It happened the instant Elena was born. The second she was placed on my chest, pink and wrinkled and barely crying, it was there. That nagging, tugging, wretched self-deprecating voice in the back of my mind known as Mom Guilt started speaking. It worsened the day Stella was born. Along with my midsection and my ass, it grew substantially. And like my wobbly bits, it’ll likely be with me for the whole of forever. It, like stretch marks, snot in your hair, the inability to take a shower by yourself, and countless other joys, is simply a part of the parenthood package.
And we live in a culture hell bent on making it worse.
I read this post on Facebook this morning, and I couldn’t agree with the author more. We as a culture spend so much time criticizing, judging, pointing fingers, name-calling, pigeon-holing, and misunderstanding that we forget to be kind. We forget how to be empathetic. We forget how to be human. We forget that we are all struggling, and we are all fighting the battle of not-good-enough when it comes to parenting.
I’m a working mom. The opposite of the author. I don’t spend a lot of time with my kids. I have two jobs that take up a lot of my time. But I also need me time. I need time to unwind. To skype with friends, or have a glass of wine, or read facebook posts on my phone while my kids play at the park. I beat myself up every time I look at my phone or respond to an email or edit a photo when my kids are around or awake. Because society tells me I should focus every single ounce of my energy on them at all times if I want to be a “good” mom. If I want to be the “right” kind of mom. If I want my kids to grow up intelligent and confident and happy.
My Mom Guilt tells me that, too. Which means I now have two voices – my own insecurity and the judgement of a harsh society – screaming at me for doing everything wrong. But these voices – this constant judgement and criticism – isn’t helping me become a better mom. It’s not helping you become a better mom, either.
We need to start holding each other up, not cutting each other down. Stop judging the mom on her phone at the park, or the kid in the shopping cart playing on the iPad, or the dad reading the newspaper while his kids play. STOP IT.
Instead of a sideways glance, throw a smile at the woman singing to her kids in the grocery store. Especially if it’s a made up song about cereal and string cheese (and probably because that woman is me. NERD. Alert!) Instead of a pursed frown, send a comforting, “Girl, I’ve BEEN there, hang in there, you’re doing a great job” glance to the woman at the checkout register at Target with a screaming, flailing, kicking toddler in the cart. Or, if you haven’t been there, imagine that you ARE there. Imagine your toddler is acting out – horribly – in the middle of a crowded anywhere – and everyone is watching and judging and silently critiquing your parenting. And you’re trying to be a good mom. You’re ignoring the behavior – because if we’ve learned anything, it’s that attention is, in fact, a reward – and people are staring at you like you’re doing nothing on purpose, or because you don’t care that your kid is being a jerk, and that such jerk-facedness annoys the other people in the store. And then imagine what happens if you do, in fact, scold your child for their behavior. Then you become the mean, yelling, punishing, impatient and intolerant mom. Imagine feeling like your stuck in the middle of a rock and a hard place and no matter which road you choose your kid will still be crying and people will still be judging and at the end of the day you’re still going to be convinced that you suck at this whole mom thing. Then imagine biting your lip in an extreme effort not to cry as you hand your card over to the cashier and pray that this nightmare just ends already.
Imagine you’re this woman, well, let’s be honest, imagine that you’re me on the day this happened to me, or the mean woman behind me at register that tsk’d and scoffed and pursed her lips AUDIBLY at my horrible parenting, and then do for this mother what you’d want people in line behind imaginary-you, or behind actual me, to do.
I promise, we’ll all be better for it.
Then do the same for the parents of young children on an airplane, in shopping malls, at zoos and amusement parks and restaurants and anywhere and everywhere at all times.
And to the moms and dads out there, it’s time to stop caring. Or at least it’s time to stop caring so much. It’s time you realize – that you KNOW – that you’re a good parent. That your kids don’t need your undivided attention all. of. the. time. That they need to play by themselves and use their own imaginations. That they need to learn humility and their place in the world, too. And you need – NEED – to know that it’s okay to check Facebook. It’s okay to have a glass of wine. It’s okay to put your kid in daycare, or let her cry herself to sleep sometimes. It’s okay to give them the iPad at the restaurant and it’s okay to let them break their toys and ruin their perfect dresses.
It’s okay to be imperfectly you.
You’re perfect that way.
So am I.