You stayed up late last night binge-watching your favorite series when you could have been matching socks and getting meals prepped for the rest of the week. You could have been cleaning out that closet that vomits it’s contents onto the living room floor every time you open in. Speaking of the floor: The floor hasn’t been scrubbed in ages.
Carrying guilt like it’s your job
You instantly feel guilty for your indulgence after the kids went to bed. You have three more closets just like the one in the living room that you slam shut as quickly as you can after opening them so nothing falls out. You could have cleaned those closets out as well and donated the items inside that are now too small for all of your kids. You hit the power button on the TV remote and tell yourself you’ll do better tomorrow you’ll be more productive. You’ll get more done.
Just last week you forgot to dress your kid up for another themed day at school and you imagine them as the only one walking into class without their crazy hair. They reminded you. The teacher sent home a note, but in the hustle and bustle of your busy morning you forgot (again). You instantly feel guilty for your forgetfulness.
You feel even worse about the fact that last time they had crazy hair day you were just too exhausted to drive to the store and pick up a can of hairspray and bobby pins. Breakfast was too much of a battle that morning and once again everyone ended up eating out of the snack cupboard. You feel guilty for the times you just don’t have it in you to complete the simplest of tasks. You feel quilty that you served macaroni and cheese that night for the third night in a row.
So you tell yourself you’ll do better next time, you’ll be less forgetful. You’ll be less sleepy.
Feeling like a failure
Speaking of notes from teachers: you recieved a note from your child’s teacher that your kid was disrupting his class again. Your heart sinks when you open his backpack and your brain starts coming up with all the reasons why your kid is causing so much trouble. You reason that it must be your fault, the note feels like it should have your name on it and not your child’s.
Surely you’ve failed them somewhere along the way. You were the Mom who read all the books on newborns, toddlers and teens as soon as the pregnancy test came back positive. The Mom who sent countless lunchbox notes and “I love you’s” written on napkins. You are the Mom who is up all night thinking about what mistake you must have made in your parenting journey thus far that has prompted less than positive feedback on your child’s behavior.
Guilt upon guilt upon guilt
A month ago you promised your friend that you would finally go out for coffee with her. You’ve cancelled on her so many times that you’re surprised she still wants to go. When you finally get the kids all dressed up, packed up and sent to their grandparents for the afternoon, you pick up your phone and text your friend:
“Something came up, can’t make it today, I am so so sorry.”
The truth is that nothing came up, but you can’t remember the last time your house wasn’t filled with running feet, baby cries and bickering. The thought of washing a weeks worth of dry shampoo out of your hair in an effort to look presentable for a coffee date just isn’t all that appealing.
Decked out in your sweatpants, slippers and greasy hair you end up having the most relaxing afternoon you’ve have since before kids. You feel refreshed but then you instantly feel guilty for bailing on your friend. The good feelings you had from recharging your batteries with a few hours alone in your home quickly dissipate. You feel guilty that becoming a mom has made you such a terrible friend.
You are the Mom who carries guilt around like it is another one of your children. You feed it and dress it up with perfectionism in your daily life making sure no one notices it. You wear it like it’s a second skin. If you were honest, you have a big old backpack full of Mom guilt strapped around your shoulders at all times. You can’t take it off because you’re used to the weight of it: it has become your normal.
“You’ve made sure everything is your fault”
If it was lifted off your shoulders you would likely fall flat on your face because you have been balancing yourself (and your daily to-do list) under the weight of it for so long. it has been there since you saw your first baby and worried you might make mistakes in how you raise them. It was there the first time your child argued with you. It was there the first time you raised your voice. It’s been there collecting all the guilt in all your less than perfect moments as a Mom.
You think that in some ways it’s almost noble to drag it around: because no one else ever has to carry the guilt except you. In fact, you carry the guilt for everyone you can, and they don’t seem to mind that nothing is their fault because you’ve made sure that everything is yours. You apologize for everyone and everything.
Mama, be gentle with yourself
To the mom who carries all the guilt, you are helping everyone but yourself. You can’t enjoy your salsa and chips on the couch after the kids are in bed because you are mentally locked into the idea that anything that is not productive it not worth doing.
Rest leaves you feeling guilty instead of feeling refreshed, quiet time leaves you feeling guilty instead of feeling recharged, negative behaviors from you children only add to your big old backpack of guilt, when in reality, no child is perfect, and neither are you.
Be gentle with yourself Mama. You don’t have to carry kids and guilt at the same time. You can spoil yourself just like you spoil your babies. They can see you loving life and want to be just like you or they can see you feeling guilty and apologizing for everything and want to be just like you.
Don’t pass them the backpack.