Mom Guilt: I Don’t Do a Lot of Stuff and That’s Okay
Mom guilt, the ugly dragon that causes moms to do crazy things.
I don’t do fancy parties. I don’t plan crafts. I don’t create the perfect summer reading list. I don’t sign my kids up for endless summer camps. I don’t do a lot of things and that’s okay. I’m doing my best. If you do all these things, that’s okay too. Do it because you love it, not because mom guilt is making you feel it is something you have to do.
Before I had children, when I thought about myself as a parent, I envisioned going on grand adventures together. Adventures like hiking through the woods, doing fun crafts, and playing sports. Then they handed me this squishy baby and I thought, “Oh, it will be a little while I guess. “
It takes a lot of effort to do fun things with kids. Going to the park used to seem like a Herculean task when I had an 8, 5, 3-year-old and a newborn. I had to completely stop going to the library for six months because I kept losing my toddler while I was trying to get my baby to stop crying. Those little monkey backpacks with the leashes looked pretty good at that point.
All those great big plans I dreamed about suddenly didn’t sound as fun anymore. Hiking, are you kidding? My kids could barely walk to the car without complaining. Why in the world did I think I would do crafts with them? I hate crafts. If I ever made a ‘Home Sweet Home’ board, it would look like a kindergartner finger painted it. I’m that bad.
As I thought about these activities I assumed I would do with my children, I would feel guilty because I wasn’t doing them. Then, I’d get on Pinterest and REALLY feel guilty because there were all these pictures of people actually doing those things with their kids.
The worst were birthday parties. I don’t do friend birthday parties. That is, I don’t do fancy friend parties. We have, on occasion, allowed our kids to invite a friend or two to a movie or the zoo for their birthday. I can handle that. But every time I took my kid to someone else’s fabulous birthday party, I would feel mom guilt because I wasn’t inviting all their friends over to celebrate.
I worried that I was somehow shortchanging them because I didn’t put the same effort into their parties as their friends’ parents. The truth of the matter is, I do put a lot of effort into their birthdays. That’s one of the reasons I don’t do huge friend parties. A simple family party already feels overwhelming.
Letting Go of Mom Guilt
I have come to realize many things about mom guilt.
Comparison increases guilt.
The more I compare myself to other moms, the more guilt I feel.
When I first became a mom, I had no idea how to be a stay-at-home mom. My mom had to work when I was growing up so I didn’t know what being a stay-at-home mom looked like. I tried to watch the other moms around me to learn what I could.
While I learned a lot of great things, like duct tape works wonders for kids who won’t keep their diaper on, I also began to doubt many of my parenting decisions. I was so worried about getting it right that I missed the fact that there is no one right way to parent.
There is only doing your best.
There is only doing your best because everyone’s situation is different. Every child is different. Every family is different. Every mom is different. What works for one mom won’t work for another. I’ve even found that what works for one of my children doesn’t work for the other. How can there be one right way when things are so varied?
The realization that there is no one ‘right way’ not only helped me accept my parenting decisions, it also helped me to accept the parenting decisions of others. I’ve found that it’s always best to assume that everyone is trying to do their best.
Realistic expectations make a difference.
I experienced a lot of mom guilt because I expected my children to enjoy activities for which they weren’t ready. I wanted to hike with my kids when they were young, too young. We did a little hiking but once a summer was about all we could handle because it was such a fiasco.
Babies cried, toddlers collapsed on the ground, bathroom stops took F.O.R.E.V.E.R. That was all while we were still at the trailhead. My expectations were unrealistic. Because they were unrealistic, I felt guilty that I wasn’t enjoying the activities with my kids that I thought I should. Now that my children are a little older, we can go for hikes and not have children crying for the entire hike. It’s actually fun.
Let go of who you thought you would be.
When I let go of the mom I thought I would be, I made room for the mom that I am. In truth, I let go of a person that never existed. It gave me new freedom as a mom. Freedom to do things the way I wanted rather than the way someone else did it.
I don’t want to do friend birthday parties. However, I will try to do a fancy cake. It may end up looking like a disaster, but I’ll give it a try. Even if I give up on fancy cakes (I’ve had a few disasters lately), that’s okay. I have come to realize that my love for my children is not less because I want to simplify or do things differently. I can make their birthday magical in other ways.
Or I can simply make an ordinary day magical without it having to be a birthday.
Mom Guilt Makes Us Forget
The reality is that mom guilt will creep in on you when you least expect it. This year, I’ve had mom guilt about my lack of involvement at my children’s new school. I have to remind myself that we finished our house, moved, and I started a new business all in the course of this school year. I had to let something go and it was volunteering at the school.
Just when you think you’ve conquered mom guilt, it will come back. I remind myself that I cannot be everything to everyone. I cannot be perfect. Mom guilt makes us forget that our children don’t need big parties, the latest gadget, or daily crafts to be happy.
Children need a mom that loves them.
When mom guilt strikes again, and it will, I’ll be ready.