It began in pregnancy—that heavy-heart, lingering-doubt, rock-in-my-stomach guilt. While I debated the possible side effects of taking a Benadryl to fight 3rd- trimester insomnia, I wondered if my need to take a sleep aid would have ill effects on my baby. Concerned, I asked my Ob for advice and confessed my feeling of guilt. He proclaimed, “Welcome to Motherhood. Most moms are always feeling guilty for something.”
I hate to admit it, but he’s absolutely right. And the mommy guilt is much heavier than any other guilt I’ve ever experienced. It’s not like the white-lie guilt or Man,- I-shouldn’t- have-splurged-on-those-shoes guilt. It’s more of a long and echoing guilt that has you wondering if something you are doing or not doing will have a long and lasting impact on the growth, development and happiness of your child.
This mom-guilt thing extends to so many areas of motherhood. Especially, taking time for myself. I already feel guilty enough that I work forty hours away from him. But what about when I want to leave him with a babysitter to run errands, or at the nursery in the gym? I question myself: Shouldn’t I be spending all of my away-from-work time with him one-on-one, giving him my undivided attention, focusing on his smile, coos, kicks and tricks?
The other guilt factor I constantly face is, “Am I a making the ‘right’ decision?” In the over-information age we live in, we are bombarded by factoids via books, internet, social media and more. With so many options, opinions and child-rearing theories out there, I am constantly asking myself, “Am I making the ‘right’ decision on feeding, sleep schedule, medicines, baby carrier, basic child rearing?” and the list goes on and on. I have come to believe that often there is no one “right” answer for everything, or “one-size-fits-all” for the different personalities of our children.
As women and mothers, we must stop plaguing ourselves with guilt. As women, and especially Southern women, we have had this guilt thing drilled into us from a pretty young age, and it’s something we constantly battle. However, I think as women, aunties, mothers, sisters and friends, we must remind each other to be easier on ourselves, give ourselves a break, and give ourselves permission to do something for ourselves, even if, as a new mom, that means putting the baby in the nursery for a yoga class or getting a sitter so you can go out for a mani, pedi. As a parent, I can see and understand that most parents are truly doing the best they can, making the best decisions they know how at the time with the information they have at the time.
I try to repeat the adage, “Guilt is useless,” to myself quite often. Because I do stand by my conviction that when we carve out even just a little time for ourselves (step away, take a breath, do something for ourselves), we return as more engaged, refreshed and content mothers.
I have come to grips with the fact that this guilt thing is never going to go away completely as a mom, and I imagine through the different stages of child rearing, and once my child is grown, there will be moments of great guilt and doubt. But, alas, we are human, we are women, and most of us are working are butushkies off, loving our little one to the best of our ability. In fact, I think most moms are doing a pretty darn good job, and we don’t have too much to feel guilty about!
Dear Baby Lucas,
Today is Mother’s Day, and I am so elated to celebrate as your mom. I remember aching to be a mom last year at this time, and I just feel so blessed that you have chosen me as your mother. It has also been a joy to bring you home and to visit various grandmothers and aunties this weekend.
It’s amazing to see their eyes light up, just as yours, in wonder and love!
You are almost four months old now and doing the most amazing things! First of all, you slept through the night several evenings this week. Mommy feels like a new person. Wow! I didn’t realize what it was like to sleep a six-hour stretch without getting up. More importantly, your motor skills are developing rapidly. You’re bringing your tiny hands together and trying to grasp rattles and blocks. It’s so cool!
You are also holding your head up more and more and trying to sit up with support. I am really starting to understand what other parents mean when they say “It flies by so quickly!”
My favorite new thing is your laugh. Well, it’s actually more like a deep chuckle, and when it rises up and fills my ears, along with your adoring smile, I feel like I am floating on air. Again, I am astounded by how deep and wide my love continues to grow for you.
Continue to grow in health, love and peace.