy in the store. But we care about our kids. We want to give them everything. The problem is we don’t know what everything is. And we beat ourselves up for it.
You think if I knew if either being a stay at home mom or a working mom would be the exact thing that would set my children on the right life path, that there would be any second that I wouldn’t make it happen either way? No, and neither would you. But we don’t know. Just like we don’t know about any of the other things. But we still feel guilt. It isn’t coming from our children (unless you’re talking about giving them one more pack of gummies, or staying up past their bedtime). This guilt comes from us. Judging ourselves. And judging ourselves incredibly harshly.
My husband doesn’t feel this guilt. And it isn’t because he isn’t as good of a parent or doesn’t care as much. He is a great father, and much of the time takes the lead role as parent in this household. But he doesn’t have daddy guilt. Because he just does what seems right to him, without worrying about how other dad’s will view him. Or what they say behind his back. He doesn’t worry about what the latest parenting website says. And while I still have to remind him some changes are good and important (like rear facing child seats, and bike helmets) he generally does things the way he was raised. And there is something comforting in that, after all, I did pick him so he must have been raised somewhat right. The thing is that in an area of technology and individualism we forget to think about what worked and what works for us. Our job as parents shouldn’t be to re-invent the wheel, but take the wheel we were given and make it better.
I forget that sometimes I don’t have to have all the right answers, I just have to have a “for now” answer. And that answer could (and maybe should) change. But as long as I am striving to do what is best for my kids, then I don’t have to feel guilty about that.