Monday, November 8, 2010

Mom guilt?

Ok - so I have to admit, I don't know if I've ever had "mom guilt". Maybe I did . . . once . . . when I was a younger mom . . . but since much of my memory seems to have left through my breastmilk given to my 4 precious kids, in addition to adding on one more child (via adoption)- to an already crazy and busy household, that younger me quickly vanished amidst my wrinkles, sagging skin and C.A.A.D.D (Child Activated Attention Deficit Disorder). This leaves me in ignorant bliss (or contented apathy?). :)

Seriously though - Have you ever had "mom guilt"? You know - that guilty feeling that creeps up and invades every mom cell in your body when you first go back to work after having a baby? Or maybe it was when you finally decided to go out on a date with your hubby again . . . 5 years after that baby of yours was born?! :) Or the time you went out with your girlfriends - but you couldn't go out till 7 (gotta help feed the kids). . . no . . .8 (I really should give them their baths) . . . no 9 (I don't "trust" my hubby to put the kids in bed correctly, or safely, or at all . . .) . . . Shoot - just forget it. Let's plan a girl's night out in about 18 years!

I am a FIRM believer in mom's taking time for themselves! Now - I am not a lazy mom who only thinks about myself and is just constantly doing what I want to do regardless of my maternal responsibilities. No, I pour my life into my kids in many ways. But I know (and my hubby knows . . . and my kids know) that I am a MUCH better mom when I have had a "break" from time to time! As the old adage says "When momma ain't happy - ain't nobody happy!" It's so true!

I guess my question would really be - Where does this guilt come/stem from? Who told you that you had to feel guilty for taking time for yourself?

Think about it! As a child we are naturally self-centered people (and many adults are still!). When a child comes along - our mother instincts kick in to nurture, protect, manage, feed, etc. (and even change a few hundred dirty diapers! Though, I think that's an instinct I wish we didn't have!) - and suddenly we feel like we cannot think of ourselves anymore. Why? Where did "we" go? Did the "self" part of us just vanish once "mom" came into the picture? Do we have whispered words in our head planted there from others, media, our own mothers, mother-in-laws, well-meaninged (or not-so-well-meaninged) friends - saying "you're not a 'good mom' if . . . "? Where is this guilt coming from? Do we have a hubby that we just don't think is "capable" of handling HIS child by himself? Have we encouraged, empowered and enabled that myth to continue in someway so that it continues to be a reality? Are we being a little too perfectionistic in our mothering? Does a mom not have a support system (hubby, family, friends)? Why not? There are mom's groups out there - there are other moms who could use a support group too, or just a friend . . . so go support each other! We are all in need of a break, support, encouragement - and to hear the words "It's ok to be YOU and to enjoy some things JUST FOR YOURSELF! Your kids will be better off for it!"

Guilt is not something anyone can make you feel. It is a choice you make - to accept and hold onto those feelings of guilt or not. I once heard someone describe it this way. Guilt is like a rock. Someone hurls it at you - "Man - I can't believe you would do that. . . . I would never do something like that . . . you really should have done this . . . I would never parent my kids that way . . . etc." You feel that rock hit you. Ouch! You now have a decision to make - but unfortunately, many people do not know they can even make this decision.

"What decision? Someone just made me feel horrible! What decision do I have to make . . . hurt them back or not hurt them? Throw insults at them about their firstborn child?"

No - the decision you have to make has nothing to do with the other person. You cannot control anyone else but yourself. The decision is - do you hold onto that "guilt rock" or do you drop it to the ground and say "No thanks. I'm not going to accept that guilt rock from you today."

Remember - this is not your rock. It's not your problem that the other person doesn't like what you do/say, how you parent, that you are not following "the norm" of what a mom should do, etc. You do not have to accept that guilt they are passing on to you (whether intentionally or unintentionally). Drop it. Choose not to accept it. Don't carry it around. Let it go. And know that, YOU are the best mom for your child . . . but to be the best mom - you need to BE the best YOU (and not just "Sam's mom")!

So the real question is . . . Who are you? What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy? Who are your friends? What support do you have during these challenging years of raising little ones? Start taking some time for yourself (even if it's just 10 extra minutes in the shower . . . with the door LOCKED and loud music playing so you don't hear the kids trying to bang down the door!). :) Go out to eat with your hubby or your girlfriends. Take up a pottery, painting, or photography class if that's something you like or are passionate about. You need it! You will be a better mom because you will be a better you!

I've been a stay-at-home mom for the last 6 years. The 1st year that I was home 24/7 was really hard (especially since I quit work at the beginning of June - when school ended, my MOPS and Bible study groups ended for the summer, etc. UGH! Dumb timing!) . My 1-2 days out of the house a week to work (and use my "adult" brain and college knowledge and degree) was my sanity break. :) People would always ask me - "How can you work with 4 kids?" I was a better mom because I was working just a couple days a week. It was the breather I needed to refresh my mind (and get it out of the diapers and tantrums!). I enjoyed my job - so it definitely was my sanity break. I didn't neglect my maternal duties - and my husband and I worked out a way to limit the amount of time we needed a babysitter. It also enabled my husband to become a better father! He learned that he really could handle raising his kids! Some teeth might not have been brushed to a mother's standards, and the kids may have worn their clothes to bed from time to time, or eaten cereal for dinner . . . but they are still alive, healthy and happy! :) And so am I!

But what has kept the "me" part happier these last 6 years at home - was being involved in a mom's support group called MOPS (that encouragement and support was crucial!), Bible study and Women's groups at my church, taking a photography class, other classes, traveling to see my sister in NYC and even Switzerland and and Paris (breastpump in tow as my son was 5 months old!), as well as the date nights with my hubby, going out with girlfriends or family members, etc.

So - go get involved in something you enjoy! Even if it's only for 10 minutes a day, or 2 hours a week . . . find something! I used to buy my favorite magazine (a non-parenting magazine!!) as I didn't think I had time to read a book. When I was breastfeeding, or just for 10-20 minutes after the kids were napping, I would flip through my magazine. It wasn't much -but it was something . . . just for me!

After 6 years at home 24/7 - it did feel good to go back to work seasonally this fall giving flu shots. Wow - there's a real world out there! :) I realized I had been home too long, when I accidentally called a patient and a fellow nurse "Babe"! :) Hey - no guilt here! Maybe it's been awhile since anyone called them that! :)

Enjoy being a mom and being YOU . . . guilt free!


BellaViva said...

LOVE! Yes! So, so true!! You certainly have helped set me free in this through the years - thank you SO much!

Lori :) said...

YAY! You are soooo welcome! It's definitely a process - and I'm still finding more and more freedom as I get older - not just with mom guilt - but other guilt, should-ve's, have-to's, etc.
Enjoy your day today!