Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mommy Guilt

I know I'm his mom, but he's too pretty for a newborn!

You know those moms who always look pulled together, whose children never have runny noses or empty sippy cups? Their car seats are clean and Goldfish-free. They have hearty, healthy, home-cooked meals served at appropriate times. They have white couches that miraculously repel stains and their windows are never marred by greasy finger prints. Their children know they are loved and cherished because of all the undivided attention lavished upon them and their husbands bask in the glow of adoration.

Yeah, me neither. But somehow, this is the standard I've set for myself. I'm not a natural homemaker. Ask my college roommates about my dirty dishes. Or don't. They might rather forget. I'm not a natural mother either. I don't love answering questions over and over. I don't like grimey hands and snotty faces. I'm not good at sitting on the floor for hours working on the same mundane task. I hate glitter. I don't like anything involving glue sticks. I love MY kid(s), but other kids get to me. I lack patience and understanding.

It's taken me a long time to realize that this is OKAY. There is nothing WRONG with me. Giving birth did not magically change who I am - an introvert who would rather spend her time alone with pretty thoughts than do things with people. That doesn't make me a bad person or even a bad mother.

What is does mean is that I wrestle - daily - with Mommy Guilt. Every time I skimp on dinner to squeeze in a few more minutes of writing or throw on a movie so I can finish a book, I feel like I'm the most terrible mother in the world. Because REAL moms, GOOD moms, never ignore their children. They're never more interested in anything than their toddlers. They spend their days gazing lovingly into their children's eyes, utterly content.


I am the best mom I can be when I take care of me too. When I take time for me - usually writing or reading or something photography related - I enjoy my time with my son more. When I'm deliberate about my time, every part of my life benefits. I try very hard to get some unhurried creative time each day. I spend time playing with (and enjoying) my son. I connect with my husband, sharing our experiences for the day.

Often, that means laundry goes unfolded or emails unanswered. My showers are rushed and I don't remember the last time I put on make up. But for me, that creative time ministers to my soul and allows me to thrive - as a mother and as a human being.

Some day my children will be grown and I know I'll look back at this time with sadness, wishing I had slowed down and enjoyed it more. But I also know I'll be grateful for the time I spent nourishing my mind. And I hope my kids will too.

I still don't know how to get rid of the Mommy Guilt. But I do know it's a lie. You are the best parent or spouse or child or friend when you can love without obligation. Not to say there aren't things we give up to make the balance work, but know there is no perfect mother and no perfect mould you need to cram yourself into. You were created to be you. Find out who that is and thrive.

How do you deal with Mommy Guilt (or Spouse Guilt or whatever)? Any tips on keeping all the balls spinning?


  1. Yeah. It's....BAD.

    I could have written this post, as you probably know. I'm a terrible housekeeper, and I hate cooking. I don't like children. Somehow, I have a lot of patience with and love for mine.

    But I really don't do well being with them for very extended periods of time.

    One Saturday, my husband gave me the morning to sit alone in my office to write. Four solid hours between wakeup and lunchtime. When I extracted myself from the cuddle with my four year old to go upstairs to write, he cried. Literally. Cried. "Why do you have to go away?"

    It killed me, but I had an answer. "For my sanity. And both of us will be happier for it."

    You're doing AN AWESOME JOB. Your babies will remember that their mother respected herself and her needs enough to keep pursuing her dream and working hard at it. And that's more important than goldfish-free carseats ANY DAY.

    1. You are so right. By not putting my everything into them, I'm allowing them to people too and I think we'll all be happier because of that!

  2. You sound just like me :P I grew up babysitting a horde of nephews. Several traumatizing years later, I knew, without a shred of doubt, that I never wanted kids. I didn't have the patience for them, and I just wasn't 'motherly.' And then I got pregnant, and I was terrified I would fail, but somehow, when she was born, I found patience and happiness (and a little guilt that I hadn't felt that happiness sooner). It's sort of repeating now with this next baby, even though I know it'll pass.

    But thanks for this post :) Definitely something I'll need to read a lot over the next year haha.

  3. Be the best mommy you can be--and be true to yourself. I was lamenting to my twelve-year-old one day about how I wish I had been the kind of preschool mom that actually played with her kids. She responded by saying, "You're not that kind of mom. You're the kind of mom who likes to talk and tell stories." It made me feel better that she appreciated me for who I was and not what I thought I should be. And your babies will too. :)

    1. That's awesome! Kids know just the right things to say sometimes :)

  4. We're still a year or two off from children but I am a horrendous housekeeper. Folding laundry?? Thank god we live in Seattle and my husband works in the tech industry where all the men there are in mildly rumpled t-shirts and jeans, lol. I think my worst fear about parenting will be all of the chauffeuring we're supposed to do in this modern community. I hate driving and wonder how on earth I'm going to let them explore things like ballet, soccer, etc and keep my sanity.

    1. Hahaha. I'm still a few years from soccer and ballet, but we did these toddler fieldtrips this summer. That was a stretch for me! But it was good. When the time is right, you'll know & the sacrifice will be worth it!

  5. I could have written this post. You just said it a lot better than I could.

    I adore my boy, but sometimes, I just need time to breathe. I'm lucky in that he does well when playing by himself, and he loves playing with Dad, but the guilt creeps in when I remember that my friends are the people Pinterest was made for. They do the crafts, they do the extravagant meals, their houses are spotless. That's when I have to remind myself that that's just not me.

    I've never been the best housekeeper. My cooking skills don't go much further than steaming veggies and baking a chicken. But my son is the happiest little guy I've ever seen, my husband loves me, and for the first time in my life, I'm enjoying things that make me happy. And I'm a much better wife and mom for that.

    The mommy wars are very real, and it's a shame. I'm slowly learning that as long as my family is happy and healthy, then that's all that matters. What works for one family doesn't necessarily work for the next.

    1. That is all that matters - but it's so hard to remember that sometimes! I'm finding what works for us as a family. I'm pretty sure I'll figure it out a week before baby #2 arrives & throws everything into chaos again ;)

  6. I read your post at the perfect time this morning. I had a busy and tough week with my little guy and I felt completely exhausted, frustrated and annoyed. I had not had any time for my crrative self and I was burning out. I almost lost it friday night. I had planned to have some creative time in my craft room after putting my baby to sleep which normally takes 30-40 mins. Well it was a 2 hour battle while my husband was hanging out with his friends. I wasn't even doing anything for me but I was feeling guilty even thinking about it. Sunday morning I was done but instead of taking advantage of some creative time while my husband took the baby for a walk I thank you are reminding me that to be the best mom I can be I need to take some time for me to recharge.