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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47 Comments

wow what a day to get this email.from about 1a.m. this morning till 6 a.m.i was in tears over the mommy guilt.so has it been through out the day.my baby Harmony Joy turned 18 today.my granson Zen turned 6.i prayed oh Lord forgive me for not raising her this way or that way.for not doing this or that.my babies r no longer babies and now how i wish i had lol being a mom is the best job and the haredest job a woman could ever have.as my mom said every mom goes through that guilt and wish list.

So true alll of it & add the mound of "look at her she has it all together and even the laundry is folded and put away"--Sweetheart all I can say is ~~~Sorry but it never ends! We brought them into this world and I have learned that they will still need you and you will still feel awful for not being able to help them when they are 42! I had great plans to sleep all day Monday AWWW Then reality set in the one with the new baby and4 y/o is ill and so is the baby so she needs to work from home and needs help--and another called frantic he has been mandated (law enforcement) to work Monday and his wife is in nursing school..So here comes mom to the rescue I will pick up one child and have all 3 at one house to get into things togeter and listen to them discuss as only 2-4 yo can "she's my Nana". While the mom either works or sleeps. Not bad work if you can get it~~the benifits are remarkable and the hugs and hero worship is devine.

Very well put! I have MG over letting my girl (21 mo) watch TV - each time I read an article about just how bad it is for brain development that MG grows! (I wrote about that on my blog http://eco-babyz.com ) But that's true, it is because I love her and want what's best for her! But there are other things that I was not willing to compromise. I gave up my job to be with my daughter because we decided we don't want strangers raising our kids...

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This is just what i needed to hear. i've been having a lot of those moments this week as we're moving in with my boyfriend. this is what was best for both me and my daughter, but at the same time, it was hard to take time away from her to pack and move. its the same everyday when i leave her at daycare so i can go to school. I just keep reminding myself that i'm making our lives better in the long run. Thank you for writing this.

Here's a quick MG story. Last year when my daughter was in 1st grade she had her Halloween party. I was at work (only work part time) During dinner that night out of no where she BUSTS out crying and asked why wasn't I at school when all the other moms were there taking pictures. HEART BREAK! This past Friday, I went last 15mins of party with 4 yr old and 23mth old on hip. I WAS THERE and took pics of her and teacher/best friend. We all do the best we can and we all make mistakes...

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Thanks for this wonderful article! It spoke to me in many ways, as the part time working mother of 2 children ages 3 and 16 months.

I actually felt compelled to post because of one of the comments I read about how most parents who use daycares are doing so because they aren't heeding their MG or don't have any. I was actually really hurt by that comment. I work 3 days a week and use daycare those 3 days...

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Thank you Ashley for a wonderful post. I had the same feelings with my first born. It only got slightly easier with my second and now third daughter. I haven't gone back to work yet but know when I do it is still going to be one of the hardest things I've done.

We all do the best we can-if we are blessed and able to stay home with our little ones or if we need to go out of the house to work.

Thanks again for the post.

wow, I feel like this article was written about me. I even had the same gym episode. Thank you for putting into words everything that I am feeling. It is nice to know I am not alone!

Monica

this is hit a real heart string with me it's exactly what i feel. and when i read the part about going to a gym i started bawling. you sould like such a good mother for caring like that.

Thank you so much for giving me a laugh. I am the mother of a 7 year old and know exactly what you are talking about. You are right, that MG doesn't go away as the kids get older, they even learn how to get you into MG mode.

Great article and I loved how you framed mommy guilt as just being part of the package.

Love this! So true! Thanks for making me smile. :)

LOVE this article. Made me cry. Love my daughter more than life and now that she can talk and say "No Mommy Go" (her version of "dont go to work today Mom) the MG (and sometmes tears) is/are in FULL swing by the time I hit the car. I have huge guilt for being a working mom and leaving her during the day, even though its by necessity. Thanks for the article and for all the moms who posted!

I have had my moments of mommy guilt as well esp when leaving the baby with a nanny or at daycare. But i read something the other day on one of these Mamapedia blogs about how when you take care of yourself, you are better able to take care of your entire family. That has resonated with me because even when you have children, you still need to take some time on a regular basis to fill up yourself, to get back in touch with your center...

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Great Blog !! Rarely read articles online (again due to MG) However, this validation was needed today. Your writing is quite entertaining as well :) Thanks for making all of us 'working moms' feel that our guild has some higher purpose - love. While I love what I do, it's never easy when you have to put something ahead of what you want to do for/with your child at that same moment. Keep up the writing! I'd say publish a book, but the time it would take would only cause more MG...

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