Mom guilt

I have a confession.  I love my weekends without my girls. 

As I pressed the period to end that sentence, Mom Guilt wants to delete it.  Mom Guilt starts asking questions like “Can you really admit that in public?”  “Do you love your children?”  “Do you think you are a good mom?”  Then Mom Guilt makes me look down in shame to even consider stating so boldly that I am okay with not having my children every minute of my life.

And because I am feeling so guilty now, I really have to indulge in some qualifiers.  I love my weekends without my girls because I can lazily drink my coffee as I read the newspaper in complete silence.  I do like when I can be in my garden for three hours uninterrupted without having to prepare a snack, find a lost toy, referee a dispute over who is on the swing longer, or go find the band-aids for a scrape.

Yet at night when I can’t hear my Sophia’s customary snores or in the mornings when I can’t hear Anna laughing over the funnies in the paper, I miss them so much I could cry if I fully indulged my feelings.

We are always on the teeter totter opposite Mom Guilt.  She is always there, inspiring us to second guess our choices, our emotions, and our needs.  Whether divorced or not, once you have brought a child into your life, whether by birth, marriage, or adoption – Mom Guilt becomes an ever-present third wheel in the relationship between you and your child. 

Mom Guilt does not reserve herself for only those occasions when we are in pursuit of the pleasurable.  We feel guilty for working, for working out, for missing a recital, for not seeing a first step, for paying bills instead of arranging a play date, for enjoying a shower without interruption, for not taking them along to the grocery store, for feeling guilty that we feel guilty.

I cannot assert that Mom Guilt is greater for the divorced.  It is just different.  After all, there is a court order saying that I cannot have my girls 100% of the time.  There is an automatic excuse built in for being away from your children to attend to some of your own needs or the needs of others.  But divorce also adds guilt.  I feel guilty that my decision impacted their lives, their happiness, and their security.  I feel guilty that I don’t have my girls all of the time like “regular moms.”

The thing about Mom Guilt is that it is all about volume control.  How loud do we let her get?  How much do we let her interfere?  How long before we realize that in attending to our own selfish need for happiness (yes! Gasp), that we are actually making ourselves better mothers?  Or that in attending to our basic physical needs of health and wellness, financial security and a clean house, we are benefitting our children.  Or that in meeting our emotional needs of occasional peace and quiet we are better able to focus and get clear on our parenting priorities.

Mom Guilt will always remind us that we aren’t enough.  The key is that we have to be okay with that.  One of my favorite creative writers says we must “Live imperfectly with great delight.”  I have adopted that into my life and know that’s the equivalent of giving Mom Guilt the finger.  And it feels good.  I recognize I am not a perfect mom and in seeing that, I am a more authentic mother.  It gives me the courage to say that I do not need to be with my children every minute to be a great mom.  And that I do need to pay attention to that which rejuvenates me to be energized for them.

So whether you are a divorced, married, step or single mom, and you are feeling guilty for even relating to anything I have said here, just remember it is about volume control.  Turn her down.  And what will surface in that quiet space instead is the laughter of your children, or better yet, your own.

Angela Dunne

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