By De Elizabeth
There’s a special kind of nagging, annoying, feeling of guilt that is unique to motherhood. So much that there’s even a term for it; aptly, it’s called “Mom Guilt.”
For me, and so many others, it sneaks up a thousand times a day: if I take 30 seconds to answer an email instead of playing with my daughter, if I spend 25 minutes getting ready rather than 20, if I arrange a rare night out and leave her with anyone who isn’t me. Mom Guilt is always there to remind me I didn’t come up with a fun Pinterest’y craft that week, or that she’s eaten mac-n-cheese three times for dinner instead of whatever colorful nonsense I see on those toddler meal Instagrams. And Mom Guilt loves to have a party whenever I find myself missing my pre-mom life, or wanting to indulge parts of myself that isn’t wrapped up in the identity of being a mom.
Like any other kind of guilt, Mom Guilt leaves behind a trail of other emotions that essentially boil down to feeling unworthy, less than, and just not good enough. And whenever I try to verbalize it, I find myself starting sentences with “I love being a mom, but…” as though whatever follows is somehow opposite from motherhood. But oftentimes, those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive at all.
This blog has a lot of words about contradictions (look no further than exhibits A, B, and C), but it’s because more and more, I’m starting to realize that embracing everything is the only way to stay sane in this chapter of life that looks absolutely nothing like the ones that came before. The only way to handle and manage the bad feelings is to lean into them, remind myself that they don’t negate the ones that are good. I am both, I tell myself a million times a day. I am both.
One thing I’ve been trying to do to get there is trading “I love being a mom, but…” with “I love being a mom, and….” Surprisingly enough, those two little words are vastly different from one another, and they shake up the entire meaning of a sentence.
For example: I love being a mom and I get frustrated, anxious, and sad. I love being a mom and I enjoy having kid-free time. I love being a mom and I like doing things for myself. I love being a mom and I’m still the person I was before, somewhere, somehow, only different at the same time.
I love being a mom, and I am wildly, fantastically, imperfect.
It sounds so simple — and it should be — but Mom Guilt has a way of overshadowing it all. We all have these pictures in our head of what motherhood is supposed to look like, what our lives will be like as we enter this phase, and it can be endlessly earth-shattering to realize it’s nothing like you imagined. You strive to find a “new normal,” but it’s easy to conflate normalcy with that picture-perfect ideal. Normalcy, like everything else, looks different too.
Ultimately, I’m trying to give myself space for it all. It’s not either or, it’s not one or another. It’s “and.” It’s always “and.”