Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mommy Guilt Explored

I read this excerpt from the book, "The Mother's Guide to the Meaning of Life: What Being a Mom has Taught Me about Resilience, Guilt, Acceptance, and Love" by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and just knew I had to write about it:

I don't know what I'm doing half the time.  Don't know if all my decisions and efforts and love will tally up in a way that means my children will walk away from the carnival with the jumbo stuffed animal.  I do what I can, what is in my power, but there are just so many other factors at work: things that are predetermined at birth; things that happen at school; things that happen in the in-between spaces; things I can't even fathom yet; things I'm unintentionally doing all wrong.  That which is beyond my control, beyond  my understanding, beyond the horizon, shrivels me. (pages 121-122)

I read this in the midst of a very, very tough week.  I have been sick.  The kids have been sick.  And it just kept getting worse.  I had my in-laws in town and had all these fun plans, productive plans, things I would get done now that I FINALLY had help.  None of it got done of course and I barely enjoyed some of the outings we had with them and the kids because I was so damn sick.   I was in such a foul mood, my patience was shot...and they saw me that way with my kids!

Here's the thing:  I know every single mom has lost it with their kid(s).  It is just inevitable I think.  However, most moms are smart enough to not do that in front of others!  But that was how sick, tired and overwhelmed with never-ending lists I was.  I could not contain my frustration.  I was an impatient, nagging, yelling mom to my two toddlers who were also feeling sick (which of course makes it even worse).

I am pretty sure every mom works hard to achieve the "good mom" title.  It can come from anywhere, and I'll take it...the man at the grocery store who tells me I have the patience of a saint (if only!), my mom who reassures me that I am a good mom, my husband...and we all know if our kids tell us we are a good mom, we've hit the jackpot! any annoying therapist would do (believe it or not, that's what I do for a living!), when it's dark and I am wallowing in mommy guilt, I ask myself, "What do I mean by "good mom?"  What does it take to earn that title?  Does it look the same to everyone?  Is it a handful of moments strung together, like the last week of monster mommy in my house?  Or, perhaps, is it millions of small and uneventful interactions that, over time, make up the relationships I have with my children?  I'd like to think it's the latter.  I can choose to look at the past week and beat myself up (because I was a meanie!) and remember only the bad moments.  There were good ones too - times I was told "mommy, sit!" and sat and gave my undivided attention, times I rocked them and snuggled them before bed, times I laughed when they were being silly, times I took interest in their art projects, times I kissed boos boos, fed them meals, changed their get the idea.   I didn't put weight on THOSE times...but why?  I have to make a different choice.  I have to choose to focus on the beauty in our relationships, the things I do well, the joyous moments - of which there are many.  I am a strong believer in: you get more of what you pay attention to.  I just suck at living it.  So I'm going to keep trying to be better, to do better, and to notice when I do.

The end of the excerpt above is both freeing and terrifying.  I do not make up my children's entire lives - so much of who they are, who they will become, has to do with so many other things that I have absolutely no control over.  So, first of all, get over myself.  Second of all, lock them up!  Seriously, though, why do moms shoulder all the weight of how their children turn out?  I know...I mean, I really know, because I do this for a important mothers are for their children's success and health.  I really do.  We are powerful.  But we aren't ALL powerful.  I have conflicting feelings about that.  In some ways, I'd love to be the only factor in my kids' lives - because no one loves them more than I do and I know I would always keep their best interests at heart.  On the other hand, they have so many rich and beautiful relationships and experiences outside of me.  And, yes, they will have negative relationships and experiences...but maybe, just maybe, that's what our safe, normal, every day negative interactions are preparing them for?  I 'd like to think so.  So I will.


  1. Faith. Do you want to know why I really like you? It's because you are honest and real. And in your heart there is so much kindness and love. You have already built such a rock solid foundation with your children that even if you lose your cool, they still know (they will always know) that they are more important to you than yourself. They know that you would throw yourself infront of a bus for them. And the truth is, when we lose our cool as mothers.. It's never really because we are angry AT them.. We just want the absolute best for them. And if we feel like that isn't happening then we start having inner conflict, feeling upset that our plans for them have been ruined and therefore it comes out as us being cross sometimes.

    Gosh, we do SO MUCH for our kids. So much good stuff. But, you're right. We always only focus mainly on our failures. This post spoke to me tonight. About recognizing the GOOD that I do instead of the times that I'm not so perfect. (And those are many!!)

    I hope you guys feel better soon, sweet friend. It's been going around here too! Cash has been coughing for months it seems like!! Drink a full glass of lemon water, it will boost your immune system and help you get better sooner!

    Love u!!!

    This is Courtney btw... :)

  2. Wow, what a great post. Thanks for sharing. I have absolutely had those times and been sooo frustrated and then so mad at myself for getting that way And then guilty. It is one bad cycle.

    You have a lot going on. Two young children and you are a SAHM with a part time job. That is A LOT!!!!

    You are doing great!!!!

  3. I lay awake in bed almost every night wondering if I did a good enough job and if my kids know how much I live them. I always feel like I could have done better. But my mom says good parents are constantly questioning their "job performance" and always feel they can do better.

    Crappy parents probably just fall asleep with no worries at all. :). As for losing your temper, we all do that. It's impossible to be perfect all the time and your kids likely won't ever even notice. Mine sure don't seem to! I think you are terrific!!!

  4. I tell myself all the time what Amber was saying, "crappy parents don't give a damn." I think (I hope) BECAUSE you (we) think and worry, that we have to be doing a great job, right? Since nobody has all the answers, as long as we are doing our best and constantly trying to be better, we will be great moms.

    Sometimes I get caught up in doing things that I think make me a good mom (making a beautiful breakfast, having awesome activities and crafts to do, having a clean home) that I don't actually focus on being a good mom to my kids. They would rather have cereal and a mom that plays with them. they would rather have a crayon and piece of paper and a mom who has patience. they would rather have a mom that is helping them mess up the house than cleaning it. I have to constantly remind myself the difference between looking like I am a good mom and being a good mom.

    Hugs, Faith. I would gather that you are doing a fantastic job. Don't stop worrying and don't stop trying to be better... because that is what makes you a good mom. Just forgive yourself when you aren't, because your kids already have.

  5. Mom's don't get sick days. Being a little irritable every now and then is allowed. I think you're a super mom! :)

  6. Your a good Mom!! We all get sick and cranky from time to time. Hope your all feeling better now.

  7. Faith,
    We are mothers, not magicians. They don't come with a manual or an off button. I think that children learn so much when they see you have a breaking point just like they do, yet you are always there, always return, always love them. Perfection is just not possible. You give them your entire soul, all your love. You are a great or even better Mom. These are normal times and they love you!