I feel guilty.
It’s not because of the years of Catholic school growing up (although that certainly didn’t help), nor some latent repressed emotions from my past (Freudian style). Instead, I have spent nearly every second of every day for the past four years feeling guilty for one primary reason: I’m a mom.
During a recent girl’s night out with friends (something that seems to occur once in a millennium), I watched a scene from Sex and the City 2, in which mothers Miranda and Charlotte drowned their mommy guilt woes with confessions of failure (and a few too many Cosmos). And what did I feel? Riddled with guilt for completely agreeing with their feelings of failure on a day-to-day basis. Yes. I felt guilty about having “mommy guilt.”
Why is it so many of us feel like we are not enough? It doesn’t matter if I am working from home to help my husband with the mortgage…I will always feel guilty I’m not working with the girls on math. If I think about my professional life as a woman for one moment, I feel bad that I’m not reveling in the beauty of my children alone. If I am spending time with my daughters, I feel guilty that I am not fulfilling obligations to friends, family or associates. And if I spend my time with friends (like on the rare, occasional “girls night”), I feel guilty that I am not at home putting the girls to bed.
On any given day, I find myself referring to myself in the past tense. As if the woman I used to be B.C. (before children), is erased forever, and only this mortgage paying, math lesson accomplishing machine is in her place. Life becomes so blurred in the “day to day” (or the glasses of wine and lack of sleep are literally making my days blurry), that it’s easy to forget why we’re reaching for our goals in the first place.
To be honest, I used to despise people who talked about parenthood as if it were some out of body, transformative experience that made them exist on a different playing field from the rest of us. I didn’t understand the hierarchy of life that placed mothers at the top (after all, I’ve watched enough Lifetime and Oprah to know there are plenty of women who should have never become moms). On the flip side, some of the most amazing people in the world have created change, charity and Chanel, and have never had kids.
But it goes without saying that becoming a mother does change your life completely. Every movie that I watch, every news report that I see, every political opinion that I voice is completely altered after motherhood. Why? Perhaps it’s because I am able to see the human condition with a completely different set of emotions. I not only view people for what they are (originating from that tiny fluttering kick in someone’s belly), but feel tragedies as if the deaths or hardships came from my own loins. (Heck, now I even use words like “loins” without giggling!)
But for every heightened emotion, frequently tested ounce of patience and loin-rooted empathy, no one tells you about that other feeling you inherit as mom: guilt. Mommy guilt is so intense and so deeply rooted, that it’s easy to lose sight of yourself as a “person”, because the word “failure” meant something completely different in the past. A failure as a mother effects your entire family, your children and their future. Frankly, it’s a lot easier to play Bingo with your own future, than that of the tiny, helpless beings who give you butterfly kisses in the morning.
So how can we stop the plague of “mommy guilt” effecting us all? How can we turn off that voice in our heads that says we’re never giving enough to our children, our family, our finances, our friends or ourselves? Perhaps the answer is simply in the roses. If we can find a little more time to smell them (remember why we’re working so hard), to give them (to remind another mother why she is appreciated) and to receive them (even if the giver is only ourselves), we can all recall why we love being mothers in the first place.
It’s not about the perfect credit score or that number in our bank account. It has nothing to with the how quickly our kids power through flash cards or phonics lessons. But it has everything to do with the soul altering, hormone fluctuating, transformative powers of how we view the world as parents, and in turn…view ourselves.
We are not our responsibilities. We are not our kids good report cards. We are not our monetary raise. We are imperfect, messy, complicated,emotional women…
We are mothers.
And that is something that none of us should ever feel guilty about.
Bailey Vincent Clark is the Editor-in-chief, author and founder of Makeover Momma. She talks about Mealtime Makeovers on Monday, “Speedy Advice With Makeover Momma” On Wednesday, and has a weekly column on Friday: “Getting Friendly With Makeover Momma.” If you would like to ask questions, submit concerns or simply chat: please email firstname.lastname@example.org.