I have a request . . . can we stop normalizing “mom guilt”? Can we stop acting like it’s cute and funny and in no way a passive aggressive way of making moms, who are already stretched thin and doing their best, feel badly about their skills as a mother? Can we start normalizing normal? Not having it all together? Not doing it all perfectly?
Last week, during spring break, we were gone Tuesday through Saturday. We went to California to Disneyland. We got back Saturday afternoon and hit the ground running. Five loads of laundry . . . church on Sunday . . . bathrooms to be cleaned . . . one back to school and starting track practice on Monday . . . the other back to school on Tuesday . . . doctor’s appointments . . . a track meet this coming weekend . . . and in the midst of all of it, my youngest had her tenth birthday. Because we spent most of spring break at Disney and because life is so crazy right now, we told her that the trip to Disneyland was essentially her birthday “party”. I still did a birthday meal. I still made a cake and bought balloons. She still had gifts and donuts on her birthday, and I, of course, took cupcakes to school to share with her friends. She was fine with it. I. Still. Felt. Guilty. Disney is literally the biggest party on earth. She was not deprived. And yet, there I was, at 2:00 a.m., on more than one night, laying in bed feeling guilty about not having a big birthday party . . . I don’t even know when I would’ve done it . . . as if not doing that would permanently scar her for life. Guess what? It didn’t. It won’t.
I’ve felt guilt when we had to divide and conquer school events. Guilt when I didn’t cook a healthy meal every night of the week. Guilt when I had to miss an event (and I try my utmost not to miss my kids’ programs and sports events). Guilt when I said “no” to one more person and one more thing on the calendar. Guilt when I don’t do for my kids what they absolutely can do for themselves (even though I know it’s an important and integral part of raising independent adults . . . I’m not their maid or their servant). And y’all know what? It’s ridiculous. It needs to stop.
You know what else? I’ve realized the guilt has zero, absolutely nothing, to do with my children and my relationship with them. It has to do with the pressure from the outside, sometimes by individuals and other times just by a society that is never satisfied, to do it all . . . to be everything . . . to meet the expectations of others . . . to reach a bar set so high it’s not truly attainable by anyone. It has to do more with appearances and being perceived as a “good” mom than actually being a good mom.
We need to stop comparing. We need to stop pressuring ourselves and others. We need to back off the sideways, passive aggressive suggestions and comments and give others (and ourselves) lots of grace. And I’m the first one to crack a joke at my own expense. Believe it or not, I do have a sense of humor, but I think that we’re at a point where the memes and self-deprecating jokes regarding our motherhood are no longer funny, but are instead, a thinly veiled attempt to make ourselves not feel so badly about something we shouldn’t feel badly about in the first place.
We need to champion and cheer on one another. We need to encourage rather than tear down. We need to accept that not a one of us is perfect no matter how our lives may appear on Instagram. And for the love of all that’s good and holy, we need to stop accepting mom guilt as normal and healthy. As if walking through life feeling like we’re never quite measuring up as a parent is okay. Because you know what makes a “good” mom (or dad)? It’s a mom whose kids know they’re loved regardless of the size of their parties, the cost of their clothes, or the busy-ness of their schedule. It’s a mom who is willing to mess up and apologize and ask for forgiveness and keep on truckin’. It’s a mom who is willing to say “no” for health of herself and her family and not feel like she has to please everyone else. It’s a mom who is more concerned with the people her children are becoming on the inside rather than how things appear outwardly. It’s a mom who holds her kids accountable, that doesn’t give them everything they want, and makes them do the hard things. It’s a mom who loves and prioritizes Jesus first, her husband (if she’s married . . . if not just cross this one out) second, and her kids third. It’s a mom that knows that everything else will work out if these priorities are right.
So that’s it. I refuse to feel guilty over stupid stuff. I refuse to try to please everyone in some sort of pitiful attempt to not feel guilt that is totally uncalled for and unnecessary. I will say “no” when appropriate. I will celebrate and love my kids well daily. I will mess up. I will apologize. I will not pass judgment on other moms. I will encourage and cheer you on. Because we’re all doing our best, and with the help of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our best is more than enough.