The Beginning of Mom Guilt
For me, mom guilt started as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I started analyzing everything I had done the previous four weeks. Then I worried for nine months if anything I did caused any harm to my baby!
For Awhile it got Worse
After being in labor for over 24 hours and being dilated to 10 for five hours I had to have a C-section. My son had (and still has) a large head so he would not drop down. He even had a bruise at the top of his forehead from sitting in the birth canal for so long and probably pushing against my pelvic bone all that time. Having a C-section made me feel like a failure right off the bat. It wasn’t my fault that my body wasn’t able to fit my son’s large head through the birth canal. All I could think of though, was women like my mom who could give birth quickly and without any complications. I felt there must have been something wrong with me!
Then because of the C-section and my hypothyroidism, I didn’t produce milk for 10 days! No doctor told me that a C-section could delay your milk coming in and that hypothyroidism could make it harder to breast feed. I struggled and before we even left the hospital the nurses gave him a bottle without checking with either me or my husband. It only got harder after we went home.
My wonderful husband (who at the time I didn’t think was so wonderful) talked me into pumping temporarily and supplementing with formula when we needed to. He didn’t think any less of me for not being able to produce enough milk for our son. He also supported me by feeding and caring for our son while I would pump. Which I did every two to three hours for 30-40 minutes at a time. I even set an alarm and got up in the night to pump after my son was sleeping through the night! I never could produce enough to keep my little guy satisfied and sadly, that gave me extreme mom guilt.
Eventually I was able to forgive myself. I realized that I truly tried my best. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t (still can’t) make my body do something it can’t. It didn’t make me less of a mother and it definitely didn’t mean I didn’t love my son. I also stumbled onto a couple formulas in Europe that seem healthier than those in the US, this is the one I ended up feeding my son: Hipp formula.
The Problem with Mom Guilt
The problem with mom guilt is, it is constantly waiting around the corner ready to pounce on you for any perceived wrong move. If you manage to deal with a particular problem (i.e. breastfeeding) it will just rear it’s ugly head as some other issue (i.e. needing daycare) very soon. Like when my son started to walk. Not having family near by meant I had to take him everywhere with me. That became increasingly difficult as my son got older. Before he could walk it was easy to take him to doctors, dentists or car appointments. When he started walking at 11 months it was much harder because he would not sit for long at all.
I was avoiding going to any appointment unless I could go on the weekend or evenings or it was pretty urgent. Occasionally a friend could watch him or my husband could come home from work but I knew that couldn’t last. One time I decided to take him to a dental appointment because I knew it would literally be five minutes or less. While I was in the exam chair he got up from his chair and pulled down anything he could reach. Nothing broke, thankfully!
Something Had to Change
Finally, after a lot of back and forth my husband convinced me to put him in daycare one day a week. It would be in the home of someone we knew and friends of ours took their daughter there too. I still had an extremely hard time with it. Talk about mom guilt! I wasn’t working outside of the home and still I couldn’t look after my own child full time. What kind of mom was I? My guilt lasted a little while but at some point I became thankful my husband talked me into it.
Now, over 3 years later, my son is about to start pre-school. It will be 5 days a week and I’m ecstatic! He’s four and extremely active, I’m 40 and very tired. He is a great kid. He is also very smart. That means he needs constant activity for his brain. On the occasion that I let him watch tv for more than an hour (I’m probably sick or have to get something done) he gets bored with tv. Plus as an only child, the interaction with other kids will be really good for him. We have friends with children that we hang out with at times but we’re all so busy that it’s hard to get together. I know I will miss him and there will be days I will want to just hang out with him but I know school will be awesome for him and pretty good for me too.
Letting Go of Mom Guilt
Eventually I realized that one day a week at daycare benefited me and those around me. It’s not going to take me awhile to realize that with school. I know it now! I will be able to care for my health and get many other things done. My husband has a pretty demanding job which includes traveling for work four or five times a year. He also spends a few hours working from home most weekends and even some evenings after he comes home from work. That means I’m doing the parenting then too. So even with my son gone one day a week, it still didn’t leave me much time to write. Now I should have time to write a post more than every six months!
One of the things I liked the most about my son in daycare was that I was able to help friends and family. I made meals if they had surgery, were sick or just because I wanted to. We have some single friends who work full-time and I know they don’t always get a home cooked meal! I have also sent care packages to family who were sick or dealing with difficult situations. And I have been a chauffeur for friends and their kids for school or doctors appointments. Soon with my son in school 5 days a weeks I will be able to do a lot more of that.
Remember your kids will eventually grow up and leave your house. Will it matter that you didn’t take them to the park one day? That you got mad at them for coloring on the wall? Most likely not. We all do small things on a daily basis that we wish we did different. Beating ourselves up for these things will only hurt us and make us doubt ourselves. Think about all the things you do right on a daily basis, make a list if you need to. Snuggling on the couch, making healthy meals, teaching them manners, making sure they hold your hand when you cross a street and so many more. Yes we can all do better, just keep trying. Please don’t beat yourself up if you have a set back. We are all imperfect but as long as you are trying your best, that’s enough!