Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mommy Guilt

I got to thinking today, after a tough day with my kids, about the things we feel guilty about as mothers everyday. We carry it around, all the time, but I'm not sure it's something we even realize. I feel it when I buy the regular apples instead of the organic because heck they are so much cheaper...but then I stand there and debate for a moment. "okay, the organic apples are $1.00 more...aren't my kids worth the buck?" I feel it when my kids seem out of balance...it's my job to keep them in balance, to ensure that their world seems safe and predictable. When Jalen starts crying, like today, saying he doesn't want to go to daycare I feel guilty, like if I was a better mom I could let him stay home for a "mental health day." When he comes home from daycare with these horrible behaviours that surely he didn't learn at home, I wonder if I've made the right choice to be a working mom. Some days, I feel like my child spends fifty percent of his life on a timeout, and then as I kiss him goodnight I back track and think about our day and I wonder "Did I do the best job as a mom today?" "Maybe I shouldn't have lost my cool..." This guilty cloak mothers wear surely must carry on throughout their lives. We want to raise our kids to be socially, emotionally and cognitively developed human beings. What a weight to carry on our shoulders each day. If I yell too much, if I let them get away with too much, if I use a sticker chart for reinforcement or not. Some days, I throw up my hands and say "I give up! I don't have the answers."

I remember the first time I felt this "mommy guilt" and it was literally one day after Jalen was born. I had had a difficult labour that ended up in a c-section. I was so sick and drugged with pain medication that I remember finally "coming to" a day later. My new baby boy was crying, and I tried feeding him and I didn't know what to do to make the crying stop. A friend was visiting me in the hospital room at the time and she said "Did you change him?" It hadn't even occurred to me as a new mom that I should change his diaper. I opened his teeny diaper to find a big mess and started bawling. I was thinking "what kind of a mother doesn't think to change her babies diaper?" And so it began....

We do the best job we can, seems like cliche, but now that I am a mother I realize that this is certainly a true statement. Each day, I approach the day fresh and I try really damn hard to raise my kids so someday they will be successful, and someday maybe they will find a loving partner. I am human, some days I don't have in me to read three bedtime stories, some days I just don't want to play hide and seek. Sometimes I get caught up in a power struggle with my four year old until I remember "Wait a minute...he's four." Sometimes it's a really nice day, and I know that a "good mom" would take her kids for a ride in the wagon to the park but instead I choose to put on sesame street and give them a bowl of cheesies.

I used to be so critical of other parents, like "those" kind of parents who yell at their kids in public, and "those" kind of kids who were not so well mannered and figured the parents screwed up big time! Alex and I being child and youth workers would surely not end up with a child like "that." With time, I could see that a "child like that" could happen to any of us. My son dug his fingernails into one of his friends arms at the park the other day and I was mortified. I talked to the other mom later that night and apologized on behalf of my son's behaviour and she was like "don't worry about it..." but I did. I worried all night...what can i do...what did i do wrong?

They say being a parent is the most important job on earth, and it is. We are raising the human beings that will grow up and someday run this country. However, I feel like moms need to take it easy on ourselves. I mean, until I was 25 I never ingested a single organic food item. I grew up in a time when a good spank on the bum was all a child needed to behave. Timeout's where not even a part of the vocab in the 70's and 80's. What do you know...I turned out somewhat okay. The problem is, we don't want our kids to turn out somewhat okay. I want my kids to thrive with joy, not just survive with whatever scraps I throw their way, so to speak. New studies apparently say that a healthy dose of guilt is good for us. Just so long as the guilt is not weighing on us for things that we really aren't guilty for. Losing my cool...guilty. Feeling resentful...guilty. Buying junk food...guilty. Using bribes and rewards in my parenting...guilty.

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the would have should have's that often cause guilt and don't stop to realize the positives that our children already possess. I need to remind myself of the fact that Jalen is creative, and funny. The fact that he loves books so much and already knows dozens by heart and can sound out words. Jalen is thoughtful and inquisitive....charming and loving. Ruby is sweet and gentle, nurturing and very good with manipulating small objects. Puzzles are no problem, she is thoughtful and patient with tasks. More than once people have commented on how well behaved my children are at the grocery store, at parties or wherever. However I choose to focus on the times when maybe the social skills weren't at their best (ie. digging finger nails into friend) or the times when potty training didn't go so well. Perhaps like gratitude, focusing on the good things we are grateful for each day, we should focus more on the hundreds of positive things that we have done and do as moms each day.

1 comment:

  1. so true... Someone once pointed out to me that when we question ourselves as parents its actually an indication that you are an amazing Mom. Because if you were a crappy one then you wouldnt be wondering how your doing as a Mom b/c you would care less. (does that make sense?).
    I have no doubt your kids will thrive, and they will know it was because of the amazing parents they had. xo