There are a few things I need in my life: the love of my husband and children, a life of adventure, a strong sense of identity, and of course, coffee and wine. Like most people, I am my best self when these pieces are working together in harmony.
But is it bad if I straight up say: my own identity is the cornerstone of it all.
I shouldn’t feel bad or guilty or ashamed; I am more than a wife and mother… but I do feel bad. I guess it’s because those are such important pieces in my life that anytime those roles aren’t my main focus I feel as if I’m not doing enough. If I have time for myself, that’s an indication that I should have more time for my children and more time for my husband, right? If I put myself before them, what does that say about me?
So, I guess it’s a draw. I know I am more fulfilled when I have personal time AND I know that I am the driving force behind my family AND I know that my family functions best when I am at my best… but I still feel guilty.
I really worked through something there. It all makes perfect sense. Blog over.
Yeah, so um... NO. When it’s all laid out like that, I sound bat shit crazy.
[Are you a crazy person? I bet you are. Most Mamas I know fall into this category: self-aware and logical with a side of mommy guilt.]
FUCKING mommy guilt.
I vividly remember the first time I was introduced to this sad, sad ailment. It was 11 years ago, I was pregnant with my first babe. I sat there staring at a cup of coffee. I was having an internal battle with this new found mommy-conscious that showed up after I peed on a stick. Coffee, okay? Coffee, not okay? It was as if this was my defining moment as a mom. I wasn’t even showing yet and I already considered myself a failure, all because I was considering a friggin cuppa joe.
If this happened the moment I became a mom, I don’t think it was learned. I don’t think I can really blame the media for my irrational guilt. I also don’t think I can really blame the influence of other women because I didn’t have other women around me. I’m sorry to say it but I think the guilt tries to tie itself to the title.
In my nearly 30 years of existence, I've tried on a lot of mom hats, I've been a:
Second-time bride plus mom.
Mom of two.
And now, a cancer mom.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Each season of my life came with its own special brand of guilt. And after experiencing so many variations of motherhood, I’ve come to realize that mommy guilt is two things:
- Constant. No matter where you’re at in life, you are juggling a lot-- relationships, jobs, careers, kids, yourself. As you are being pulled in a million directions, you’ll feel like you are never giving everything your 100%. And you can’t, it’s a balancing act, one that you suck at some days and rock at the next. And because you are a loving mama, you worry about your babies most of all.
- Always evolving. During my pregnancy with my first, Maddox, I didn’t have a single drop of coffee. The guilt was too strong. During my second pregnancy with Penny, I don’t remember questioning whether or not it was okay, I just did. I had many mom friends and social media was a big part of how I stayed in touch with them. Often though, it seemed like everyone posted about how perfect their lives were... and of course I was trying to keep up the image: it was a new, more substantial kind of guilt. I mean if they all had perfect lives, why didn't I? It took years before I got over that particular flavor of guilt. Now that Penny has cancer, I experience guilt over everything, big or little. Phone time, the drugs we are giving her, spoiling her or not giving into everything. Yep, over the years and with varying experiences, the guilt changed and will continue to change.
I want to assume that mommy guilt is the subconscious way we sort of “check” ourselves. Like when I ask my 10 year old if he really cleaned his room the right way and there always manages to be something more he could have done. Not that his room doesn’t pass as clean, technically. But there is always a lego somewhere on the floor or a closet that isn’t quite tidy. Like our lives, everything is in its place mostly. But if you look a little closer, examine the details and the moments, you can always find something out of place. And to me, that is where the mommy guilt originates, that part of you scanning for the imperfections that could be remedied. (As if you need another person second guessing you, only in this case, it’s yourself).
But get this, when things aren’t going right in my family, when the guilt is strong, when there are so many hypothetical legos on my floor… the root of the problem is (cough, cough) ME. I become the root of the problem when I have not taken care of myself and I have not given myself the time to recharge. It’s kind of hard to admit: hm, I am not well, so my family is not well. It makes me feel like a big ol’ narcissist. But Mama you, gotta take care of you.
“You cannot pour from an empty glass.” Pretend there is wine in that glass. You are the wine! You are valuable! You are fucking priceless! Keep your glass full!
And try to let go of the bull shit that is mommy guilt. Everyone has it, nobody wants it. And although it seems to be part of motherhood, just acknowledge it and move on. You don’t have time for that shit, you’re too busy being a boss.