Do you know the feeling? The one where at the end of the day, after the kids have gone to bed and you finally get a chance to sit down, suddenly this feeling comes over your chest. Is it insecurity? Yes, in a way it is, but it’s more than that. It’s guilt.
As parents, we want the absolute best for our children, and so we try to be super-parents, who can do it all. We want to be the kind of parent who can play outside for hours, cook spectacularly healthy and tasty meals, give bubble baths, teach the ABC’s, snuggle and read stories, and go on exciting trips to park; all while practicing the art of patience and teaching our children a thing or two about the way the world works.
The reality is that we can’t always be on our A-game. Sometimes, we get home from work, make peanut butter and jelly, grab the coloring books and hope that our children will self-entertain long enough to get some laundry done and do the dishes. Sometimes, by the time dinner is made and homework is done, we don’t make it outside at all in the evening to play. Sometimes, we’re exhausted and we cheer from the couch as our children build a fort in the living room.
Do these things make you a bad parent? Absolutely not, but we tend to be hardest on ourselves. When our spouse needs a few minutes of alone time on occasion or throws a pizza in instead of making a nutritious meal, we barely blink an eye, and we certainly don’t shame them. Yet, we shame ourselves for doing the exact same thing.
My doctor at Southwest Health said something to me the first time I talked to him about my feelings of not being ‘enough of a parent.’ He said, “My best piece of advice for new moms is to take care of yourself. Happy mom means happy baby.” He went on to explain that the best equipped moms are the ones who tend to their own health and happiness, as well as the health and happiness of their children. He also explained that children watch everything you do, and the best way to teach them how to care for themselves, is to care for yourself.
I frequently think back to his words when I’m berating myself with shame for the things I didn’t do perfectly for my child throughout the day. ‘Mommy Guilt’ may not be a diagnosis, but your doctor cares about your wellness as a whole, including your emotional well-being, and sometimes the reassurance and advice from a professional can make all the difference!