Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mom guilt. Stop ignoring it.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.  I love this quote and I hate this quote.  
I love it for obvious reasons.  
I hate it because it makes me feel sad.  

Sad for all of the times I've lost my patience with Georgia when she really wasn't doing anything other than being...........a 10 month old, a one year old, a two year old.  Frustrated with myself for misunderstanding something that Georgia is trying to do and getting irritated because it isn't the way that I would do it.....and then when I see what she is doing it all makes sense--but I've already snapped at her.  And obviously this list could go on.  

I'm not trying to heap more mom guilt on here, I'm just being honest.  Sometimes I think we confuse mom guilt with good, healthy, human emotion and introspection.  Our society has become so accustomed to dismissing any sad stirrings us moms have in relationship to child-rearing as mom-guilt that I fear we're wasting lessons that our consciousness is trying to teach make us better moms.  

I think the term mom-guilt infers that what you're feeling guilty about you shouldn't feel guilty about.  Is that true sometimes?  Of course.  There's no way you can play with your child one-on-one for five uninterrupted hours a day.....or heck....even one or two......between work and laundry and dinner and phone calls and grocery shopping and other kids and family obligations and whatevers, it's a challenge--we probably don't need to feel guilty about that.  Should we feel guilty about huge tears that ensue from our children after we take away their candy and give them a time out because of their tantrum in the parking lot?  No.  That's called discipline, and our kids....our society..... need us to dole out those consequences for bad behavior so they become responsible members of their community. Should we feel guilty when our child has been playing by herself for an hour making up cute games and you're doing your own thing?  No.  Kids need to learn how to play independently and to occupy themselves.  They need to learn what being a self-starter is and that there is no such thing as being bored.  

But there are other things that we feel guilty about.......and maybe we should........we probably shouldn't just pass it off as mom guilt.  We should embrace those feelings for what they're trying to tell us and get better........for our babies.  

When Georgia asks me for the tenth time to help her "put up a Wizard of Oz" show and I've put her off long enough and I put her off again........I think I should feel bad.  She wants to play with me.  I'm the most important person in her world right now.  I need to act like it.  

When she's eating lunch at the table and I'm checking e-mail.......again........and I notice she's sitting there quietly, I think I should feel bad that I'm not taking that opportunity to sit there with her face-to-face, enjoying a calm, quiet moment together. 

When Georgia wants to help me decorate, and that decorating involves scattering little heart shaped pieces of paper around vases of flowers with a side of Snow White's pink plastic shoes, and I remove them when she's not looking only to find her searching for them later, I think I should feel bad.  Why do I care so much if those little pieces of paper stay there?  Last I checked the photographer from Architectural Digest can't make it today anyway.  

When I fill up three days in a row with running around and running around and I know that half of those errands are completely unnecessary (do I really need to go to Marshall's again?  really?) and all she wants to do is play play-doh and make paper bag puppets with me, I think I should feel bad.  She has things she wants to do to--and some of them should be acknowledged.   

Everyone's list will be different.  The items on the list might be of the same vein or resemble each other, but they'll be different because we all have different triggers.  Things that really speak to us, really pull at our hearts and make us think that we should be doing better.  Don't ignore them.  

The term mom-guilt is good for dismissing ridiculous things that we feel bad about.  But I also think it's provided an excuse for us to behave apathetically as moms at times--and that's a bad thing.  We need to learn the difference between unwarranted mom guilt and mom guilt that says, "Focus on your kid.  Put down your phone. Shut your computer. Stop folding laundry for ten seconds. You don't need to go to the mall.  You need to play doctor for a full half n'hour and not try to get out of it.  You need to watch Sesame Street WITH your kid once in a while instead of using it as an excuse to do what you want to do while it's on.  The house can go without being vacuumed for an hour.  The stuffed animals can stay right there in the middle of the living room floor--they're at a show."  

We've got to learn this.  We've got to admit that not all mom-guilt is bad.  We need to remember......they'll never forget how we made them feel.  Never.  Not ever.  

Earlier this week Georgia asked me why I had black bananas in the refrigerator.  I told her they're for banana bread.  She of course wanted to make it with me. It's not that I mind her helping me in the kitchen I just didn't feel like making the bread so I kept putting her off and putting her off.  Today.......she asked again.  I said yes.  

She was in awe that I let her squeeze these rotten bananas into a doh with the garlic press has definitely been trumped.

I love this little face. Look at that face. And I mean the picture above.  I'm not talking about my own face below.

 I think I need to even out my bangs. Or maybe stop doing it myself altogether.

And here's the thing.  No sooner had we mixed up the batter for the bread than she was off on her own playing, taking this donkey (who was playing the part of the Tin Man today) on a walk.  And she didn't really want me to play with her.  She was satisfied.  Her mom fix had been had.  It doesn't take a lot to make them feel like we need them to feel.  

And that's not to say we can punch the clock for fifteen minutes and we're's to say that even the smallest of actions where we push aside what we'd rather do, or not do makes a huge impact on our kids.  And the more we do it, the more of a habit it becomes. And it's a good habit, the kind of habit that results in our kids knowing we want to spend time with them, they're more important than technology, the cleaning can wait (for a little bit), or the banana bread gets made a little messier because we're doing it together.  

So that mom guilt?  Some of it's a good thing.....maybe even more than some.  Listen to it.  Your kids will feel better because of it.  


  1. I completely agree with you. There is a difference between the guilt I feel when I have to leave and go to work in the morning and the guilt I feel when she is begging me to pay with her and I keep holding her off to do one more thing. The latter, I need to learn from. Love your perspective on this.

    Also love the tutu. That's how we bake here too ;)

    1. Yes Tricia--that tutu makes a lot of appearances around here! And sometimes it makes it to the grocery store, out to eat, and to church. I love it!

  2. Good thoughts and lots of similarities in my household too....


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