Mom guilt. Mom judgment. They do exist – and they’re both horrible!
I had heard of mom guilt but I wouldn’t understand the full extent of it until I became a mom myself. And mom judgment – phew! Let me tell you; it’s dam harsh!! Wow.
Let’s start with the judgment and let’s just clear the air here: we all judge.
Don’t pretend that you don’t.
We see someone out and about and we judge their clothes, or their hair – or perhaps even their parenting. Oh yeah! We’ve all done it, so let’s just be straight up and honest about that little fact.
But let’s flip the switch for a minute: have you ever felt someone judging you or your parenting? Doesn’t feel so good, does it? I’m lucky in that I’ve lived my life, to quote Dr. Wayne Dyer, “independent of the good opinion of other people” – or I at least try to, to the best of my ability. But when I was in my second trimester of pregnancy, I for the first time got a little self-conscious about other people’s judgy-eyes. I felt more aware of my actions, what I was eating, and exposing my body to – because I was exposing an unborn human to all of these thing, too. (And I will add, before anyone starts questioning or judging, of course I didn’t do anything wrong or expose my unborn child to anything. I was totally “Team Organic” and was hyper vigilant about everything throughout my entire pregnancy). Then, after I had my daughter, I was still very “aware” of others – I felt the judgment from “more experienced “ moms, friends, family, and complete strangers.
Once I got the hang of this whole “mom thing” though, I changed my perspective about other people’s judgmental glances, comments, or action – as well as, and perhaps more importantly, my own judgmental thoughts towards other parents. But let’s also state this: if you’re a halfway decent person, of course you’re not going to put your child in harms way or do something stupid! Buuuuut for those who do endanger their kids and do do stupid stuff, well, then I think they’re full-on opening themself up to all of our criticisms and judgments! Let’s just be frank about that.
All of that aside, now as a parent, when I see “that look” on a mother’s face in a grocery store with two small children, one crying and the other draining the last ounce of energy that that woman has by whining for a toy or snack – I don’t judge her actions or if she shushes her kids. Instead I find myself giving her the “I know how you feel” and “hang in there” look.
I don’t judge parents – as much – who let their kids be entertained by a device while out to dinner (I’ll re-emphasize “as much”) because perhaps they too are like me and my husband: totally anti-device. But perhaps, just on this one occasion, those parents just wanted to get ten minutes to be able to be adults and to be able to feed themselves without having to expend 110% of their attention to a child. I get it! And I got you, fellow parent at the next table, I’m not judging you. Buuuuut if you’re one of those parents that use things like devices as a babysitter, you bet your you-know-what that I’m judging you – and I’m not the only one!
So what’s the point of all this parent judgment talk? Well, just to point out that this is a real thing and it’s really challenging sometimes – for the parents being judged at least. And on the other side, I also wanted all of us to admit to the fact that we all do it. If we at least admit that, well, then perhaps we will be more mindful and sympathetic the next time we see that exhausted parent in that grocery store isle. You’re not alone out there!
Now let’s switch gears and go from judgment to guilt. I can only speak as a mother, so no disrespect to the dads out there. But mom guilt is a mother! (Notice that little play on words there?) Oh my god! I’ve never in my life felt so awful about anything – quite literally anything – as when I first had to deal with mom guilt.
Leaving my daughter for the first time for half an hour while I had to go do something; I was overwhelmed with guilt and couldn’t get back to her fast enough.
Going out for a date night for the first time after having her; I was stressed out with guilt.
Leaving her at daycare for the first time; I was a hot, sobbing mess who just about lost her s@#$ in the cubby room with a ten million pound guilt-gorilla sitting on my chest all day. What soon followed that were the drop-offs where my daughter quite literally had to be peeled from my arms with tears and the whole nine yards… Peel my heart off of the floor, would ‘ya?!
And then! The guilt you feel when you feel judged by other moms, like feeling judged because you’re a working mom. Seriously? Get out of here with that!
Mom guilt is something that I’ve struggled with, because I love my child like no other. So on the extremely rare occasions when I take time for myself, like going to a yoga class, I feel guilty because I feel that I could (and should) be spending that time with my child and I question if I’m being “selfish” for taking an hour for myself. What has helped me was coming to the realization that the best thing that I can do for my child is to be the best that I can be, and that means taking care of myself, too. If I am run down, crippled with back pain, or exhausted beyond belief (these are mom problems for sure) – well, then I am no good to anyone, especially my child. So when I do take time out for myself, like going to yoga to help fix my back problems, I go through my mom guilt checklist: if I feel better physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually then I am a better person for myself, for my child, for my spouse, for my family, friends, and community.
So the next time that you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with mom guilt, go through your own mom guilt checklist: be the best you for yourself and for the people in your life. You do the best that you can, and it is OK to take a moment for yourself … something that we moms often forget, for we often feel forgotten and our needs are neglected. And to all of us out there, judging other parents does not help when it comes to the guilt. Let’s show some compassion and sympathy, let’s even go so far as to lend a hand, or make a positive comment. A reassuring comment in a difficult time can mean the world to a parent who may feel that they are struggling. We’re all working towards the same goal: to be the best that we can be and to raise an amazing next generation. We can do this!