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Mom Guilt

Oh how I wish I could have come up with a sexier title for this piece

By Shelley CarrollPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 4 min read
Mom Guilt
Photo by Molnár Bálint on Unsplash

I am going to a baby shower this weekend.

Sure, my own baby-making days are behind me, but it is always fun to be invited to celebrate someone else’s indoctrination into the fold. I always tell expectant mothers, “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love”. I believe that deep down in my bones, in my ovaries in fact. Being a mom is WORK.

I remember when I was pregnant with my first child – the visions I had as to the type of mother I was going to be.

Looking back now, I have a lot of cognitive dissonance.

As with everything, there was the theory… and then, there was the practice. Alternatively, as I lovingly refer to it now on my good days… “my delusions of grandeur”.

Oh, I was going to be so many things, not the least of which involved infinite patience.

And man oh man, did I EVER fall short.

Consequently, the feeling that resonates most, after my pride in each of my children is set aside briefly, I am overwhelmed on occasion with latent guilt.

Like being a lapsed Catholic, it is the one thing that really seems to stick.

If it was not for guilt, I do not know what other adhesive might keep me together.

Even though it weighs me down, it also keeps me from blowing away.

That is the sad truth about being a mom. You are never going to measure up to that vision you created of yourself. Moreover, you are never going to stop worrying about your kids – no matter how old you get.

All those healthy breakfasts I promised I would be preparing? Nope. Here is a bowl of stale Fruit Loops and shoot – we are out of milk again!

All of that calm and Zen I was going to perpetually project? Nope – there were hissy fits as we made our way out of the house many mornings. Not theirs; mine!

All that advice I was going to be able to dole out like cards from a bottomless deck? It was usually peppered with my own brand of swear words and reactive, frustrated angst rather than a spoonful of sugar.

Still, I do recall telling them: “just be honest with me. I cannot promise that I will not overreact. BUT: I can promise you that I will handle it better if I hear it from you rather than from someone else.”

It has been said that being a parent is like having your heart walk around outside your body; that a parent is only ever being as happy as their unhappiest child.

I get it now.

I tear up at thinking at how resilient, independent, and successful they each are in their own right. It is certainly not a reflection of my parenting style nor the result of me having had all of my sh*t together. I did not when they were young and I do not purport to have it all together now. Nevertheless, it does speak to just how awesome they each are. I would like to think that maybe on some level, it means that they come from good stock. Or perhaps… in spite of it.

No, I do not know what to tell a new mom without scaring the bejeezus out of her. I just know it ought to be said.

I want to tell her: welcome to the club – where sleep eludes you and NOT JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE A NEWBORN. Welcome to always second-guessing yourself and the choices you make – from vitamins to school lunches to relationships to babysitters to toys and television programs to friends you encourage them to hang out with and to money you may or may not be able to spend to suit the lifestyle you’re helping them to create for themselves.

The days ahead will be hard. But they will be so worth it. You will only ever be an expert in your own life. You just will not know it until later. (F*cking hindsight.)

All you can do… is love them. Him. Her.

“They hear you when they’re sleeping”, my old women’s studies professor used to say. When you stand by their crib or bed or bedroom door each night and you tell them that you love them, they feel it.

I have to trust she was right.

Because some days, that may be the best you are able to do.

Therein lies the hope that tomorrow will be better; that if I/you/we learn from our mistakes, then maybe they will not be repeated.

Each day, you have to make that choice.

Even now that my kids are all adults, I still do.

To hope that they will forgive me for my mistakes and maybe at some point understand. Then maybe I can eventually forgive myself.

Until then, we are all just trudging along on this big ol’ rock, hoping that we do more good than damage.

I like to think that we are doing more good than harm. At least, I hope we are.

If it is all you’ve got, then it is the best you’ve got;) be gentle with yourself.


About the Creator

Shelley Carroll

Ms. Carroll is a 40-something year-old veteran public servant and mother of three adult children. She and her partner Hal live in Amherst NS with a sweet, anxiety-ridden rescue dog. Shelley loves running, red wine, and laughter.


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