I’ve talked to a few moms lately who have been struggling with “Mommy Guilt.” I would define mommy guilt as the feeling that you are doing something society considers “wrong” but changing that something seems more difficult for your personal circumstances. I’m not Webster’s Dictionary, so don’t quote that as a legitimate definition, but haven’t you felt that way a few times in your mommy life?
I think of all the “rules of motherhood”
let your baby fall asleep while nursing him (he could become too attached)
let your child have a pacifier after 2 years old
let your kid start sucking her thumb (bad habit and hello oral hygine!)
sleep with your child
breastfeed your child
put your child to bed before he is actually asleep so he will learn to sleep on his own
swaddle your child tightly to settle him down
etc. etc. etc.
So may expectations coming from society and being placed on moms, its seriously no wonder there is so much confusion and guilt being felt by moms now days! I believe there are very few absolutes in this life, and even FEWER absolutes when it comes to parenting (hence, the blog title NOT a cookie-cutter mom). I think every mom is unique, having special talents and special limits in her life. I believe the same thing is true of every kid, no two people are the same, so why are there so many “absolutes” in motherhood?
I remember feeling mommy guilt when my first child ended up becoming a Mamma’s boy and used me as his pacifier and didn’t sleep through the night until he was two years old. YIKES! At that time, my friends were all reading books about how to get your child to sleep through the night by 8 weeks, and telling me about the “benefits” of letting him cry it out, etc. etc. etc. I tried letting him cry it out, twice I think. The process, for me, was unbearable. I had anxiety, I fought with my husband, I couldn’t relax, and I HATED those twenty minutes more than I hated waking up with my kid at night to nurse him back to sleep. So, he didn’t sleep through the night until he was two and I felt guilty about it for quite some time.
Looking back I wish I could tell my new mommy self to do what was best for me and not worry about what other people felt was best. I wish I could have been more peaceful and confident in my decision to be close to my child, enjoy his baby stage, and that time that he needed me. Now he is eight and those sleepless nights are over, but so are those tender moments I spent with him nuzzled up in my arms, knowing that I was the only person in the world who could provide such comfort for him. I wish I would have just savored it.
That isn’t the only time I had mommy guilt plague my mind over silly things we did in our household that just simply didn’t match social expectations or norms. From having thumb suckers (heaven forbid my kid self-soothe when he is in the middle of a meltdown or wants to go to sleep….Ill gladly pay for braces when the time comes!), to letting my kids climb up the slide at the park (hey, its a GREAT sensory activity!!), the list of things we do that don’t fit social norms is endless. I am learning to be ok with it, though. I do what is best for me and for my kids, and if it doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing, who cares?! That’s what being a non cookie-cutter mom is all about right?
So, when faced with Mom guilt, or when listening to a friend who is facing such guilt I would have to ask the following questions;
1. Are your child’s needs being met?
2. Is the “unaccepted norm” hurting or damaging you or your family in any way?
3. Could social norms just be wrong for your child and for you?
If your answer is no for the first two questions, then maybe there isn’t a need for the mommy guilt. If you are doing what is best for YOU and YOUR child, kick the other opinions to the curb and keep doing what you are doing!
What are some mommy guilt situations you face in your life? I’d love to hear them, or how you overcame them!