Yes, I’m being constantly nagged by this feeling called “Mommy Guilt”. I honestly didn’t know of its existence or rather didn’t pay much attention to it until I became a mum myself. Unlike postpartum feelings and issues, I’m glad that this feeling of mommy guilt is discussed often and much openly today. It is such a nagging feeling that it persistently goes on regardless of what I think, do or say. The variables contributing to this phenomenon are numerous and can be intense. They can range from being rational to irrational, reasonable to unreasonable, or even simple to complex. For me, it can be triggered by an incident as minor as me not being able to take my little one to the park every evening or an incident as major as me having to discipline her sternly when she is busy testing my patience and her limits as a toddler. Yes I am one of those mums who secretly cries after scolding her kid and gives her a “sorry” kiss when she’s asleep. But a mum’s gotta do what she’s gotta do… whatever it takes, right? The heartache caused by this feeling called mommy guilt can range from simple disappointment to intense frustration to mind numbing hopelessness. And as the problem solver in me tries to address each one of those issues in the hope that the guilt would go away, there’s always something else that pops up and enables that nagging feeling to take over. I wonder why!
By definition, mommy guilt is the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiousness, and uncertainty experienced by mothers when we worry that we might be failing or falling short of expectations in some way. So, basically it’s a fear of under performing and “not meeting expectations”. Whose expectations are we talking about here? Well, fortunately or unfortunately, in my case, I am trying to meet my own expectations which are of very high standards BTW. I say high standards because I have always had this obsessive need in me to make sure that I, not only give MY BEST but also ACE everything I do. This has held true to most aspects of my life and raising my little one was definitely not going to be an exception. For me, as of now, its not just about competing with the rest but its more about being the best version of myself. So it wouldn’t be wrong to say that I am the one putting the pressure of “performing up to the mark”, upon myself. And I get very touchy sensitive if I fail in any way; and sadly the same goes when my 2 year old fails in any way. I take it as a personal failure if my kid misbehaves or is not living up to her best potential. This process of giving my best, to raise the best, can be exhausting. But I am not able to tone it down and sure hope that this passes on to my kid only as a healthy trait. Also, I don’t like to leave room for any sort of regrets and therefore I tend to give it my all, in the first place. My commitment to be a mum is all about passion, at most times bordering on obsession, with unusually high motivation, leading to either immense satisfaction or intense frustration.
My mommy guilt was born the day my baby was born. And it only got more and more intense as time flew by. I had miserably failed as a mother in those early months of my baby’s life. The first 3 months for a newborn and the new parents is chaotic as it is but for me, it was plain simple disaster – an unexpected disaster which I was so not prepared for. I had had a traumatic delivery and was suffering from severe postpartum anxiety. I also had a major physical impairment after my delivery that took about a month to heal. Let aside motherhood bliss, I was in parenting hell. I failed to bond and connect with my innocent newborn, I was unable to comfort her, I was anxious about my skills, I was in doubt about my decision to become a parent and I basically let everyone down, specially my baby. Once I painfully and gradually got over my issues, I made a conscious decision to stay on top of everything that my little one would ever need. I decided to never let that awful feeling of disconnect and failure to come back, ever. #SuperMomInTrainingForever. For my own sanity and that of my baby, I had to take some bold, courageous decisions back then. To name a few, I took anti anxiety meds when my little one was a month and a half, I reduced my breastfeeding efforts when she was 2 months, I switched to exclusive formula feeds when she was 2 and a half months, and I resumed work when she turned 3 months. Although those decisions were controversial and “out of the box”, I didn’t leave any room for any sort of guilt to creep into me, because those decisions only made our lives healthier and happier as a family. But little did I know that I was not “Guilt Free” for life, on the contrary, I was gonna be having “Mommy Guilt” forever. I was constantly going to be nagged by questions beginning with Did I? Was I? Should I? Could I?, in addition to the usual whats and hows of motherhood.
Honestly, I was more than happy to resume work on a part time basis when my baby turned 3 months. It was a refreshing change and a much needed break after a challenging 3 months of struggling with emotional anxiety and physical exhaustion. And turned out, that physical and mental space did us good as a mother-daughter team – we missed each other for a bit when I was briefly at work and yet, on returning home, we felt bonded like never before. And then on, the bonding only grew deeper and stronger. But soon, as I started working full time, my baby started to achieve various milestones and I started to feel miserable. As a working mom, especially as an early childhood educator, I started to feel like I was giving my best to strangers’ kids and missing out on the growing and developing years of my own. I have always been passionate about my career but suddenly I started to see no purpose in educating and caring for strangers’ kids, all of those who I ironically treated as my own, before having my own. I have always felt so connected with my students and their parents all these years and I have proudly been a part of their growing years. So what had changed that? Well, I was missing out on the most foundational, growing years of my own kid’s life. Working Moms guilt started to creep in …
Just when I was dealing with this gnawing guilt and frustration, my husband got this work opportunity that needed us to relocate. The timing was perfect, I could use this time to be a “Stay At Home Mum” and live “Guilt Free”. Or at least so I thought. Now, we have moved to a whole new continent and I am living a whole new life as a SAHM. Well, I am enjoying every bit of it, its ups and downs, highs and lows, slows and fasts, but I can see that I am somewhere starting to lose myself, once again. The SAHM guilt of not contributing financially to my family and losing my professional title is hard, BUT I’m not ready to go back to work as yet. The words “household chores” and “child care” are too small to actually describe the tasks it involves. Although my working mom guilt has vanished, I am now entertaining loads of SAHM guilt. Although as a SAHM, I feel like I am not doing much, yet I constantly find myself on my toes and not surprisingly, I’m dead exhausted at the end of the day (sometimes even at the very start of the day). But I tell myself to enjoy most of this time because this too shall pass and something new will come up to give me a reason to feel a new kind of mommy guilt. Might as well make the most out of it. Grass is rarely greener on the other side, but it is always greener where I chose to water it.
As of now I keep reminding myself that this is what I always wanted and now have the means to live it. In spite of giving it my all, I am still nagged by mommy guilt from time to time. I still have my days where I question my skills as a mother and what I am imparting in my daughter. But I keep reminding myself to be confident and give my best in raising my little one. Yes, giving my best can be extremely exhausting but its very satisfying to see a “mini me” blossoming into such a beautiful person, right before my eyes. I keep reminding myself that as I am giving my best to raise the best, I shall make no room whatsoever for any sort of doubt or regret to creep in. And as far as “meeting expectations” goes, I not only set my own expectations but I also tend to tweak it from time to time to keep it realistic. I have accepted that Mommy Guilt is here to stay, however I am giving it my best fight to not let that feeling take over, for the worse. After all, behind every great kid is a mom who’s pretty sure she’s screwing it up. And yet, I keep reminding myself of how the love and bonding that the “mini-me” has inspired in me, is of an all-consuming nature and has gotten embedded in me with this unexpected, fierce protectiveness I had never known could exist in me. #BabyBondingBeatsMommyGuilt.