“You’re doing a great job,” our family doctor said after my youngest daughter’s one-year checkup. Tears welled in my eyes because I felt that couldn’t possibly be true. Sure, I made homemade organic food, practiced attachment parenting, did plenty of reading and singing all while also taking care of my three-year-old, but it never felt like enough. There was always a lingering heavy feeling.
The feeling has reared its ugly head time and time again. When I first dropped off my girls at daycare, lost my temper, and took time for myself.
It’s an unwelcome companion that I can’t seem to get rid of.
Because I should be the perfect mother. I should be able to take care of my children from dawn until dusk without compliant, without asking for help, without even taking a moment for myself. I should always be kind, patient and understanding. I shouldn’t feel overwhelmed or exhausted or angry.
Because I should be the perfect wife. I should be kind and supportive and not let the late nights at the office or the lack of date nights bother me. I should keep the not so best parts of my day to myself. I shouldn’t complain or criticize or feel resentful.
Because I should be the perfect woman. I should keep the house clean and make delicious, healthy food every day and not to mention look like I stepped out of a magazine. I shouldn’t still be carrying around 20 pounds of extra weight, barely able to keep up with cleaning, and struggling to make dinner.
Because if I’m not all of these things, then maybe I’m not good enough. Or even worse, I’m failing my children, my husband and myself.
The weight of expectation
I grew up in a culture where woman do it all and make it look effortless. My grandma had a hand in raising nine grandchildren while also maintaining the home and cooking food for the entire family. My mom, a single mom, didn’t complain of not having time for herself or worry that she wasn’t doing enough for my brother and me. Nor have I heard other women in her generation speak of such things.
When I asked her if she experienced the feeling that plagues so many of us today, she told me she wished she had spent more time with us instead of working. My mom knew though, that she did what she had to do to support us. There was no deep unsettling guilt but an acceptance for what was.
That’s what we need, acceptance. Accepting our flaws, our strengths, and our limitations. Accepting ourselves for who we are and reminding ourselves of what we so easily forget.
What we need to remember
- We are enough – We think that our kids need the best of everything – the best toys, the best school, the best mom – but all they really need is us. They need us to be present, to play, to love them and to care.
- We are doing our best – Sometimes our best is taking the kids to the park and play dates and making a nutritious feast, while other days it’s TV and snacks because we’ve only had four hours of sleep. All that matters is that each day we are doing the best with what we have.
- We need self-care – Sometimes, weeks go by with us moms not stepping out without kids in tow or even years when it comes to catching up on sleep, taking time for ourselves or building in some much-needed pampering. We need to ask for help, recharge, and recover as much as we need to take care of our families.
- We shouldn’t seek perfection – When I lose myself wanting things to be perfect, I think about what I want to teach my daughters. I want my daughters to know that being authentic and real is more important than putting on a painted, pretty face. That honouring all our feelings, even the tough ones, is what helps us learn and grow. That treating ourselves with love and kindness is just as important as treating others that way.
- We are doing things right – Guilt is a reminder that we care and that we want to do what is best for our children but getting stuck in guilt isn’t good for anyone. We need to accept that there will be good days and there will be bad days, but neither are an indication of our capability as mothers.
Motherhood has a way of bringing up all our insecurities. Add that to the societal pressures of what women and mothers should be, and it’s just too much. What has helped you cope with mom guilt? Share with me in the comments below.