"I am a good mother."
"I am a good mother."
I repeat to myself, as I stand in the middle of the chaotic living room while a crying toddler tugs at my leg because I wouldn't take the lid off her sippy-cup.
I give in and unscrew the cap, only to have the contents thereof become the fourth puddle on the ground.
Now I have to step over piles of toys I had already packed away twice today, walk past the snacks she didn't want that ended up on the floor to go refill the sippy-cup.
All while ignoring the beeping of the washing machine I was meant to unload a while ago already and the mountain of dirty dishes I have yet to clean.
She's cutting 4 teeth, so the floor is lava, "Mamma eh eh eh eh" until I pick her up. My neck already feels strained from carrying her all day, so I don't really feel like strapping on the baby carrier to my back.
I still have to tidy the house but it's nap time already. I'll need to lye down with her, she needs me. At least I can respond to those emails I've been meaning to get back to for the last three days.
"I am a good mother", I need to repeat as she fights against sleep. Standing, singing and rocking isn't working. She keeps fighting, she keeps crying.
"I am a...but am I?" "Am I a good enough mother?" I think as I start crying too.
Some days, even though you know deep down in your core that you are doing everything humanly possible to be the best mother, it doesn't feel enough. You need to say it to yourself and you need someone else to say it too.
Because answering "I survived" when asked "What did you do today?" or "What educational activities did you two do today?" isn't acceptable.
It wasn't like this in my perfect picture of motherhood, the hard days weren't so hard and the time wasn't so little. I would have been able to do daily house chores and the educational activities. I wouldn't have had to choose.
But my expectation of motherhood was not realistic. I only expected the good. Yes everyone said there are hard days, but you can't comprehend them until you are living them.
You constantly hold yourself to unattainable standards and measure yourself against others.
My friend's daughter is having two naps, should we be having two naps?
My daughter only started walking after a year? Did I do something wrong?
Yes she sleeps 12hours straight but we go to bed late, am I messing up her clock?
Cheesecurls is a special food group on its own some days.
These are little things, they don't even compare to the big ones that haunt me.
Does she know I love her even when I'm stern and set boundaries?
Why did the birth not go as planned? Was it traumatic for her too?
Does she remember how much we struggled with breastfeeding?
Mom guilt is something I struggle with daily. I have painted a perfect picture in my head and some days I don't live up to my standards. Some days I just survive.
Which is normal. It's okay to answer "I survived". I didn't expect myself to be saying that but it's the truth.
I know I do the very best I can. I just don't always know how to not feel guilty when my reality is a duller picture.
In my personal opinion, I find my mom guilt drives me to be better. Yes I know you read that thinking the next word coming was going to be "insane", drives me insane. Well some days it sure feels like it. Especially on dark days when the "big ones" creep out.
The ones I had absolutely no control over and need to process. But the small ones I can control or better, those ones drive me to be better. They give me hope and have me say "Tomorrow will be better".
Mom guilt is normal. Normal in the sense that everyone feels it. The things you feel guilty about on the other hand, some can drive you. But if they rob you of your joy, you need to process them and heal so that you can move on. Especially if you have no control over it or you can't change them.
If you can't say, tomorrow will be better, then you need to leave them in the past and paint a new picture.
No matter what your mothering journey looks like and how much dedication and effort you invest, you will always have things you feel guilty about or think you could do better. There are no perfect mothers, you will always find yourself looking at others and comparing. To be honest, you are being very unfair to yourself because no other mother walks in your shoes. She doesn't have your experiences, she doesn't have your life, she doesn't have your children. Her mom game may be insanely good, but she's not playing your game.
You are the only one playing your game and I'm pretty sure that you are giving it your all. Don't feel that your picture should compare to anyone else's, they're not you. And given the chance to choose, your children will choose you.
You are their world. Even if it was a day you only "survived", they still have happy memories with the most important person in their lives.
To give you a glimpse into the lives of other mothers who's lives I follow daily via their blogs, I asked my fellow mom bloggers to contribute so that we can hear what their take on mom guilt is.
Here's what these amazing moms have to say;
Luchae from My Spreadsheet Brain
I'm Luchae Williams and I'm a mommy blogger over at My Spreadsheet Brain. I am a full time working mama (I work in the advertising industry) and wifey to my rock star husband, Chris. I'm mom to Kyle (16), Kari (3) and Jonah (8 months) and step mom to Seth (11). Yes, four of them. Have I lost my mind yet? Slowly but surely, slowly but surely.
The funny thing about motherhood though is that no matter how tired your children make you, or how crazy you feel after pairing up a gazillion socks while doing the washing (and you don't even wear socks), you still can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of ownership when you look at them. I think it's this sense of "ownership" that drives the mom guilt. These unexplainable feelings of "they are MINE" that makes you want to give up everything you have for them.
I mean, I've experienced mom guilt doing the silliest of things, such as buying a pair of shoes (mom guilt: Kyle actually needs sneakers too hey) or staying at the party later than you had planned (mom guilt: Jonah probably needs you right now). I've had mom guilt while having pizza at work (mom guilt: Kari loves pizza and she's having a normal sarmie for lunch, shame) and while watching Grey's Anatomy on repeat, in bed (mom guilt: Seth is bored and he wants to do something fun, but here you are, pretending to be a doctor).
If you're struggling with incessant mom guilt and it's ruining your vibe, do what I do... find a little mantra and repeat it over and over, until you find your inner peace. Mine goes a little something like this: "It's okay to want nice things. It's okay to have nice things. I work hard. I deserve it. I'm not an old shoe. I should eat a slab of chocolate right now..." You know, things like that. Positive affirmations. Which may or may not include eating a slab of chocolate.
Tracy from Liam & Cole
I’m Tracy, a thirty something wife and mom of two boys, Liam and Cole. Originally from Durban, but now living in the beautiful Cape Town. I work full time because I love my independence, but I also take pride in taking care of my family and raising our kids. While I love the company of friends, I am quite an introvert so I thrive on my alone time too. That is when I get to organize my life, unleash my creativity and write all about my life experiences as a mother and share it with fellow moms. When I’m not cooking, or cleaning, or visiting some fun place with my family, I’m probably behind my laptop putting together content for my blog or social media.
Almost four years ago, to our shock and dismay, our son was diagnosed with Epilepsy. We’ve spent a lot of time in hospital. We’ve dealt with many different healthcare professionals. Our son has had a fair share of various medications. With it, came numerous side effects, some of them being physical and others emotional. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for all of us. I became obsessed. I needed to know why this had happened to our son. I needed closure. Was it something I did wrong? Was it his vaccinations? Was it a medicine that didn’t agree with him? Is it genetic? Did I allow too much sugar, too much time in front of the TV? I spent hours upon hours researching and trying to find answers. Until I let go. Letting go was the best thing that could have happened to all of us. It was not until then, that everything started getting better. He finally found a medicine that agreed with him (for that while). I was happier, he was happier. Until he got sick again.
That is when the mom guilt kicked in yet again. “This happened because I let go. How could I have let go? How could I allow this to happen to him?” I feel like a bad mother again. All over again. How do I cope with this constant mom guilt of which I don’t even know whether I can be blamed for certain? It’s a process of continuous letting go. Letting go is so hard. It’s the hardest thing many ever have to do. But it’s what keeps me going. Letting go of the bad, and holding on the good. Because in all my parenting decisions, I know that I’ve always done what I felt was best for my kid, at the time of making the decision. I know that I will never be the perfect mother, but I will always be perfect for him. I know that I will not always make the right choices, but that I have made the choice that I thought was right at the time. And for these reasons, I let go of all the mom guilt.
Cherralle from My Daily Cake
I am Cherralle and I write for My Daily Cake. I am married and a mom of two adorable daughters. They drive me crazy but melt my heart at the same time. I work full time as an HR Professional and at this stage I really enjoy blogging! I am a bit of a nerd. I am a complete introvert. I love reading, and have recently developed a love for writing. Although I suck at spelling and grammar, I want to use my voice to share stories and so I do through writing.
Feeling guilty is something I think I will always experience. My first insecurity as a mom started with breast feeding. It was not a joyous experience for me. For both my girls it did not work out. I always feel guilty that I could not provide my daughters, what I always thought is a very basic comfort. I felt I was 'broken' as a parent. I could not get this thing to work that was supposed to come 'naturally'. Well I am sorry, for me that is nonsense. To some mothers yes it is natural, but not to all mothers. To me it was not. I admire moms who breastfeed, I truly think it is amazing!
Logically in my mind I know that as long as my child is being fed, I did my best, but it still nagged at me and always will. The societal pressure about 'bottle feeding shame' that I experienced also dit not help easy my feelings of guilt.
Case in point:
One day I went to a new mothers check up. The nurse was explaining to us how we need to be careful in the South African heat with our young babies. She shared that breast milk will adapt to what the baby needs and we do not need to worry about giving the baby water. Breast milk will ensure the baby is taken care of in the heat (something to that effect).
So I asked, what about the baby who gets formula? Do they need water in the heat wave? 'I don't know' she replied. Really?
As they were weighing the babies, they asked if the baby is breast fed or formula fed (for the chart). The breast fed moms got a huge high five and pat on the back for weight gain. The bottle feeding moms did not get any form of congratulations. So I got made to feel bad for feeding my baby a bottle, as if the weight gain wasn't due to my mothering efforts.
That type of attitude was really hurtful and shame inducing. Needless to say I never returned back to this particular clinic and why I personally wish there could be more positive messages about bottle feeding.
I make the most of what I do have. I did not breast feed my girls but I could feed, hold and cuddle them. I did not share a bed with them when babies, but I made sure they felt loved when they were awake and we played. I don't see them much in the week, but I am rolling on the floor with them on weekends. I make the moments we have count!
Nicola from Peanut Gallery 24/7
By way of introduction, I am Nicola Subben, happy wife and proud mummy to my now 19 old month son, Kayden. I blog at Peanut Gallery 247. We didn’t know if Kayden was going to be a girl or a boy, until he was born, so during my pregnancy, we referred to him/her as “Peanut”. We had a close family friend create a WhatsApp group named “Peanut Gallery” – in which we shared updates about the development of “Peanut” and it’s through this name, my blog was named Peanut Gallery…just in case you were wondering.
I have been experiencing a serious dose of mum guilt more so recently than before. Each day when I leave home from work and I watch Kayden stand at the window waving to me, I see a certain sadness in his eyes, or maybe it’s the echo of my heart – I feel so guilty leaving for work when I wish that I could be with my child. They say it gets easier with time, but for me, I find that this seems to be the opposite.
I also feel mum guilt when Kayden doesn’t want to listen to me and I end up raising my voice at him – I never wanted to be the mum who did that and it all seemed so easy before I myself became a mother. I used to imagine perfect parenting scenarios in my head…but those were far from the reality. I do feel guilty about this but I also feel that I must play the mum role and be stern so that he practices some discipline. Whether or not raising my voice is the right thing to do or not…I am still finding that out…as sometimes it works and sometimes not.
The best way for me to cope with this guilt is by spending more time with Kayden. I have already learned his love language and that is Quality Time. The more time you spend with him, the closer he gets and feels to you. Work unfortunately cannot be compromised, a mum’s gotta do what a mum’s gotta do – so I maximise the time I spend with Kayden after work by putting other things on hold or off. This includes a whole lot of blog related activities. As much as I would love to do more in my blogging world and have all sorts of wonderful ideas, there are only so many hours in a day and when you’re a working mum, you must prioritise.
I also always speak to my husband about how I handle situations – am I doing the right thing? How can I improve as a mum or is there anything he notices that I can do better? There are times when he points this out to me without me even asking – on the odd occasion where I’ve been distracted and didn’t come to the realisation myself. E.g. a time when I was excessively on social media, during what supposed to be quality family time.
I am glad we can have these conversations and it surely helps to address matters before they get any worse. Communication is key in any marriage and in ours in particular, I am glad that we have that open relationship where we are comfortable to discuss such matters – all in the interest of having a happy family. I think as a working mum or not, a mum will always have some sort of mum guilt, as all she wants it to be the best mum that she can be and it may not always seem or be easy…which sometimes may make her feel as if she is failing. It is therefore important to have the love and support of her husband to remind her of all the things she does do right and well and to know that he supports her in the areas which need improvement.
A special thank you to my fellow mom bloggers for sharing their experiences with mom guilt. It's not an easy topic to talk about. I do think that many mothers will be able to benefit from the shared experiences and knowing that they are not alone, that all mothers experience mom guilt.