“Will you be home tonight?” Austin asks me this as I’m about to head out the door for work. This will be the second night in a row this week that I have client meetings late, followed by babysitting for a friend. The second night in a row that I won’t be home until after his bedtime.
“I’m sorry bud,” I say, stopping for a second to put my oversized bag down on the couch. “I have to work late tonight.” I run my hand through his sandy blonde hair and look into his doe-eyes, staring back at me all shiny and bright. And just like that, the mom guilt hits me right in the chest.
Why, as mothers, do we do this to ourselves? Why do we carry the burdens of being both the providers and the shoulders? The ones who have to comfort and carry the load? I haven’t been a mother for long, but what I’ve struggled with in my own experience is just how difficult it is to own all the aspects of my identity — the boss, the businesswoman, the nurturer, the caretaker, the open arms.
Even though I was never encouraged or taught to be this way, I’ve carried, unconsciously, this mom guilt.
I carry it every time I can’t be two places at once. Every time Austin runs out of socks and I realize, that despite the 179,208 other things I’ve done, I haven’t provided. And every time I choose my work over a night at home, even though 90% of my evenings are spent at the kitchen table with my boyfriend and his son.
I can be at home every night of the week, but the one time I meet my friend for drinks, I feel bad. I can put aside my laptop and phone and be present – but the moment I slip up – I’m all over myself.
When I choose something else over my family, I feel like a terrible mother. And yes, it’s gotten better with time. Yes, I’ve learned to balance, forgive myself, and be selfish when I need to be.
But that doesn’t necessarily make it easier.
I am often plagued by this mom guilt that no one has pressed upon me except myself.
Why are we our own worst critics?
For some reason, us moms (and dads, too, I’m sure) have been conditioned to believe that we are somehow ‘not good enough.’ Or that we’re supposed to selflessly choose our families first. Or, if not, then perfectly balance both work and life – never compromising for either side. (Which is impossible, by the way.)
We expect ourselves to be ‘supermoms’ — somehow handling the house, the kids, the food, the work, the bills and everything else — on our own, even if we have a partner by our side.
But even superheroes need rest, need boundaries, and need perspective. Even superheroes need to acknowledge that sometimes the biggest enemy you have to face is the one that exists within your own mind.
Being a good mom doesn’t mean sacrificing yourself all the time. It doesn’t mean neglecting your work. It doesn’t mean taking on loads that aren’t yours to bear.
But most of all, being a good mom doesn’t mean constantly living with mom guilt. Being a good mom is about loving yourself, even if (and inevitably when) you’re imperfect.
Sometimes the house is messy, the kids don’t eat nutritious foods, you have to take a call during dinner, or you say the wrong thing. Sometimes you forget to pack your child a snack for school, or veg out on technology rather than engaging in something off of a screen.
We’re all a little messy sometimes.
So, please don’t be so hard on yourself, mama. You’re doing great.
Featured Image Credit: TONL