Most weekday mornings I get up at 5 a.m. and go for a run. It’s not a long run, but it’s my chance to squeeze in at least some exercise before the day gets crazy. I’m not sure which part I love the most, the peacefulness of the neighborhood, the cool air or watching the sky change color with every stride. It’s my time to spend how ever I want, and I can do so because everyone else I know is still asleep.
During one of my runs last week, I was listening to the Atomic Moms podcast. The guest was bestselling author Leslie Ann Bruce. They kicked off the conversation talking about embracing mom guilt. Bruce stated said she didn’t like concept of losing guilt or getting rid of guilt, that we’re never going to get over it. She went on to say “I think feeling guilty is a reminder that we really care a lot about our kids and our families and ourselves. If I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t give as much of a crap. My guilty reminds me that I love my kids endlessly and I would do anything for them and anything that I try to do or fail at doing is because I am trying to do my best for them.” When I heard that I almost stopped running. In all my writing about mom guilt I had never considered that point of view.
What do you think, does it help you handle your guilt if you think of it as a reminder for how much you love your kids?
Every mom loves her kids and if guilt was universal, we would all feel guilty for doing (or not doing) the same things. Instead, some of us worry about not cooking all organic foods, while others worry more about sleep or spending more quality time together (which even that definition varies between moms). Our guilt stems from what we want to do for our kids, which is driven by our love for them.
When I talk to moms, much of their guilt stems from the word “enough”. I’m not doing enough. I don’t have enough time or enough patience. How can we embrace the phrase – “Enough IS enough”? The word enough is defined as “adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire”. This is where we all get stuck, we don’t want to be an adequate mom. We want to be excellent; we want to over perform; we want to give our all. But by definition when we do enough, it satisfies the need. We are meeting the requirements. Whatever you were able to do today is enough. If you were able to show up today for your kids, even if you are tired and cranky and gave them ice cream for all three meals was ENOUGH.
In her funny and relatable new book, you are a f*cking awesome mom: so embrace the chaos, get over the guilt, and be true to you, Leslie Ann Bruce dedicates an entire chapter to Mom Guilt. She shares personal stories about her pregnancy and when work caused her to miss her daughter crawling for the first time. At the end of the chapter she writes “I’ve learned to live with mom guilt. I recognize that it’s just a feeling and that my inability to be all things to all people isn’t going to permanently damage my child.” Isn’t this what we all need, reassurance that our actions (or inaction) will not cause permanent damage? We know this logically, but in the moment, we let the guilt overtake us.
It may not be possible to get rid of mom guilt completely. Reading posts and hearing stories helps but are usually long forgotten when we are in the thick of it. So, the next time you are feeling guilty about something, call yourself out. It might be hours after the guilt started, but at some point, say to yourself “I feel guilty for this because _____.” Then, remind yourself you are doing all this because you love your kids. Remind yourself whatever you did today was enough. And then, let it go and move forward. Don’t waste any more of your precious brain power worrying about it.
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Photo by Jenn Evelyn-Ann on Unsplash
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.