“Guilt to motherhood is like grapes to wine.” ~ Fay Weldon
It Really Is Ridiculous
The first time I heard the words “mom guilt” I was not a mother. Instead, I was a young woman without children and I thought the idea of mom guilt was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. Fast forward a few years and my feelings of mom guilt remain the same. I still find it to be absolutely ridiculous, but this time around I say that as someone who’s wrestled with that wicked emotion more times than I can count. Oftentimes it has blindsided me. Other times it has reduced me into a salty puddle of tears. And every now and then it has left me paralyzed with self-disgust and doubt.
Battle After Battle
My first battle with mom guilt came just four days after my first son, Amos, was born. He was perfect and beautiful and an answered prayer and I was determined to breastfeed him exclusively. My breasts, however, were not in agreement with this plan and those little turn coats had their own ideas. I still don’t completely understand what went wrong, but something was not right. My son was hungry and my breasts were not producing enough milk to keep up with his appetite. We called the pediatrician after noticing some alarming symptoms and was told to bring him in immediately. To make a long story short, an angel disguised as a nurse practitioner told us that we needed to supplement formula with breastfeeding. At that moment I was relieved for such an easy solution to the situation, but I was disgusted with myself and my body. I was his mother and I was unable to adequately feed my child. I hated myself and I was racked with guilt for several days. In the end, however, it all turned out beautifully. Amos grew and grew and I nursed him for 14 months, while still supplementing formula.
My most recent stint with mom guilt was worrying that I had a favorite child. I have two children, both boys. At the time they were 3 1/2 and 18 months. I was terrified that I was spending more time with my oldest. I talked to my husband about it.
“Do I neglect Isaac? Do I act like Amos is my favorite?”
“I just am afraid that I do. I feel like I spend more time with Amos. I talk to him more.”
“Tori, Isaac can’t talk. You can’t have conversations with Isaac; you can with Amos.”
“I know, but still. Do I cuddle more with Amos?”
“Tori, Amos loves to cuddle. He comes to you to cuddle. Isaac doesn’t like to be held right now because he’s too busy running around.”
“Well I know, but still.”
And that is how it went for a few months. I talked to Sunny about it. I brought it up at my monthly ladies’ night out group (more than once). I kept asking my husband about it. I was truly terrified that I had a favorite child.
It turns out that I don’t have a favorite child. I love them both more than I could ever put into words and I would gladly lay down my own life for either of them if needed. My boys both have big personalities and they show it in different ways, which means that I love them in different ways. It’s okay, it really is. I have done nothing wrong; I have nothing to feel guilty about (I say this to better convince me, not you).
But still, that guilt creeps in. I don’t know where it comes from, but it always finds a crack somewhere big enough to slither through. It really is the most ridiculous thing in the entire world. Why do we moms do it to ourselves? We know we’re not perfect and that perfection is impossible, but still we expect it from ourselves when it comes to our children (and maybe other areas as well).
We’re Doing Our Best
I wish I had a magic potion that could rid us all of this great malady. I wish that I could move on from this point forward and never again doubt myself about the decisions I make concerning my kids. I know that’s not going to happen though. My only explanation of mom guilt is that it stems from the extraordinary love that only a mother can experience. There is just something special about that love. It is some potent stuff! And I guess it comes with a few side effects.
I don’t know about you, but I’m just going to keep taking this “mom” thing one day at a time. It can be really hard. But that’s more than okay. I’m doing the best I can do and I’m loving my boys fiercely. I can handle this…and so can you.
God bless you moms, and everyone else out there who has ever loved a child.
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