*WARNING* I will be making sweeping generalization in this post. When I say “men”, “women”, “mothers”, etc, I mean many or most, not every single one on the planet. I am sure you know exceptions to everything I am about to say. Even I know exceptions to what I am trying to convey. But for the most part, this is something I have noticed on a wide scale.
Ladies, there is something I have been thinking about for a long time now. It concerns almost every single mother out there and if you haven’t had kids yet but are planning to in the future, then this concerns you as well. Sometime, somewhere, society- and especially mothers, have decided to join what I am calling, the cult of guilt. I see it and hear it everywhere: on my Facebook, while talking at the playground, in the mommy blogs, and on television, mothers seem to be overwhelmed by guilt. It is almost like an imaginary contest women seem to be playing, either with themselves or with others, but I simply don’t understand it. Are all mothers actually these horrible women who are constantly letting their families down?
Dictionary.com defines guilt as, “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.” Though I think there are some instances where it is necessary to feel guilt, in most cases I believe many women are drowning in imagined guilt, and I think this needs to stop.
For example, I know women who feel guilty if they don’t feed their kids organically 24/7. Seriously. I also know mothers who work all day and then feel guilty if they are exhausted when they come home and the last thing they want to do is hang out with their kids. Now on the surface that might seem like something one should feel guilty about. But if you get into it a little deeper, there is really no reason to waste your emotions on something that is perfectly normal! Everyone needs a little time to themselves, especially after putting in a hard day at work. I see men taking the time to transition from work mode to family mode by taking a shower, or having a drink while reading the paper before they are ready to deal with the chaos that can be small children. Men understand they need to have boundaries and are unable to switch directly from work to home without a little time to themselves.
Mothers, on the other hand, don’t have this luxury. As soon as they get home they are immediately expected to feed their family, referee any arguments, chauffeur their kids from activity to activity, and do it all with a smile. But where is it written that one should be able to transition from your day job immediately into your other job as a parent. It is only logical that one would feel not only exhausted, but a little resentful that you won’t have time to even think straight until the kids are in bed. So why the guilt?
I know many parents that sit their kids down to watch a little television or play on the iPad, just so the parent can get some peace and quiet. I overheard a few dads talking about how much easier parenting is now that they have iPads because when they need some time for themselves they just “plug in” their kid and then relax for a few minutes. All the dads had a good chuckle about what geniuses they were. The exact same subject was brought up a few days later, only this time with a group of mothers. Instead of patting themselves on the back, these moms were self flagellating and talking about what terrible mothers they were for letting their toddlers watch an hour of Dora The Explorer!
It pained me to hear these wonderful, creative, hardworking, intelligent mothers berate themselves for something that in the scheme of things, is actually a practical and healthy solution to a problem! Instead of feeling proud of the fact they solved a parenting problem in simple way, they felt guilty! When an hour of television becomes something to feel bad about, what happens when there are actual reasons to feel terrible about something? When you equate purchasing conventionally grown food to being a bad mother, it makes everything you do, good or bad, meaningless.
Do you love and adore your children? Then you are a good mother. Do you feed them fairly healthy meals three times a day? Then you are a good mother. Do you make sure your kids have clothing on their bodies when they go to school? Then you are a good mother. Do you listen to your children 72% of the time? Then you are a good mother. Do you do your best to parent your kids in a reasonable manner? Then you are a good mother. Do you sometimes wish you could just once, go to the bathroom without someone knocking on the door to ask you a question? Then you are a good mother. Do you occasionally count the years until your youngest will be in college and wonder if you will make it that far? Then you are a good mother. Do you sometimes miss baseball games, forget birthday gifts for your kid’s friends, and order pizza three times in the same week? Then you are a good mother.
So I say, right here and right now, if you are finding yourself feeling guilty about something that has to do with your parenting skills, I want you to ask yourself, “is this a good reason to actually feel guilty, or am I setting the bar so high that it is impossible to achieve”. There should be very few times you allow yourself to feel guilty and now is the time to break out of the cult of guilt and walk into the light of being proud of your parenting skills.