“Last Year” Mom Guilt

Last night just as I drifted towards dreamland a realization startled me into teary wakefulness: this is my last year with a baby at home. Next year, all three children will be in school. I will not have a child constantly in tow. I am not ok with this. Let me repeat, I AM NOT OK WITH THIS.

Nope. Too fast. Too, too fast.

Cue the mom guilt. Guilt that I missed so much time with #1 and #2 because I was working part-time. Guilt that I don’t work part-time with #3 because that means my mom (my childcare provider) hasn’t gotten to bond with him as she did with #1 and #2, guilt that I get frustrated. Guilt that I don’t spend enough individual time with each child. Guilt that sometimes I need a break. Guilt that it all went by so quickly and I must be losing memory capacity because it went by too fast. Guilt that I didn’t babywear with #1 and #2 like I do with #3. Guilt that I have bad days. Guilt that I’m ok with being “mean mom” (because being a passive parent seems much sweeter). Guilt that sometimes I just want to zone out on social media instead of playing princess-rockstar-doctor with the kids. Guilt… so much guilt.

The shoddy mom thoughts started. You know the ones. The nit-picky negative swell of self-defeating insults that sabotage any maternal confidence.

“Stop!” I told myself. This is pointless. I am a human parenting humans; things will not be perfect. I will falter, they will falter, life will move on. I just need to try to learn from mistakes, try to do better, offer love and support as best I can, teach my children to be decent humans, give myself breaks so I can offer the better parts of myself, and be there… just be there.

I took a deep breath and refocused. I allowed my mind to replay the slideshow of “last year before preschool” memories from #1 and #2’s baby years. Tears fell. My heart swelled. I drifted off to sleep.

This will be my last year with a baby at home. I will enjoy it.

Mom Guilt

Mom guilt is a beast. It is the ominous haze that lingers in the back of our minds, making us second-guess ourselves, inflating our flaws, and tarnishing our strengths. It feeds on our insecurities and rattles our anxieties. It’s deafening and inescapable. No mom is absolved, but rarely do we discuss the plague.

Sometimes the guilt is predictable, such as five minutes after you’ve sat down in a — FINALLY — quiet home at the end of a year’s-long day rife with tantrums, misbehavior, mean mommy voice, and a drawn-out bedtime. Other times it’s illogical, such as when you lament your inability to express your undying love through butterfly-shaped lunch sculptures, or your failure to mold your trashcan-lickers into geniuses by way of upcycled sensory tables. Then there are the minute perceived failures escalated into life-changing monstrosities, like when you let your littlest eat who-knows-how-old Puffs from carseat crevices, or when your child’s dinner plate resembled less of of a food rainbow and more of a beige paint sample card. Yet still, there are the reasonable triggers that instigate an onslaught of mom guilt because, let’s be honest, we’re humans parenting humans all day, every day — so help us — and that leaves immense room for screw-ups.

So, what do I say to mom guilt? Don’t ignore it, don’t embrace it, just let it keep you humble. Let it fuel your growth towards becoming the kind of parent you strive to be. Let it enhance your self-awareness, not paralyze you with fear of failure or self-doubt. It’s always going to be there because it stems from love. You love your child(ren) so much, you self-flagellate because you believe your offspring deserve the very best.

In the end, do your best, know you’re human, and try again tomorrow. You’ve got this!