It’s hard being a mom. There is nothing easy about it. And, the older my children get, the job of raising them becomes even more exhausting, mentally and physically. My husband is one of the best dads I know, but I’ve learned over the years that it always seems to be the moms who find themselves up late at night, hashing and re-hashing over words, spoken and unspoken, and conversations that need to be had as soon as the sun rises, to settle an unrested mind and heart. Their safety, health, friends, and choices are all additional concerns that seem to awaken me in the wee hours of the night. Apparently, when my body finally relaxes, my mind starts winding up. I’ve come to realize that these middle-of-the-night thoughts are fueled by what I call, “mom guilt.”
“Mom guilt” is what propels my fears and irrational thoughts at times. It’s like a nagging sound that you try to avoid listening to yet, it overpowers everything else. Everything else like my common sense and the knowledge that I am doing the work to be the best parent I can, even if it’s messy, loud and unproductive at times. And even though I know I’m doing the best I can, “mom guilt” has the power to alter that truth. I jokingly say that with 4 kids, I give them each 25 percent of me because in the end it still equals 100 percent. However, it’s on those tough days, when it appears one of my children need more than that 25 percent, I feel guilt from those same laughable words and I begin to doubt my efforts and instead, question, am I enough?
Am I doing enough? Talking to them enough? Being present enough? Am I following through enough? Am I too strict, too lenient, or not enough of either? Am I an example of compassion and grace or gossip and hypocrisy? Should I work more, or am I not working enough? As moms, we become doubters of who we are and what we know. It is such a great responsibility to raise children and we don’t want to screw it up. Because of that, it can be easy at times to fall into the trap of sometimes questioning how good of a job I am doing or comparing myself to others and doubting if the work I am putting in is good enough. However, “mom guilt” doesn’t have to have the power to deter our confidence and fuel our fears. It can be tamed, changed and most importantly removed from weighing us down and the way to do that is with other moms.
I recognize, and so do my children that I am not a perfect mom, nor will I ever be. The truth is, there are days when I could do it better, much better. But, there are also days when I’ve knocked it out of the park. Knowing that I have done both, reminds me that it’s the balance in life that helps remove the fears. A day of failure and mess can balance out with another day. A new day with a fresh start and an undefeated mind.
I am not above apologizing to my children when I have stumbled as their mom. Just as I want them to take accountability for their bad behavior, I find it imperative to do the same. I’ve found that reconciling a situation even if it’s a day or two later helps, not only me but also my kids. It shows them that we aren’t perfect either, we are trying and figuring it out just like they are sometimes. We aren’t equaled in rank but equals in love. And, when I have an opportunity to share my fears and perspectives, they respond with understanding and newfound insight on a glimpse of the responsibility that parents have.
Women seem to be harder on themselves. However, we can tame our guilt by sharing our concerns with other moms. That’s where the support of other moms going through the same things comes into play. We can change our guilt by listening and taking great advice and we can remove our guilt by reminding ourselves of the effort we are putting in and trusting that God will take over the things we aren’t capable of. One of the greatest gifts I’ve had as a parent is not only advice from my older siblings, but also a handful of trustworthy moms where I’ve been able to share concerns without judgment and where a cup of coffee and a good cry ended up being the best therapy session I could have asked for. The reality is, women need women. We need to lift each other up, listen, advise, compare less and embrace more.
Because being a mom is one of the greatist gifts in life and working with other moms in an effort to give it our best shot makes the experience even sweeter. The good, bad and ugly days will come but changing our mindset from “mom-guilt” to “mom-growth” is what is needed to appreciate and accept the job it takes to be a mom and to find comfort and joy in all of it.