Mom guilt…every mother’s shadow

Mothers vary in many ways, but no matter our differences, whether our families are large or small, whether our children are young or old, biological or adopted, we all share one thing in common. Mom guilt.

Last night, my mom guilt reached into my dreams. That was rude! In my dream, one of my children was missing (not one of the five darlings that actually share my life) but some extra child whose name I could not remember in the dream. Isn’t that awful? The poor child was missing and I couldn’t even think of what his name was. Taco? Paco? What did we name that boy? In my dream I felt a tremendous sense of guilt about this poor unloved child. I think the dream was motivated by a long night at work, helping out in a different “program” with teenage girls, whose names I did not know and whose antics did not create any desire to get to know their names…thus the unloved, nameless child.

Mom guilt is part and parcel of parenting. From the time your first child is placed in your arms it begins. It is like an invisible diaper bag that accompanies you everywhere you go. The decisions of parenting are sundry and varied and each bring the potential for mom guilt. I know many mothers that dread Mother’s Day…not me, who could resist breakfast in bed and homemade cards? Many Mother’s dread it though because they go to church and they hear talks about wonderful mothers and they slouch down in their seat certain there is a neon sign pointing at them that says, “doesn’t measure up!” So instead of a day of feeling appreciated (at last!) for an often thankless job, they feel even more mired down than before.

I don’t know what the answer is (don’t tell my kids I used the forbidden phrase). I started writing this with hope that I could somehow lift your burden of mom guilt (and my own as well.) But alas, some problems are not resolved so easily. What I can offer is this:

Knowing that we all suffer from Mom guilt, be free with your praise and thanks to other moms you know. Tell them the great things you see them doing, even if you think they already know. I guarantee they are beating themselves up over something!

Give yourself permission not to be perfect. None of us are perfect, and yet we almost kill ourselves trying to be! I work with teenage boys in foster care. For the most part their stories are tragic. Most of their parents deserve a healthy dose of mom guilt (and yet, I can’t help but wonder, what tragedy made them they way they were…), but the point is, you are doing better than that! Your children are fed, clothed and most importantly loved beyond measure. Isn’t that what we are here for?

Will you make mistakes? Of course, you will! But you are doing your best and loving those little ones (or grown up ones) that share your life and that is all anyone could ask for.

So give yourself a break. Take a nice long bubble bath (with a good book, of course) and realize that you are a great mom! Greatness does not mean perfection, and that is ok!

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