New Year’s Resolution: Goodbye to Mom Guilt
By Rebecca Fox Starr
A New Year is upon us. It is about to be 2017 and I feel as though I am wading through a sea of resolutions. Many women I know share the same ideal: “This year I will be a better mom.”
I am here to implore you to explore a new, different resolution. Why? Because you are that better mom. You just do not realize it.
Every single day I hear from friends, readers and strangers around me who all share the feeling of being “less than.” And though I try to be encouraging to and supportive of these other women, the women whom I see shining in their ability to parent, I am not immune to this feeling myself. I struggled with severe postpartum depression after the birth of my second child in 2013 and I am still “recovering.” And in comparing myself to other mothers, I am constantly feeling overwhelmed; inferior; guilty. I have a terrible case of mom guilt and I am not alone. Mom guilt is an epidemic.
The thing about motherhood is that it is mercurial; one moment it is magical and the next it is maddening. For instance, as a former early childhood educator I know the importance of consistency and routine. But despite my best efforts, life often gets in the way. Sometimes, we wake up late, making our morning routine feel rushed. Sometimes, we are so late, that I must walk my daughter into her elementary school and sign a “tardy slip.”
She is in first grade.
Motherhood is all about cleaning up messes, both literal and figurative, and these spills make it hard to stick to a perfect norm (probably because perfection doesn’t exist and what is this whole “normal” thing, anyway?). There is no constant because our children are growing and evolving at warp speed and we are just trying to keep up as we pick up the graham cracker crumbs that they have left in a trail behind them.
In my experience, motherhood is enchanting. We have dance parties and eat cookie-dough straight from the bowl and have the sweetest snuggles imaginable. And motherhood can be hard; scary; boring; lonely.
And in the age of social media, where people share, share more and then overshare, it is impossible not to make comparisons. And comparisons can lead to guilt.
When I scan my social media feeds, I often feel as though two “mom archetypes” dominate:
1) “Hi, I’m the beautiful new mom, wearing my baby as he nurses and I prepare the organic puree that I am making from the vegetables that I grew in my garden la la la la la life is perfect and so is my hair.”
2) “Hi. Here are my four kids: I call them Punk 1, Punk 2, Punk 3 and the large bottle of wine that I consume every night because my kids are jerks and ugh, my hair is always a mess. Where’s my wine, again?”
And the funny this is that I can relate to both of these moms, but not entirely to either. I am somewhere in the middle.
So now, with the new year approaching, I am going to make a bold proclamation: I am not going to try to be a better mother in 2017. Rather, I am going to try to be a better me.
I am going to try to celebrate my victories, large and small, as opposed to lamenting what I am not able to accomplish. When my friend takes her kids to the grocery store, play-place and park, all in one afternoon, I will look at her with admiration, but I will try not to beat myself up for not doing the same. Because I can promise you that I will not be taking my kids to the grocery store, play-place and park all in one week, let alone one afternoon.
I will probably put on a great record and swing them around the living room. I will sing their favorite songs as I put them to bed at night. I will draw rainbows and write “xoxo” on the notes that I tuck neatly into their lunch boxes.
And for those things, I will be proud.
Mom guilt can be devastating. It can bring us to our knees. And it is my belief that if you make the time to take care of yourself in the coming year, you will have the energy, stamina and confidence to be a better human, and, in turn, a better mother. It is impossible to make an expertly crafted list that will instruct you in how to take better care of yourself, as there is no manual to motherhood, and we all have different needs. But you know yourself (and if you do not, then that, I believe, would be step one!)
But, in using my own experience, here are some ideas:
1. Make an effort to form deeper connections with your friends. Build your tribe. Fortify your village. A strong village=more confidence. Less guilt.
2. Find awe. Go outside. Look at the sky on a clear night. Sit on a park bench and marvel at the autumn leaves when they are their most vibrant. Swim in a natural body of water. Listen to the bugs sing.
3. Pamper yourself. Whether it is by doing a face mask at home or being treated to a luxurious day at the spa, it feels good to feel good. For me, I like to splurge on manicures. I feel confident when my nails look pretty and I will never turn down those free back rubs.
4. Ask for help. Childcare, therapy, an extra hour of sleep…whatever works for you. But do not be afraid to ask. You deserve it.
These things will change you. Your children will see you looking more rested, perhaps. Maybe you will have more enthusiasm when you play “I Spy” for the 700th time. You will be modeling good behavior, as you are setting an example for these tiny humans every day; you are showing them to take care of themselves; you are teaching them to give themselves warmth, compassion and love.
And so in 2017, my plan is this: I will try my best to focus on the “can” and not on the cannot.
I will pack my children lunches and though I will aim for them to be healthy, they will not be 100% organic, nor from my garden (and I may do the lunch-packing with messy hair).
I will not turn to wining and I will try my very best not to turn to whining.
I will not aim for perfection, but for purpose.
I will not succumb to the guilt. And when I falter, and when that “less than” feeling overtakes me, I will try to talk to myself as if I am talking to a friend.
I will try to be my own friend.
And I will remember the most salient of all reasons to let go of the guilt and to embrace the me: they are 6 and 3 and look to me in order to learn how to do this thing we call living. And I want them to live well; to celebrate all that they are; to know that they are not just enough, but they are everything.
And so are you.
So bring it, 2017. Show me what you’ve got.
Rebecca Fox Starr is the writer of Mommy, Ever After, a parenting & lifestyle blog that focuses on motherhood, mental health and wellness. Her story has been featured in The New York Times, on ABC News and in many other international publications, as Mommy, Ever After is read worldwide. A book based on her blog will be published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing House next year. She also facilitates an online support group for women, creating a safe place in which women of all ages can share and connect. Rebecca lives and writes in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her husband, daughter, son and Yorkie.
The Mother Company aims to support parents and their children, providing thought-provoking web content and products based in social and emotional learning for children ages 3-6. Check out episodes of our “Ruby’s Studio” children’s video series, along with our beautiful children’s books, music, and more.
This article was originally published December 30, 2016Posted in: Parental Wisdom