Monday, 5 October 2015

Mommy Musing - Mom Guilt

I think it’s common for women to take on more than they can sometimes handle. We’re emotional people, we’re givers, and we stress about things that are well beyond our control. I can remember many nights, starting in my teens, when I would lay awake running over and over again in my mind the things I had to do the next day, dumb things I had said, and all of the ways I could improve tomorrow. I worry less about dumb things I say now, but the "to do” list and things to worry about in general has only grown since becoming a mom early 2014. Whether it’s a biological response, for evolutionary purposes, or just the lack of sleep and wacky hormones, guilt seems to compound.

Take coffee for example. I am a great lover of coffee for the rich taste and the wake-upping properties, but coffee is a major source of unnecessary and poisonous guilt for me. Before my son, justifying a trip to Tim Horton’s was hardly necessary. It was practically a hobby of mine, and I had a “Cheers” affect at my local store. Now, even though I’m back to work, and I sometimes skip breakfast to save time in the morning, I have a huge problem allowing myself to spend $5 before 9am. I’ll wrinkle my face, frustrated with myself, and end up having rushed instant oatmeal and coffee in the break room instead. Even a coffee at home is guilt inducing! I’m either mad that I’m sipping something at a safe distance rather than playing, or if I indulge while my son naps, I feel pangs at knowing I could be doing laundry or vacuuming!

As if trivial concern like coffee wasn’t bad enough, a mom carries the major weight of what I will call the First Five burden. We are constantly reminded of how critical the first 5 years of a child’s life are in terms of their development. It makes you feel that, in addition to love and patience, you are running a home-school and laboratory. Did you read enough? Did she eat enough produce? Does he have enough stimulation? No screen time before 2 years. Are they hitting their milestones? YIKES! It’s incredibly hard to strike a balance of quality time, and wondering if you’re encouraging vocabulary and independence! Not that it gets any easier when they are at school or daycare. Did I pack enough? Is he making friends? Did she get enough sleep? The list goes on and on.

Then there’s everyone else in your life… I knew that motherhood would start to bring some people in, and push others out, but I couldn’t have foreseen the extent. You bond with your family in new ways, and value get-togethers in a way you couldn’t appreciate before. Last Christmas was amazing to watch my son and my niece, playing with my youngest sister – someone I still view as a child at 25. It’s hard to separate this “family” element from the coupledom you had before kids. You long to spend quality time with your spouse, but you also feel guilty getting a sitter. How dare you have a date night every three months, maybe? Even if you do get out, you wonder how they are doing the whole time.

Then there are friends, and this is the hardest part. They take a back seat to fevers and teething and soccer practice. Friends with kids get it, they are the same way, and your friendship is strengthened by this mutual flakiness and exhaustion. They become more like army buddies, stationed at another military basis. Your correspondence is shared joys and commiseration over “phases.” Friends without kids, well, different story. You feel guilty for backing out again and again, but then you feel guilty for drinking wine while your toddler sleeps upstairs.

While I usually include tips or solutions in my posts, this is the one subject on which I'm at a loss. I've always had guilt, and I probably always will. It's part of my constitution. I know it can be emotionally draining, but it also drives me to improve. All I can do is recognize my humanity and try not to be so hard on myself on days that the guilt buildings up too much. I hope you can take a deep breath and do the same.

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