Photo by: Shario

The Grey Cloud of Mommy Guilt

Photo by: Shario

Nobody prepared me for this. It wasn’t in my What to Expect book, or in the public health pamphlets that I’d collected, my Mom hadn’t warned me and the women around me having babies hadn’t said a word. I was blindsided, left standing there in complete and utter astonishment as the waves washed over me and my stomach ached.

How was I ever going to live with this? Would it be there forever, now that my baby is here would this follow us around until the end of time? Surely not, No! It had to get better…it just had to.

Of all the things I was prepared to face having our children, I was completely oblivious to what lay ahead in the backpack of emotional baggage that comes with having children.

I knew there would be moments of joy, frustration, love, frustration, happiness and did I mention frustration?

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I even knew while I could pretend I had it all together, I was really a floundering, bumbling baby idiot. Heck, I even knew that the sleep deprivation was to blame for the diaper cream in the freezer and the Miracle whip in the nursery. I didn’t know though, that what would shadow me through my days and my activities, regardless of space and time would be what I’d like to call the storm cloud of Mommy Guilt.

Oh, if you’re a Mommy (or a Daddy, but let’s face it, I’ve got Mommy parts so I’m speakin’ from the ovaries) you know what I’m talking about. You will have at some time or another been smacked upside the head, or hip checked into the boards by a huge, attitude blaring version of Mommy Guilt. She’s a tricky piece of work and to be honest I’d like to see her tossed from the game, permanently but try as I might, I can’t seem to manage to earn her more than a 10 minute misconduct before she’s back on the ice and ready to fight.

I started out on this road to parenthood with all sorts of ideals.

BB – Before Baby, I would look around me and judge in that typical, young, single woman way, “Look at how she’s let herself go! She had that baby 6 weeks ago, I can’t believe she’s not back into her jeans yet?!” This of course was kept to myself and if I could hop into a time machine and clobber my BB self I would, if only I knew then…

I used to tell my husband, while pregnant with our first and rapidly gaining weight (I packed on 60 lbs that was an emotional and physical roller coaster before and after. But my weight issues, the ones that have been there since I was 13 are a topic for another day) that once the baby was born I’d have no problem leaving him/her with my husband 3 nights a week to spend 2 hours in the gym turning myself into Tyra Banks.

The fact that I didn’t have that body before and I was short about 5 inches didn’t register, I was flying high on idealism.

Fast forward to 6 weeks after my daughter was born. I was exhausted, still carrying most of the baby weight and miserable. So, I took it upon myself to inform my husband that I needed to visit my gym. I packed the bag, I fed them each dinner and off I went, sort of. I made it all the way to my car, in the driveway, before I burst into tears.

I called my Mom and said pretty much this “Hi How can I possibly leave them behind. She’s my baby and I’m going to be gone for an hour or two and she won’t know me and she’ll hate me forever. She’s my responsibility, Corey worked all day, I’m a terrible person and she’ll never forgive me and I can’t do this. I’m going to sew myself to her side for the rest of her life and I’ll never ever let her go. I can’t leave; I’m not going to leave. I’M A BAD MOOOOOOM

If you know me then you’ll know that this was said at auctioneer speeds, while doing “the ugly cry” and wiping the snot from my face with a wilted tissue. It was awesome, and when I say awesome I mean horrible.

The Mommy Guilt had overwhelmed my excessively emotional soul and left me beside myself.

I did go to the gym that night, my Mom talked me off the proverbial edge and I did fine. I didn’t however go again, because I couldn’t stand to leave her. I found other ways to be active, but I struggled with the idea of letting her go.

MG has cropped up over the years on many occasions, the first time she pointed to something in a store and I said no (we have a firm rule in our house, don’t ask for a toy/candy/treat in a store because the answer will be NO. Treats are just that, something given but not asked for, I won’t let me kids have the gimmies. Sounds great, enforcing it is heartbreaking, but well worth it), the first time my husband and I spent the night away, the day I brought our second daughter home from the hospital and had to tell my big girl she needed to wait for something.

Some days Mommy Guilt is harder to face than others, but it’s always there. Over time I’ve learned to control it, to cry over it, to give into and, at times to value it. Yes, I said value it and no I don’t have a substance abuse problem, hear me out.

I’ve come to a conclusion about Mommy Guilt, it equals love.

If we didn’t love our kids we’d have no guilt over anything. If we didn’t love our kids, then saying no, going out, leaving them at daycare, wouldn’t feel bad, it would feel normal, like a relief, no biggie.

And before you go getting your panties in a knot—I know that MG hits different moms in different ways, and I’m not saying if you do or don’t feel it in a certain situation you don’t love your kids. I tend to be an emotional creature by nature (which is why I cry at the Johnson’s baby commercials and laugh until I pee at the Old Spice ones – “I’m on a horse” ha!) so for me the MG is in excess.

Trust me, I’m not sending any judgment out here at all. I am also not implying that there aren’t times when I walk out of the house to get groceries alone that I don’t sigh a big breath of relief because the day’s been crazy, the girls were driving me mental and if I had to put one more tushie into time out it was going to be mine.

Let’s be honest, I have those days; often. What I’m saying is that, whenever you feel your MG, it’s because you love ‘em. Just like when you kiss them 6 times just because you can’t stand how cute they are. Or how you find watching them sleep, playing a game or having a conversation with them entertaining, enjoyable even. Because Mommy Guilt doesn’t come alone, it’s part of a packaged deal. With love, joy, sorrow, laughter and tears comes a gigantic dollop of Mommy Guilt, but it’s okay.

If you’ve been at this game for a while, maybe even decades you’ve learned to face your MG and deal. If you’re just starting out then you know, like I do that it’s all encompassing sometimes. But take heart, it might not go away, it doesn’t even always get easier, but you get stronger.

Fight that battle to resist taking a break because Mommy Guilt is weighing you down, you need a break to be your best you, so take it. Say “No” when you have to and “Yes” when you can, remembering in the moments where there are tears and wails of disappointment, you’re teaching your children great and sometimes hard lessons. And as difficult as it is sometimes to believe, no matter how guilty you feel, your kids will grow to understand why you have to go, learn to listen to “No” (even if listening means also back talking, who knew that started at 3!) and love you no matter what.

So, look for your silver lining on the grey cloud of Mommy Guilt – because it doesn’t mean you’re “a BAD MOOOOM”, it means your children are loved and you, are doing a great job!

Ashley Stone is a SAHM, WAHM and a blogger on the side. She has 2 beautiful little girls who fill her life with love, joy and exhaustion!

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Wow, this spoke to me in so many different ways that I can't even cover it all. Let me just say: I'm so glad my mom was still alive to talk me down when my kids were babies; I have to grit my teeth and remember I'm trying not to raise brats whenever they ask me for stuff at the store; and I LOVE the Old Spice guy. There's more, but I think I'd be on the verge of becoming obnoxious. Great piece.

Wow, this post could not have been written at a more perfect time.
I was just sitting and wallowing in Mommy Guilt over my daughters first days at pre-school. She's 3 years old now. I had quit my job to stay home with her because I could not imagine having to leave her with anyone at 6 weeks old. At 11 months old I have finally went back to work full-time. Some people at work still tease me for having attachment issues or try to explain that it gets easier when you have 2 kids or more...

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This is a great article and a topic that every mom should pay more attention to if they find themselves overwhelmed with "Mommy Guilt".

Before my daughter was born, I had very strong opinions on how I had planned to raise her.

I still do; however, I was shocked at how drastically they've changed. Things I thought I'd never do pre-baby I find myself doing all the time. And methods I was so certain would work pre-baby, just didn't apply to my daughter...

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I loved everything about this post, seriously. It was like reading something I'd written myself.

Actually, it sounds a whole lot like a blog I wrote a few years ago just for private consumption on myspace because I didn't want my husband to read it & think I was unhappy. Yep, that's how far my own guilt goes-- that if I thought even being aware of it would make someone else feel bad I'd feel guilty for feeling guilty...

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Wonderful article. I love how you realize that you are emotional and that makes MG worse. I have always had MG and even do still today with grown children. I have never connected the overly emotional with this. I do know that you are right about the emotions of being a mother.I wouldn't trade them.

This article is filled with amazing wisdom. My children are in their 20's and on their own yet I still suffer with Mommy Guilt. The times when I can't be there to just help through a tough time or wipe the tear or stand in the way of a decision that might not turn out so well. You are a wise Mom and a good mother obviously. Your heart is tied so deeply to your children you struggle with not being everything for them. That is selfless love...

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Thank you, Ashley, and thank you, Mamapedia, for this article. MommyGuilt is my companion most of the time, it seems, and I've struggled mightily with it. It's so very good to know that I'm far from alone, and that it isn't all bad, or doesn't mean I'm an utter and hopeless basket case. You've made me realize that part of it is that, like you, Ashley, I'm a pretty emotional person who feels things very deeply; I always have been. And Jackie's Oct. 23 comment is also so welcome...

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I really don't understand why some people make Motherhood out to be so horribly incompatible to living a regular life. I was a single Mother until my child was 4 years old. I have a bitchy, spiteful, controlling and spontaneously helpful Mother and still didn't feel or act as loopy or feel guilty about anything as the original poster and the posters who agree with her.

Sleep deprivation happens to more than new Mothers...

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Yes, being a mother IS living a regular life. Just not at all the life we had prior to B-day! It was a painful transition for me having twins, that's for sure. Congratulations, Pamela, on NOT having your bad days attributable to MG.

Here's a quick thought. Mommy Guilt does not end when your child grows up. I have now MG plus GG {grandma guilt}
Please, just remember the love is always there, grown or growing.
karen- Mom of five grown, Grandmother of 10 all ages.

On the day after my son's school's big "HalloweenHoopla" this post really validates how I feel. Not mentioned in the post is the guilt that comes with being a working mom (1st grade teacher) who can't be at her child's school for all the festivities. Read this through tears and feeling glad I'm not the only one!
Thank you, Ashley! I agree that it's LOVE!!!

Wow Pamela REALLY??? Well I for one can say that I think most of us can relate to the blogger more than we can relate to your comment. I have 2 teenagers and a 10 month old and MGis no stanger to me!it's so nice to hear I'm not the only one! I see know that it can be a good thing and doesn't mean we can't live a "regular life". I will remind myself of that the next time it hits which will probably be sometime today.

Very touching. Thank you kindly for sharing. Mommy guilt is something I struggle with every day, even over the silliest things-like... I need to shower so my son is watching TV until I'm done, and is alone. I find also being a single mother (tho with a very supportive and awesome ex husband and stepmother) leaves me feeling like I am not enough for my son, and I find that am constantly consumed with mommy guilt to balance everything on my own the "right way"...

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MG wakes me up in the middle of the night. I know it too well. And I get compliments on my parenting all the time, I know I'm a good parent, etc. But as a single mom of the last 9 years with a very odd-ball ex who lives far away, I've been totally on my own.

All I can do is remind myself sometimes that I do the best I can...

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Thank you for your candor! I only have one baby, and i feel MG almost on a daily basis. I'm a SAHM going to grad school at night, and whenever I let Elmo "babysit" my son so i can finish a paper, the guilt overwhelms me. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm doing it to make a better life for my family. We are all doing the best we can!

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