A memo for moms re: guilt
Please take a moment and look at your children right now. Are they safe? Is there a hint of a smile on their faces? Did you feed them today? Are they reasonably clean? Have they got clothing — whether they choose to wear it or not?
If your answer is yes, than congratulations.! You are not a bad mom.
Did you deliver naturally? With drugs? Caesarean section? Did you breastfeed exclusively? Supplement? Formula-feed? Are you home-schooling or are they in public or private school? Do you let them watch violent TV and play video games for two hours a day? Do they eat junk food for supper sometimes?
Your answer doesn’t matter. It truly doesn’t.
There is no one-size-fits-all parenting solution that you must follow. Well, yes there is: give them what they need to stay alive and love them.
After that it’s all a matter of individual preference.
I’m a breastfeeding, attachment parenting, healthy-eating advocate who is trying to raise my children in a non-violent household. I say trying. The other day I told my daughter I’d kill her if she got into another gigantic mess again. That’s not non-violent. That’s day-to-day life. I felt horrible. I felt like the worst mom in the world. I had spent the day yelling at the kids — most of it deserved, but still.
I burned supper. I didn’t finish the laundry. I didn’t read the kids a bedtime story. And at the end of the day all I could think was that I was just not cut out to be a parent.
I felt guilty. Mommy-guilt got me. I had ruined my children’s lives just by being impatient and having a bad day. This wasn’t peaceful, attachment parenting; this was a circus. And I was the evil ringmaster.
The parenting ideals I set for myself are hard enough for me to follow. I don’t expect you to follow them too. When I write about breastfeeding, or raising enviro-con- scious kids, or trying to be a better role model in the ways I think important I do so because this is an opinion column and those are my opinions.
But just because our opinions differ doesn’t mean I’m judging you. Sure, if I see you smoking while pregnant or publicly berating your kids I just might tell myself that you’re a bad parent. But that doesn’t really matter to you, does it? Really, what do you care what I think? The fact is, five minutes later I’ll probably chastise myself for being so damn judgmental.
It’s natural to compare ourselves to others. It’s what we do. It’s part of how we develop our own identity. But that doesn’t mean that one is good and one is bad. It just means different.
So if —in general — no one’s good and no one’s bad then can we please drop the mommy-guilt? And can we stop accusing each other of trying to make each other feel guilty? When other mothers talk about their choices, or when they talk about current research in parenting topics, it’s not about you. It’s not about how you’ve failed to make those same choices or follow that research. It’s about them and what they think is important. That’s all. That’s it.
Can we all get off our high horses and pull ourselves out of the holes we’ve dug and just admit that we’re mostly good parents who occasionally have bad days or make a wrong choice?
At the end of the day none of it matters. It doesn’t matter what I think of you. It doesn’ t e ven really matter what you think of yourself. At the end of the day all that matters is what your children think. As Elizabeth Locke, a mom of two boys says on her blog Mommatwo, “there are all kinds of things I could do better, and some days are better than others — but I do my best, and for them that’s enough. They’re happy. They love me back. They don’t think I’m a failure.”
So if your children are there right now, give them a hug. Are they hugging you back? There you go. You are a good mother. You’re guilty of nothing. You’re not a failure. And no one, especially not your children, thinks you are.