Dealing With Mom Guilt

We’ve all felt it: mom guilt.  There’s something about being a mom, or a woman, that makes us overanalyze ourselves and the job we are doing.  We can be our own worst critics, always looking for what we are doing wrong instead of what we are doing right.  There are 9 situations I tend to experience mom guilt, and here is what I do about it.

When My Husband Is Working

It’s only because I used to work in the same industry that I feel that I can completely relate to my husband.  I know what makes his job wonderful, and I also know the drawbacks.  Like meetings that overload you with additional work, technology issues, cycling between busy and dead times, and catty coworkers.  Layer on to all that his early wake up time to catch the train and his extra long commute, and I honestly don’t know how he gets out of bed in the mornings.  Granted, I’ve never been very good at handling adversity in the workplace graciously.

There is one thing that tells me that my “job” is better than his – my headaches have gone away.  I used to get stress headaches at least two times a week.  Now, I may get them once a month or when the weather changes.  I feel terrible when my husband comes home and I prattle on about all the fun Bugaboo and I had today.  I cannot count the number of times I have offered to get a job – just so that we both have to struggle through the rat race tougher.  Other times I have offered to switch places with my husband.

Don’t Discount Your Hard Work

Being with Bugaboo is hard work, though.  There have been days that I could barely make it through.  My average day with Bugaboo is way better than an average day at the office, but my bad days with her are way worse.  That’s what I tell myself when I’m having a comparatively good day at home.  I’m storing up energy for the next battle.  As long as I’m doing the best job I can with that, there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

In addition, my husband and I decided as a team that this was the approach we wanted to take.  We decided together that I should be a stay at home mom.  (Find out my reasons).  So I shouldn’t feel guilty on the days when his work feels harder than mine or for not bringing home a paycheck.  If sometime in the future we decide as a team that I should go back to work, then we will take steps to make that happen.

When Baby Is Sleeping

Have you ever heard the phrase, “They’re so beautiful when they’re sleeping.”  That’s how I feel about Bugaboo.  After an afternoon of playing – where Bugaboo gets progressively clingy and whiny – I look forward to nap time for a break.  But it’s more than that.  I nurse Bugaboo to sleep and look down at her sweet little face and listen to her steady breathing.  It’s in these quiet moments that I can marvel at what a beautiful baby she is and that she is all mine.

Those are the moments that make me feel guilty. Why didn’t I feel this outpouring of love and affection for her 10 minutes ago when she was awake?

I also feel guilty when she wakes up from her nap.  I hear her talking to herself in her crib – it’s so adorable the little sounds she makes.  But I leave her in her room until she cries out for me.  I want her to practice being quiet and disconnected and by herself.  Even though I know she’s happy in there, I feel guilty.  I feel like I should swoop in and start stimulating her.

Emotions Working Right

This is the best kind of guilt.  These feelings drive me to be more attentive and cuddly with Bugaboo – especially right after her naps.  We’ve both had a little break from each other, a reset.  So when she needs me, I do swoop into her room and gather her up in my arms.  We read books, sing songs, and play games.  Mom guilt turns into mom nurturing.

When I’m Bored

My husband calls me out on the weekends when he hands Bugaboo back to me and I frown.  “What?”  He asks.  To him, Bugaboo is a delight.  “Well,” I say, “I’m going to watch Bugaboo now.  She’s going to crawl around in a circle, open and shut the door, and stand up on the edge of the coffee table.  Then she’ll come to me and want to walk around holding my hands.”  “So what?”  He says.  “Well, it’s the same thing we do every single day.  For hours and hours.”

That’s right, my baby is boring.  Every new trick she does delights and excites me.  But babies love repetition.  So when she learned to say shoe (“shh”), I was ecstatic.  But when she says “shh” 100 times in a row pointing at my foot, I feel drained.

Get Creative

Of all the guilt I feel as a mom, this is the hardest to deal with because it’s a state of mind.  It’s easy to say, “Cherish these moments, they grow up so fast.”  But it’s not always helpful to hear.  I know that she will grow up one day.  But can I say I will miss these moments?  Will I miss the 95th moment that she points at my shoe?  I may not miss the fact that she has done it 95 times, but when she fails to do it the 101st time – because she has moved on to a new phase – I probably will miss it.  I already miss some of her little baby quirks – smiling out loud, waving her arms when she’s excited.  I’m sure the list will grow!

I need to reframe my thoughts to enjoy each phase as it comes and goes.  I need to step outside my boredom and see the world through her beautiful eyes.  If I get down on her level and engage, even 100 times over, there doesn’t have to be any guilt there.  Be creative.  Work with your baby at her level and cater to her interests.  If she is obsessed with hats, take pictures of people in hats and then make a book on Shutterfly.  If your baby likes dogs, visit a dog park or a friend with a dog.  Every time you feel bored with your baby’s behavior, think about creative ways to engage her interest.

When I’m Running Around

I’m pretty bad about scheduling up my weeks.  It started with an innocent desire to “get out of the house.”  Both my husband and I agreed I should get out with the baby at least once a day, because the quietness of the house could be overwhelming.  Some weeks we truly were scheduled every single day.  I can thrive this way – I love saying, “Well I have Breastfeeding Group on Monday, Mom’s Group on Tuesday, Wednesday I go shopping, Thursday is Bible Study, and Friday I’m taking a meal over to Nicole’s house.”

It’s true that, as an introvert, I thrive on quiet days at home reading a book.  But I also love being busy and managing a schedule.  I feel guilty, though, when my busy schedule interferes with Bugaboo’s development or sleep.  Like when I wonder if she got enough tummy time because we were always out so much.  And I feel guilty that a busy day for me is essentially networking and making friends.  (Again, this can actually be hard work for an introvert – I came up with 30 small talk topics you can use the next time you meet a new mom).

Think of the Benefits

Being out and about can be good for Bugaboo, too.  In the beginning, she will learn about different places in the world.  She will experience churches and grocery stores and learn about the objects she finds there.  She will meet other babies and other moms.  When I go to some groups, I can actually leave Bugaboo for a few minutes with a stranger, which helps Bugaboo learn to accept new people.  As she gets older, she will go into nurseries where she will learn to play with other babies and start to learn social skills!

When I Have “Me” Time

In a way, I have never had so much “me” time since I graduated college.  I know a lot of stay at home moms out there will scoff at me.  Or worse, they will race to silence me – being a stay at home mom is a hard job, and you have almost no time for yourself.  Oh, it’s true, this is a hard job!  But for you other moms out there, please remember that I have a 10 months old who takes regular naps.  I don’t have three kids under the age of four or a child who has dropped her nap entirely.

So when the baby goes down for another nap and I’m allowed to come to my office and write, I feel kind of guilty.  I know that almost no one has the ability to take a nap at 10:26 in the morning or read a book for fun at 1:35 in the afternoon.  When it’s time for “me” time, I’m already at home – there’s no commute to stress me out before I get to begin “my” portion of the day.  I can switch into relaxation mode as soon as Bugaboo takes her pacifier and rolls over.

A Mother’s Job Never Ends

Of course, even when I am off I am “on.”  I don’t know when the baby will wake up.  She may interrupt me at the most awkward time and really throw off my day.  And once she’s up, she’s up!  There will be no more coffee breaks until the next nap.  In addition, my days are much longer than a typical office worker’s – typically my husband is gone for 14 hours a day, and then on weekends I watch the baby while he does some extra work.  Mothers don’t even get nights off – even when babies eventually start sleeping through the night, anything from sickness to nightmares can keep a mom popping up every few hours at night.

I have to remember to enjoy these little breaks of “me” time because when I have another baby, or when Bugaboo’s naps shift again, they may go away in an instant.  Even if you don’t have a good napper, you deserve a little break every day!  Mothers with older children employ “quiet times” for a much needed mid-day break.  If you don’t have the opportunity for daily time off, schedule some time away from the baby every weekend.

When Baby Wants My Attention

I’ve been trying to teach Bugaboo to play by herself.  I have several reasons for doing it: I want to encourage her natural curiosity, I want her to learn to be self entertained for times when I can’t play with her, and I need a break from trying to play with her little baby toys.  I learned a lot about letting a baby be herself by reading Magda Gerber’s book – find out more about what I learned.  

Still, when Bugaboo stops being interested in playing alone, I get a bit annoyed.  When this happens, I always feel so guilty!  A part of me wonders if I’m having her play alone for her sake or for mine.  Ok, it’s a little of both.  It’s so hard to strike that balance, though, between teaching her life skills and cherishing this time that she wants to cuddle with me!

If you feel like your baby is clingy, then be proactive.  Get down on her level and play with her toys for a half hour or so.  She will be curious about what you are doing and will want to interact.  In doing so, she will get filled up with “mommy time” and be better able to play on her own.  In fact, when I do this she often crawls away to play on her own after a bit.  Another thing you can do with a clingy baby is to read, read, read!  Put your baby in your lap and go to town on every book you have.  Find out my tips on reading, talking, and singing to your baby!

When I Want Her To Grow Up

It’s so easy to want my little girl to grow up fast.  Most days I feel like I have “Luke Skywalker syndrome.”  You know – when Yoda tells Obi Wan:

This one a long time have I watched.  All his life he has looked away…to the future, to the horizon.  Never his mind on where he was.  Hmmm?  What he was doing.

It doesn’t help that I compare my experience as a stay at home mom to my memories of my mom when I was a child – memories I could only develop after the age of four or so.  Or how my husband and I used to imagine our future kids as eight or nine year olds, not as babies and toddlers.  I pictured doing arts and crafts and teaching them to bake cookies.  I really didn’t give a lot of thought to the infant and toddler phases.

So many times I’ve been eager for Bugaboo to move on to the “next trick.”  I think, my life will be easier when she can sit up and play by herself.  Then she sits up, and I think, my life will be easier when she can crawl.  These days, I’m waiting for her to talk.  “Come on…”  I think…”If we could just talk to each other we would have so much fun!”

You’re Gonna Miss This

But I look at her and see her in her precious current state.  I know she will only be in this moment briefly.  One day she will talk my ear off.  I already look back on her early days of laying contentedly (or not so contentedly) on the floor, and I miss them!  Those memories are hazy, sometimes only aided by the thousands of photographs I took.

When I Think About “the Next One”

Similar to thinking about when Bugaboo will grow older, I catch myself thinking about “the next one.”  I’ve done it since she was born!  When we had a little newborn on our hands and I was recovering from a C-section, I often told my husband, “How in the world would we do this with a toddler running around?”

Some of this looking to the future is practical, and some is more like a daydream.  Sometimes I think about “Bugatwo” because I’m sad that someday my alone time with Bugaboo will come to an end.  Other days I wish Bugaboo had a playmate.  But worst of all, I look forward to the next one because I think then we can move on with our life.  Once we have another (or a few more) kids, we can move past diapers and sleepless nights and on to Thanksgiving Day crafts and bounce houses.

This Time Is a Gift

I’m usually brought back to reality after dreaming of the next one when my husband tells me just how we will make it work.  “I’ll have to watch Bugaboo, and you’ll be dealing with the little one, who will be nursing.”  This thought almost brings tears to my eyes.  “No!”  I say.  “I don’t want to lose Bugaboo!”  In those moments, I know I get to cherish this bonding time with my only child a little longer, and I stop worrying about the next one.

Save your thoughts about your second (third, or fourth) child for when you get a positive pregnancy test!  If you want to grow your family, take steps to do so, but don’t let them ruin your enjoyment with your baby now.  Whether short or long, the time between children is a gift.

When I’m Taking Care of Myself

So now we come to the mother of all mom guilt – self care.  It’s the kind of thing every single mother has experienced, and it goes something like this.  You have to go to the bathroom – pretty bad.  (Let’s face it, you’ve been drinking like a fish because you’re nursing, but you’ve also been trying so hard to save your restroom breaks for when the baby is napping).  Baby goes down into her pack n’ play and lets out a pathetic scream.  “It’s ok, it’s ok!”  You say, bouncing up and down.  “I’ll only be a moment.”

You’ve Done Nothing Wrong

Eating, showering, and using the restroom are pretty basic human necessities.  As long as your baby is safe, there’s no need to feel guilty for doing these things.  Remember, you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of the baby.  Guilt is an emotion that we have when we have done something wrong.  Responding to our biological needs is not doing something wrong!

This Guilt Will Pass

Sometimes our guilt is helpful.  It drives us to make a better effort next time.  Other times, it’s just out of line.  There’s no reason to feel guilty over something you can’t control.  No matter what is making us feel guilty, these feelings will pass.  Don’t let guilt turn into regret.  One day you may wish you had been more present with your babies as they were growing up.  Remember, these are the good old days!  Evaluate what’s going on, change what you can, and move on.  Don’t dwell on the guilt.

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5 Comments

  • Ann Malley November 26, 2018 at 6:08 pm Reply

    My MIL used to say guilt is a wasted emotion. She was/is right. We waste time/enjoyment feeling guilty over nothing. Too often, we don’t use what guilt feelings are justified as the means to amend behaviors and/or reassess our values.

    Enjoy your baby.

    Great blog ;^)

  • Lyn November 28, 2018 at 6:36 pm Reply

    Mum guilt is the worst and, especially at the moment, I’m feeling it most days. At the end of the day, I believe that it is a natural part of motherhood but, what is important, is how we deal with it and you’ve got some great ideas. Thank you for sharing. #itsOK

    • admin November 28, 2018 at 10:16 pm Reply

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with it – for me it comes and goes. It’s healthy if it inspires me to do better! We just can’t get bogged down in it.

  • Nicole - Tales from Mamaville November 30, 2018 at 9:52 pm Reply

    Mum guilt often sucks the joy out of parenting, but over time we learn how to ignore/overcome it. Or sometimes, as you put it, lear from it and try to do better next time. Great post, every mum will be able to relate! Thanks for sharing it with us at #itsok

  • kate - the mum conundrum December 4, 2018 at 11:10 am Reply

    I think, if we’re not careful, Mum guilt can consume us. But ultimately as long as we’re trying our best #itsOK. All of it. We are only human, after all. Thanks for linking up lovely xx

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