Mom guilt. This common phrase is the bane of my existence, and I’ll tell you why. The term “mom guilt” infers that only mothers suffer from specific guilt via the act of parenting. What about the dads? And what about all of the other things we feel? I never hear people talk about Mom pride, and I know a lot of people who are proud of their children.
Either way, and as much as I hate to admit it, there does seem to be an extra layer of guilt that lingers between diaper changes, temper tantrums, and the first time your toddler runs for someone else.
It is a feeling that I have struggled to describe to people, because honestly, I don’t know how to put into words the suffocating sense of failure and love crashing into your soul like a rogue paddle boat caught in the fury of the deep sea. Or maybe it’s because I’m ashamed that everything I had read while pregnant has been thrown to the wind and I am merely trying to survive.
But what if I don’t just want to survive? What if I want to get through each tantrum without yelling and feeling defeated? Or what if I just want 10 minutes of her cuddles, without having to bribe her with books or milk?
Well, I guess I just need to do it. Easier said than done, I know, but just like I tell Sloan, if we take everything one step at a time, it is very unlikely we will trip.
I want to start with what I call the “phase game.” The “phase game” is a combination of online forums, pediatricians, and wrinkly aunts telling you what phase your child is in, what to expect, and how to handle it.
What I've Learned
- Babies don’t have to say words to hurt your feelings. On that same note, neither do you. Remember how impactful your demeanor, tone, and body language is to your little one.
- Crying out of frustration is normal, even frequent. Let the tears flow, it feels good..
- Not being able to communicate with your child is really hard. Not just for us, but for them. It will get better.
Luckily for me, Sloan and I have discovered the phase of no return, or something I like to call early-onset terrible twos. Side effects include hitting, screaming, biting, and my personal favorite, a general aversion to anything me.
It surfaced during the rough time between daycare and dinner when I somehow have to find time to pick her up, cook dinner, wait for it to cool down, and play games all simultaneously. And while that sounds outrageous to us (because we are adults,) the fact that this isn’t my default is world-shattering for her. Enter: mom guilt.
And while these moments never last, it truly feels like these phases will, which is a hard pill to swallow when you have to explain to the teacher to be weary of her flying fists.
The other aspect of mom guilt that rattles my confidence in being a suitable parent?
I so distinctly remember making a list of basic rules I would adhere to as a mother; I would yell as little as possible, I would never spank, and I would always lead with love, were just a few of the big ticket items.
Items, I now know, that are subject to change, and that is okay.
THE TIMEOUT RULE
+ For children under 2, start with 30 second timeouts. After two, add a minute for every year they are old. Two years old = a two minute timeout.
Spanking is something Reid and I have decided against, so while that will never falter, I have found myself yelling at a toddler that doesn’t know how to tell me what’s wrong. I have found myself pleading with her to just go to sleep, and missing her seconds after. I have found myself on my bedroom floor in tears, surrounded by her socks, desperately wishing I knew how to make her understand. Enter: more mom guilt.
Mom guilt is inevitable, especially when you reach a new phase of parenting. You will never feel like you did it, like you handled the grocery aisle meltdown perfectly or like you are her favorite person nine times out of 10. But what you will do is continue to love her. You will continue to protect and care for her until she can do it herself, and even then, you won’t give up.
Because, as much as mom guilt convinces you otherwise, you are a phenomenal parent because you are doing the best you can with what you have.
And to tell you the truth, that is exactly what your child needs.