guilt – the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b : feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy
Mommy guilt – the intense, overwhelming feeling of saying or doing the wrong thing, no matter how well meaning your intentions are, that result in somehow forever screwing up your child’s sense of safety, importance, and well being.
I remember once at a baby shower being handed a white 3×5 index card and being asked to write a tidbit of advice for the excited mom to be. *Sigh* My first “tidbit” would be that you will learn it really is possible to take a 5 minute shower. My next “tidbit”? As a mom you will learn the TRUE meaning of the word guilt. Fun, huh?
Example : The cold December wind was blowing as I waited on the driveway for my first born son to get home on the bus. I was already exhausted because I had been caring for a 12 week old apnea infant (who I couldn’t leave in the room alone in case he “forgot” to breath) while trying to tame my 22 month old who recently discovered he could climb on top of the kitchen table and then jump to the kitchen counter top. My mother in law was over helping that day because I had felt that I was completely capable of preparing and hosting a Christmas dinner for my husband’s family along with caring for my 4 kiddos. Of course I hadn’t planned on the fact that both J1 and J2 would have Christmas parties that Friday, at the SAME time. I had it all planned out – if I was up by 6:30 (after nursing and “stimulating” a 12wk old to breath during the night) and got the kids on the bus, I could clean until 9, then get dressed, cook until 1, and be at J2′s party by 1:30. I had attended J1′s party when he was in preschool, so it was only fair that I be at J2′s party now, right???
So, there I was, waiting on the bus that afternoon. I was actually feeling quite good about myself. The dinner for that night was almost ready. Table was set. Presents wrapped. J3 was down for a nap. J2 was happily going through her goodie bag from the Christmas party and I was dressed in a matching outfit with my black boots (my dress up shoes). I saw the bus approaching and I was filled with excitement about the Christmas holidays that officially began when the bus dropped J1 off.
The bus came to a stop. I can see it in his face when he is crossing the street. Disgust. Anger. Betrayal. “MOM!!!!, why didn’t you come to my Christmas party?? ALL the parents were there!!!!!!!! I had to eat my snack ALL by myself because I was the ONLY one who DIDN’T have a parent there!!!
HUH????? I was the only parent not there? (probably not, but in his mind I was). My heart broke. My dreams of a happy Christmas season crushed. I felt like a failure. I had let my son down. Why didn’t I try to be in two places at once? What kind of a mom was I???
Mommy guilt – the overwhelming feeling of somehow screwing up you child’s sense of importance. Yea, that was me. I had somehow made J1 feel like he wasn’t as important as J2 because I went to her party, and not his. Guess this would go against my Mom of the Year nomination, huh?
I NEVER could have imagined the feelings that go along with being a mother. The love, the desire to protect, the sense of being needed and wanted. Wow, the feelings were way more powerful than I could have ever imagined. But then, mixed in with those feelings, was the guilt. What if I fail? What if I discipline my child for something and it was really no big deal and he feels unloved? What if I don’t have enough patience and my child feels betrayed? What if I TOTALLY screw up this gift God has given me? You know, the gift of being blessed with the privilege of raising these 4 beautiful humans??
Please say that you detect my humor in this post!!! I completely understand my responsibility in raising children, but I am human and also understand my limitations. Do I feel guilt as a parent? YES!! Everyday I question my decisions, and my actions. Every day I am convinced that I have somehow made a decision that will forever change who my children are, or could have been. I lay in bed at night and think, “I should have given J1 another hug today”, or “I should have used a nicer tone when I told J3 to get off the kitchen counter for the 14th time today”, or “Maybe I should have been more understanding when J2 used her nail polish to paint the furniture in her room”.
As parents we are given this huge gift. A life. A sweet, innocent life. And we are left to form, teach, mold, and discipline this life. What was God thinking??? I’m not capable of doing that!! Not for one, and much less for FOUR!!! I don’t want to be solely responsible for messing up another human being?!?! What if I ruin them? What if I have to use their college fund for therapy instead?
As you can see, Mommy guilt is pretty strong!!! Anyway, as far as the advice? I decided to go with the 5 minute shower tidbit.
And so I pray. . . God give me wisdom and grace and patience and love to raise these sweet, beautiful, creations that you have trusted in my care.
And did I mention that 10 minutes after J1 got home that December day he was playing with J2 as they went through their goodie bags? He never mentioned the Christmas party again. I, however, will carry the failure with me forever.