I’ve come a long way in terms of handling my mommy guilt, to the point where it creeps up only rarely, and once I realize it’s presence, it doesn’t stay nearly as long as it used to.
Here’s six questions I had to start asking myself to assess whether it was even worth giving myself a guilt trip:
Are my expectations realistic? It’s unrealistic to think I could be at two places at the same time. It’s unrealistic for me to think I can do all that I do and not be exhausted by the end of the day. It’s unrealistic for me to think I should be smiling from the time my kids wake up until the time they go to bed. It’s hard work and I can admit that.
Have I accepted that there is only so much one person can reasonably do in one day? I used to take a lot of pride in how many things I could check off my to-do list each day. If it was seven things, that was great. If it was ten, even better. If it was twenty, I felt amazing. But I was just looking at the quantity versus quality. If I do three things that really matter (research babysitter, pay the mortgage and make dinner), then that’s pretty amazing and I need to be happy about that.
Do I strive to make everyone happy each and every day? Have you read those funny signs that say “I can only please one person per day; today isn’t your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either”? I take that message to heart! I would kill myself trying to make it through the day with everyone in my circle happy as a clam. But honestly, it wasn’t working. I realized I couldn’t keep all the balls in the air every single day for the foreseeable future. So I found it okay to drop some balls every once in a while.
It meant I didn’t always have to be the first one there to pick up my kids every day. I didn’t have to be the room mom every Wednesday and Friday. I didn’t have to have dinner ready promptly at 5:30 every day in time for my husband to come home to a hot plate. I don’t even know where these expectations came from but it definitely wasn’t from my family so why was I stressing?
Do I often “wake before the quake” ““ get up before the kids do? I heard stylist June Ambrose coin this phrase (and I mention the concept in my book, Make It Happen) and I loved it. So often we feel guilty because there is simply so much to do. But why aren’t we starting our days off with the acknowledgment that this job is hard work and we need to prepare ourselves mentally for it? I find that (when I manage to get up early enough) the days are a lot smoother. Because my kids weren’t my alarm clock, I had time to prep and figure out the day ahead.
Am I helping my children see that, yes, I’m Mommy, but I’m also a Friend, a Wife, a Daughter, an Employee? We spend so much time shielding our kids from the messiness of our other roles, but when we do that, is there any wonder why they won’t let us go to the bathroom in peace? In their eyes, we don’t have needs. We don’t need sleep. We don’t need quiet. We don’t need to sit down and eat in peace at the end of the day. But maybe it’s okay to let them in on the little secret that we’re humans too and we have needs just as much as they do.
Am I giving myself credit for the things I DO do? I give my kids hugs all the time, I wash their blankets at dinner time so when they snuggle in bed they’re still a little warm, I let them buy things from the $1 bin at Target and I don’t let a day go by without telling them I love them. I’m a good mom so mommy guilt can kiss my grits.
Do you struggle with mommy guilt? How do you cope?