June 21, 2012

guilt, regret, and hope as a mom...

we interrupt this vacation wrap to bring you paranoia, disturbed thinking, a bit of sadness, and eventual hope.

Mommy Guilt.  It plagues us all.  If you can't gain control over it, it has the power to destroy every ounce of joy you experience as a parent.  It comes in many forms, in different forms for each mom.  Some mothers are plagued by guilt over not working, not being able to buy their kids what they want.  Some mothers are plagued by guilt over working, fearing missing out on so much of their children's lives.  Some mothers feel guilty for the personal time they take for drinks with friends; some mothers feel guilty for neglecting their friends when they become a mom.  Some mothers wish they would feed their children healthier homemade meals; some mothers wish they could take their children out to eat more.  Some mothers are guilted by the discipline, or lack of, with their children.  I didn't read them a book today, guilt.  I let them eat a cookie instead of an apple for snack, guilt.  When I wasn't looking they bumped their head and got a bruise, guilt.  I missed their first step, guilt.  I couldn't buy them that toy they wanted at the store today, guilt.  Guilted by being there, Guilted by not.  The mom you see who seems to have it all put together, she makes you feel guilty.  As does the mom who feeds her kids only organic.  The mom who has daily activities planned for her children, and can still manage to keep the house clean, she for sure makes you feel guilty.  And that mom who has the smoking hot body and never gets out of breathe chasing her kids at the park or down the grocery store isle, she makes you feel guilty too.  Guilted by the opportunities you are giving them now, and those you are not.  Guilted by the fear that what you are doing now may be screwing them up for life.  Guilted by the fear that your love really isn't enough.

There are no chapters in child rearing books about the guilt... Nowhere between the pages of diet, exercise, sleep, and illness, does it tell you you these answers aren't complete, this way isn't the only way.  Nowhere does it say, from time to time you will be riddled by guilt, sometimes so extreme it can take your breathe away.  And moms themselves don't always speak of the guilt, as if in not mentioning it it means it doesn't exist, meaning you really are as strong and good as you imagine you are.

But it is there.  It is there in every mom.  You can see it in the eyes of the mom receiving glares from passer-bys about her son throwing a fit in the checkout line.  You can see it in the frown of the mom giving her child one last kiss to her precious daughter before leaving her at daycare in the morning.  You can see it in the frustration, the sadness, the fear, behind so many faces of moms passing by.  You can even see it hiding behind the shining eyes of joy, the contagious sound of laughter, and chubby dimpled knuckled hugs and sloppy kisses.

It is there, felt by every single mom.  For most it does not appear every moment.  It may not even rear itself every day.  But it is there, waiting to steal tiny moments of joy from you.  And in mommyhood it is those moments of joy that you crave.  Those moments of joy are what carry you on to through the monumental moments of hard, into the next moments of joy.

I have been riddled with feelings of mommy guilt more often recently than in other times in my 2 short years as a momma.  When he cries for his daddy in the morning I feel guilty that I am not the fun parent that Matthew is.  When I am too tired to cook dinner and we drive through McDonald's I feel guilty for giving him french fries for dinner again.  I feel guilty for making Matthew work so hard as a daddy so I can go to school.  I feel guilty for never having time to see, or even call my friends.  I feel guilty for not keeping a well kept house, and I feel guilty that I feel guilty.

For me the guilt rides mostly when I go to kiss my baby boy and he says "bye mama" even if I am not leaving at all, I feel guilty that I leave him so often.  I can tell myself that this is temporary; I can tell myself that all this work and school is a means to an end; I can tell myself that in the near future this will be in the past, and it the future will be better... but I can't always believe it.  Because those great big blue eyes and chubby little hands know how to say goodbye far too easily, his arms can wave me off a little to swiftly, and I feel guilty for the all time with him I am missing.  I feel guilty when I think about the sibling that he doesn't have.  I feel guilty for my wonky ovaries.  I feel guilty that we have no way to provide for another baby, and I feel guilty when I think that he may have to face this world, and these crazy parents he has, without a little buddy by his side.  I feel guilty to tears with both of these things... and occasionally alone in the car, or as I fall asleep I let the tears fall wildly.       

These tiny things moms fret over day after day and moment after moment have the power to pepper your life with guilt and dissatisfaction in what is the happiest and best part of your life.  The mommy guilt can be so strong at times that it actually hinders your role as momma.  And we all know the guilty feelings are totally unwarranted.  We all know that if you are the kind of mom who is worried about being a bad mom, it probably shows that you are already a good one.. (bad moms don't think they're bad moms, they think they're awesome-duh.)

But we don't have to be slaves to the guilt.  We have the power to not let the mommy guilt affect our lives.  Here are some things I have found in my short time as a momma:

1.  Relax.  Take a deep breathe.  when the guilt starts creeping up... knock it down.  Know that mommy guilt is just another form of worry and fear.  We don't allow worry and fear to consume us, so don't let this either.  Most things that ensue guilt are little nondescript things of life that really don't matter.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  My husband tells me 10 times a day, "Melinda, Relax."  I tend to be tightly wound, I need to unwind a bit.  I'm saying, I need to take my own advice.

2.  Don't allow other's opinions under your skinFor some reason people think it is okay to share their opinions (read- judgements) on every aspect of your being a wife and a mom.  I don't know why people think there are no boundaries to what you should or should not say to a mom about how she raises her children.  Take it with a grain of salt.  They may have an idea that sounds like a great idea, but when you try to implement it in your own family, it just doesn't work... and you know what?  That's okay.  Your family is not their family.  They may be quick to judge something you do with your own family; either in words or through dirty passing glances at the park.  Don't pay attention to it.  Nobody knows your family better than you.  You know what is best for your family.  Don't take others opinions too seriously., and never make it think less of yourself.

3.  Don't be quick to judge other mothers.  I have said this before, only about a million times.  As moms we should be each others biggest fans, each others biggest support system.  Instead, we are often each others biggest critics.  Don't assume that the way you do things is the only way to do it.  And no, don't assume that it is even the best way.  While it may work perfectly for your family, it might be disastrous in others.  Just like you know what is best for your family, other moms know what is best for theirs.  When you see a mom at the store with out of control kids, try to put yourself in her shoes.  You don't know what kind of day she is having; you don't know if this is even normal behavior for her and her children.  Don't glare, don't stare, whisper, or grimace.  Smile at her.  Give her some encouragement.  And if she looks extra frazzled ask her if you can help her through the checkout line.  We have all been there, haven't we?  Keep the same policy with your friends.  Just because you are friends, does not mean you have the right to tell her that she is doing something wrong.  Instead, encourage her, love her, and pray for her.     

4.  Know, you are not in control.  I tend to want to control everything.  And a funny thing happens when I try to do that, I lose complete control.  I can not control everything.  (Nobody tell my husband this, it might ruin my credibility.) In fact, to be honest, I can control a very small percentage of things. You can not control the chocolate ice cream that is dripping down your sweet daughters elbow an onto her perfectly pressed white dress.  You can not (always) control that ugly striped shirt and plaid pants that your son picked out to wear the 4th day in a row.  You can not control other people's schedules, the weather, or the God given characteristics in each person in your family (even the ones that drive you crazy and make you wish you could control them to change-you can't-give it up).  There are things you can control, and things you can not.  There are things you can try to control, and things you should not.  Learn to recognize these. 

5.  Understand who is in control.  There is someone who is in control who knows every hair on your head, and on your children's.  He catches your tears in a jar, and He knows not just the past and present, but the future.  He wants the best for you, and he puts people and situations in your life for a reason, whether you understand it or not.  He knew that you would be working a job you hate and not be able to quit when he chose to finally grace you with that miracle baby boy.  He knew that you would feel challenged and inadequate and confused more often than you find comfortable.  He also knew how much your life would be blessed, He knew how that baby boy would change you.  He know that you needed exactly that, at that exact moment.  And He knows what you will need and when in the future also.  Pray constantly, rely on Him, and let go of control. 

6. Know, there is someone there when you are not.  We can all remember times when our own parents let us down.  We all understand that parents are human and can make mistake themselves.  You and I are no exception to this.  In our quest to be the best ever, we will fail.  And when you do... There is someone there to pick up the pieces.  There is only one person capable of healing all wounds, and keeping all promises.  And in those moments when I fail, I will be glad that Asher knows he can always depend on God.  Let your children know that you may screw up... tell them when you do.  And tell them there is someone there who never will let them down.  Allow God to heal the places you left bruised, allow Him to guide in the areas you can not.  Pray for your children, direct them to Him, and know that when you can not be there... He can be.

7.  Know that time is precious.  One day you will wake up and your baby will be an adult on their own, and you will miss these crazy wonderful days of mommyhood with little ones.  Don't waste the few moments you have each day feeling guilty.  Don't waste the few moments you have wondering how, what you are doing now, will effect the adults your children become.  Because, this day only comes once.  Their lives are too precious and too fleeting to miss even a moment... so stop worrying, stop fear, stop mommy guilt.  Love your children, hug them, kiss them, get on the floor and play with them.  Don't waste your moments.  Love with all you have, each and every moment.

Being a mom is the hardest and most wonderful thing you will ever do in your life.  Enjoy the life you were given.  Treasure your life.  Live in Love.  Look for Beauty.

8 comments:

  1. Anonymous15:58

    YEP.....YOU GOT IT!!!!! :) -- MOM

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  2. Anonymous21:10

    I was going to comment, and leave advice. Instead, you gave me advice...and strength. Me and god haven't been on good terms recently. But through tears in reading this, you let him through. You helped me so much, by writing this. Thank you. And from reading your blog, I think u are one of the best moms there is.

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  3. Love this. Thank you. Julie

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  4. melinda, can i pass this along to a publisher friend? it's brilliant. glory to God for you, girl.

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  5. stephie, thank you so much. and of course! blog posts = unedited first drafts for this girl, thoughts spewed on paper. but feel free to share with whomever you want.

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  6. anon, i wish i knew your name so i could pray for you by name... instead i will be praying for anonymous commenter. know you are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  7. Wow. This speaks to me in a huge way. Our little boys are almost exactly the same age and oh how I relate to everything you write here. Having a hard time being away from him today, and it makes me feel better to know I'm not alone. You have a lot of wisdom for your young age. Prayers, Sarah

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  8. Anonymous17:07

    Popping over from Donna's page to say Happy (belated) Anniversary! Looking forward to the rest of your vacation story. I'd love to take my family to San Fran for vaca. I was there in 1986, hubby has never been & doesn't care if he goes there or not, so that's part of my issue. Your posts have made me want to pack up & go!

    Also I agree with your guilt post, I have a lot of guilt over the last 15 1/2 years that I didn't know was possible to feel guilty about until I became a mom! =)

    Rachel in ND

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