Before I had a baby, I’d hear my mom friends talk about their “mom guilt” all the time. I would nod my head and try to empathize, but really had no idea. Sure, I felt guilty for leaving the dog at home alone for too long a few times, but that’s about it.
I couldn’t, for the life of me, fathom why it was so hard to let a babysitter put down their babies for one night or why they felt bad about leaving the kids with their dad for a day.
But now I get it.
Mom guilt can be paralyzing and all-encompassing. I’ve never met a mom who didn’t have it to some degree and it’s a point of conversation quite often among all of my friends with kids.
Before I get into my thoughts and stories on the subject, I want to note that obviously I’m coming at this from a heterosexual “traditional” family situation, so I can only speak to that. I’m not sure what it’s like for same-sex couples or couples where the dad is the primary caretaker. I’d love to know if it’s different in any way if you’re in either of those situations and have some insight.
I had a hard time writing this post because I have so many thoughts going through my head and they’re not very organized so sorry if this is a bit of a ramble!
What is mom guilt?
For anyone who has kids, you can skip to this section because you already know. You know how it gives you anxiety to treat yourself to a manicure or even just a coffee break when you’re baby is at home with someone else. You know how it pains you to miss bedtime, even once. You know how it feels when they’re sick but you have to work and can’t be by their side.
A good example of extreme mom guilt was something that happened over the weekend. Anel and I spent the day in the city and left Amalia with Madison, our close friend and her favorite babysitter. Madison has been taking care of A for months and I trust her more than anyone besides myself or Anel with the baby. We left at 10am and came back at 10pm so it was by far our longest day away from her together ever. Throughout the day, whenever I’d get a picture or Snapchat, I felt a twinge of guilt for not being home with her on our day off, but tried to forget it and enjoy myself. I was able to do that for the most part, but a few hours after we got home, she woke up with croup, which is pretty scary if you’ve never experienced it before.
Obviously her croup would have come whether or not we had been with her, but for some reason I felt like it was my fault, like I could have prevented it somehow if I had been the one caring for her in the hours leading up to it. Logically I know that’s not true, but that’s where my head goes. That’s #momguilt for you!
Then I started spiraling into self-doubt about weaning her so early. Has she been sick so often lately because she’s not getting the antibodies she needs from breast milk? If I think about that with logic, I know that I have many friends who have breastfed their babies for over a year and the kids still got sick constantly from day care.
Then of course I started doubting our decision to put her in day care at all because where would she pick up croup if she hadn’t been there? The layers of guilt are seemingly never ending. You get the idea.
Do dads get it too?
In my experience, no! And according to my friends, their husbands don’t feel it either. Not only does Anel not get the guilt, but he doesn’t always understand why I have it. He’s more logical when it comes to Amalia and I lead more with emotion. When I feel bad about going on a date night and leaving her with a sitter, he is able to relax and fully enjoy the night. His (correct) logic is that we choose only sitters that we fully trust and if anything bad happened, they would call us. I also know that if our marriage stays strong, we’ll be better parents, so I’m really trying to make sure we go out alone at least once or twice a month.
Another example is our nightly bedtime routine. Most nights, Anel works late and I give Amalia her bath and put her down on my own. Even though I only have one kid, it’s a hectic hour with many moving pieces. When Anel is home and goes to put her down, we split the bedtime duties in half because I feel guilty letting him do it all. Even worse is if I go out with friends (which happens once a month if that) and have Anel put her down on his own. The whole time I’m out, I feel bad that he has to do it by himself and have to force myself to not check in with him. Mind you, if he goes out, he doesn’t think twice about it.
That’s not a dig at him or at any husband who feels that way! I’m actually jealous that they can let it go so easily and am striving to be more like that myself. I think it’s a much healthier approach to parenting as opposed to being an overly crazy helicopter mom which is so not how I thought I would be.
I’m more than just a mama.
I’m trying to learn from Anel and the dads of the world that it’s ok to be more than just a mom. While it is and always will be the most important job of my entire life, it’s not the only one. I’m a friend, a sister, a blogger, and I wear a lot of hats both at home and in our two businesses.
Realistically, I don’t think I’ll ever be completely free of the guilt the comes with being a mommy, but I want my daughter to grow up knowing that moms and dads need alone time sometimes and that her parents have a life and work outside of her.
I also want her to know that she will forever be my number one priority, so it’s a delicate balance that I’m sure will continue evolving as she grows up.
So mamas, tell me about your mom guilt and what you’re doing to combat it!
Photo by Lindsay Madden Photography.