To some, “mom guilt” is a myth exaggerated by moms. To others, it’s a near debilitating problem. To some, you fall somewhere in the middle.
If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically guilt only motherhood can create. It’s the guilt you feel when you fall into the belief that your decisions are leading you to not being the best mom you can be. It’s an internal tug-of-war of how selfless or selfish you are being for every decision you make – a scale that every woman sets for herself making our interpretations of “mom guilt” a little different. I have to add that these feelings, most of the time, are just feelings and have no reflection over how good of a mom a woman is. The fact that she’s even going through this tug-of-war says that she’s a great mom because she deeply cares.
I don’t know about most moms, but I feel like the mom guilt has gotten worse for me as Dominic has gotten older, and I think it has to do with the fact that he’s just more aware now. I was a lot better at managing self-care when he was smaller because he didn’t really know that I had gone out for a massage or that I went to Target by myself. I always missed him, but I didn’t feel overbearing weight on me afterwards. Now, whenever I leave he normally cries and says “No, mommy!” So, then, whether or not I follow through with my plans, the guilt is so much heavier. I start to think Maybe I should’ve just stayed home. or Maybe I should’ve just taken him with me. because I normally end up staying with him and sacrifice my moment of peace and quiet skimming through the aisles of the grocery store.
My situation may be a little unique too because we don’t have many days together as a family, so when my husband is home, I don’t have the heart to leave and do something for myself. I value our days all together very highly which is another reason why I opt not to go out even though something inside me tells me I need to. It’s dangerous.
I say it’s dangerous because, well, you can’t pour from an empty cup, and, boy, I got to the point where I was just about empty recently. I was feeling like I gave all of my time to work, to my husband, and to my son with nothing left for me. You know the game Jenga? It feels like that. Each time I do something for them, it’s like taking a block from the bottom and putting it on the top, and eventually it just becomes too much to handle because there’s nothing left of me to hold it all up. This is why I say we need to “reset” the mom guilt because once we tend to ourselves, we take the days in with more stability.
My husband told me several times to schedule a massage or to go out somewhere with friends, but I, again, didn’t have the heart to. I argued with myself that it would be selfish for me to ask him to stay home and watch Dominic while I did something for myself, particularly since we’re not together as a family often enough.
I was drained and near broken. I wanted “me” time but there was no time to fulfill it. Then, my cousin texted me and said she needed some girl time. I took it as a sign, and after that day we spent together, I told myself that if I need the time I need to just suck it up and do it because tending to myself for few hours will really make me a better wife and mother when I return. You can’t pour from an empty cup. It may sound so easy if you haven’t been there, but it’s one of those things that really is easier said than done because I told myself that SO many times early in motherhood, and somehow I still ended up in a hole. We all need a constant reminder. Self care is care for the entire family.
After that experience, I thought I’d share the story to serve as a reminder to some moms and also as a reminder to me. None of us are immune to it. You need to take the time to reset the mom guilt. If you need some ideas on what can do, these are my 3 favorite ideas…
Go out with a girlfriend or two: Did somebody say brunch? Or wine? Or shopping? Do something you guys love. I went on a hike and also enjoyed lunch with my cousin, and it was great. We both love soaking in the peace and beauty of nature (we watched ducks for longer than we probably should’ve), and it felt good. Tell stories. Laugh. Take the time slowly.
For a day, eat before you feed your child: I know this sounds so weird, but I know several moms who don’t eat enough because they’re too busy running the day and making sure their kids are healthy and thriving. For a day, just plan at least 30 minutes before your kid(s) mealtimes and eat. Ask someone to watch the littles and just… eat. Put yourself first for a day. One day. You’ll feel different. And the reality is, the kids will be just fine. Try to eat somewhere they won’t find you though because the second they ask for one or two (or three) bites, these moments of nourishing yourself beyond putting food in your stomach becomes moot.
Take a personal day: Go all out. If you work, use a vacation day. If you don’t work, find a sitter. Get out, get a massage, get a pedicure, roam through Target, buy yourself a new outfit, just DO YOU for a day and do your best to leave guilt at the door, because, mama, after this you’ll be recharged for the month and be the best mama out there. Sometimes just letting yourself miss your child for a short time will make you come back new.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is going to be an ongoing balancing act until forever, and the scale will be forever re-balancing year after year. We just have to constantly remind ourselves to reset. It’s not a one time thing and then it’s over. It’s a constant need to recharge your soul.
Remember, remember, remember to love yourself and fill your cup, mama.
Have you experienced mom guilt? What do you do to reset yourself?