Let’s get down to business — to defeat — the Hu– the mom guilt. Actually, “Mom Guilt” with proper noun capitalization, because it deserves such emphasis.
Let’s get rolling with a basic mom scenario: you’re standing in line at your favorite coffee shop (Neat Coffee, I’m looking at you!) and your precocious, lovely, sweet 17 month old starts pitching a tantrum because she simultaneously wants your sunglasses, the 36 paper straws on the counter, a Go Go Squeez packet that has a fruit she DOES NOT like in it, and wants to be put down to run around among rush hour hot coffee drinkers and will not sit in her stroller.
I’m not saying this situation has ever happened to me (ahem, B) BUT, but, things that are similar have happened. And just when you think you’re getting off scot-free because your angel toddler has calmed down and is chomping happily on a Mum Mum you fished from the bottom of your overflowing mommy bag (which is covered in old apple sauce), you open your phone to read an email from a friend — “MUM MUMS FOUND TO BE POISONOUS TO CHILDREN AND YOU ARE SLOWLY MURDERING YOUR CHILD” — your hand goes to massage your temple and you feel the guilt creeping up the back of your neck like an icicle. You can’t take the processed food (why didn’t you hand-make her rice husks this morning???) because your toddler will freak like she’s never freaked before, but if you don’t… are you sure she won’t succumb to arsenic poisoning? What will the other moms in the room think? I’m sure they’ve seen this latest doomsday study. Their kids aren’t even eating! They’re standing in line like little soldiers! Time to speed-dial the pedi and facepalm since you’ve been feeding her that crap since she could chew, and lately like 5 packets a day, handed to her over your shoulder in the car to stop her from flailing around and screeching like a lunatic because you’re driving for >5 minutes.
Ah, reader, Mom Guilt is the realest. Back when I was a glowing pregnant lady, I would smile beneficently down at my bump like Venus x Madonna and whisper that I would always make the right choices for the health and well-being of my child, and that I would always make all her purees and meals and snacks. I wouldn’t let what other people thought cloud my decision making and make me feel like less of a good mom. In retrospect, the wash of hormones in my brain definitely made me see things in an excessively rosy-colored light. No human being, no mom, can compete with their personally-created internalized image of the perfect mother, and no mom out in the real world can compete with the Instagram feed of the super-tiger-mom-attachment-parenting-I-live-on-a-compound-with-my-own-farm-I-tend-myself-for-my-children’s-sustenance-and-own-three-craft-businesses-while-maintaining-Instafame-and-a-healthy-marriage-with-a-handsome-lumberjack… and that is because both of those things are a fallacy.
I want to get into this Mom Guilt thing and share how I escape the insidious guilt that creeps from the corners of my eyes and brain to center stage of my mothering. This is a constant topic for me and my friends, because we all feel this internal and external pressure to be perfect moms all day, every day. In this area, too, there are people who feel entitled to pass their judgment for whatever reason, and it can be oppressive. A simple comment (“Oh, you’re still breastfeeding? Good for you, I guess!” or “Is your daughter sleeping through the night yet? How old is she again?”) can send an overworked, tired, taxed mom into a serious tailspin, especially if their baby is going through a hard time (newsflash, they’re literally almost always going through a “hard time” and I don’t even know what Wonder Weeks are anymore since every week feels like a Leap.) So this is what I do to escape the tailspin.
- I take stock of my daughter: is B happy and healthy? If the answer is YES, I move on to the next question.
- Am I (not Instagram me, not my friends, not my parents, not my husband) comfortable with the decisions I’m making? If there’s something tugging at me, then I buckle down and try to identify the issue. However, if the answer is YES again, I move on to the last question.
- Do I truly care what people could think? And here, my friends, is the crux of the issue.
Mom Guilt, at least for me for the majority of the time, comes from an external place. “What would XX think if they saw me feeding my daughter Mum Mums?!” I mean, barring any actual danger (seriously, folks, if there were any serious issues with eating Mum Mums daily, my daughter would be Patient Zero) the majority of guilt comes from feeling like I’m not living up to the standards of other moms in the room. Defusing it is hard since the guilt can feel like it comes from a place of care, when in actuality such a negative emotion can often be so ingrained that we don’t even think of it as a social issue. Indeed, it even manifests in actual anxiety at least I have. I stay up at night mulling over the things I could do better as a mom. Some days it’s constructive (i.e. I hope I am doing well enough caring for my child and maintaining her health overall.) Other days my anxiety is entirely driven by external guilt that is so omnipresent, I don’t realize it’s hanging there like the curtains. In fact, it’s so built into the fabric of mom-society that many moms are subconsciously competing with other moms to be The Best Mom™. The problem is, of course, that there’s no best mom and we’re running each other ragged, subconsciously or otherwise. (Also, if you’re one of those moms for whom guilting others is not subconscious, gtfo.)
I’m not saying that asking the above questions is the ultimate answer… clearly not. This doesn’t even break from the top of the ice down into the water below. I am hoping, however, that asking those questions gives rise to understanding that Mom Guilt is an externally driven issue the vast majority of the time. I hope they can help you identify the problem. Do you care what other people would think of your methods? If the answer is no, try to release the guilt into the ether of the universe. Breathe it out (easier said than done.) Cast a ray of thoughtful questioning and understanding into the shadows of your guilt and see if it’s still there to belittle you. Your mind has built the theoretical (and sometimes actual) thoughts of others into a large boogeyman style closet monster. You know what defeats a monster in the closet? Turning on the light.