“Don’t you feel guilty for leaving your son behind?”
I was asked this question several times before I left for a 3 day conference in the Twin Cities. My instant response was, “Ha. No!” but then I started to overthink it. Am I supposed to feel bad?
I still came back to the same feeling. I don’t feel guilty about leaving my 2 year old toddler behind for a few days. He won’t even remember I was gone because he is just so happy to have his hot wheels cars, Blippi, and a cookie in each hand.
I went to Instagram and asked how many of my friends and family experience mom guilt on the regular. I was shocked with the responses. So many women in my life admitted to feeling mom guilt frequently for things like: taking some time alone, traveling for work, hanging out with friends, looking forward to kiddo’s bedtime, working all day, not playing along, or being preoccupied with their phone too much. The list went on and on and the responses kept pouring in.
My heart ached for these incredible moms. They are all so devoted to their children and families, and yet feel guilty for taking time to improve themselves, investing in other relationships, and striving towards their career goals. I kind of felt like I did in high school. All the girls I knew hated their hair, or their glasses, or their thighs. They were embarrassed by their stretch marks and cared way too much of about what their peers thought of them, myself included. But I didn’t see my beautiful friends that way! If only they could see themselves the way I saw them!
For their children, these moms strive for balanced diets, attempt potty training, are aware of screen time, make sure they are reading often, figure out discipline plans, pick the right schools, make doctor’s appointments, get them outside for fresh air, pick toys that promote development, and the list goes on and on. And they admitted to lying awake replaying the day over in their minds and beating themselves up over what didn’t go right. If only these moms could see themselves how I see them.
And although I felt this heartache for these amazing mamas, I also felt totally isolated. I do not experience these feelings. Sometimes if I feel bad for getting annoyed when Milo asks, “Mama, what you doing?” for the 100th time. Or when I get frustrated because he had another meltdown because I didn’t put the shredded cheese on the correct spot on his plate. I try to remind myself that he is a toddler and he is just trying the best that he can.
But overall, mom guilt is not my cup of tea. I am excited to see friends. I am excited for a work trip and catching up on sleep. I miss my baby, but I am also happy for some me time…
Does that make me a bad mom? Am I in the minority? Do other moms skip those feelings too? What’s wrong with me?
Although I don’t suffer from mom guilt, I do experience strong pangs of partner guilt. My husband is an amazing father and doesn’t take a pass on any of the tasks required for parenting. We truly tackle our beast of a toddler together. But, he is an introverted homebody who married a social extrovert. He likes to stay home in his jammies all day and I love to go out and explore! That makes him the default caregiver anytime I want to leave the house for something social. I always feel terrible about it. I know our kid will be just fine, but I don’t want my husband to feel burnt out. How can he recharge when we are always there to bother him? When I go to an art class, or checkout a new restaurant, or have a girls weekend, I am constantly looking at my phone and asking him how things are going. He never complains and willingly hangs out with our two year old for hours.
I am so thankful for him and also feel like I am in debt to him.
So there it is. I guess motherhood is filled with many types of guilt, but we just need to keep trying our best and give ourselves a break. And when we see guilt strike, tell our mom friends what a great job they are doing. “If only you could see what I see” goes a long way.