Mommy guilt seems to be synonymous with parenting these days. Some moms have an ideal of what kind of parent they want to be and are constantly monitoring their actions to make sure they measure up. I admit, I was one of those moms plagued by mommy guilt, and if I’m being completely honest, at times I still am. However, I shared an experience with my children that helped me to understand that even though I might not be Mom of the Year, I’m still doing a good job.
It all started one afternoon after the kids came home from school. I was in the kitchen washing dishes while they played in the backyard. As I was scrubbing the skillet I let my mind wander and started thinking about all the things I had left to do. I was in the middle of getting myself worked up with thoughts of why in the world the house is so messy when I just cleaned it yesterday when I heard squeals of laughter coming from the backyard.
My two youngest were out back playing on the swing. Seeing them swinging and laughing, enjoying each other’s company and not arguing jolted me into the present moment. Suddenly the dirty dishes didn’t matter. I couldn’t help but smile as I realized I was experiencing a full circle moment. Let me explain.
As a kid, my family was poor and we didn’t have much. The financial hardships my family faced created a lot of dysfunction in our home and most of the time I just wanted to escape. I spent most of my time indoors reading books and looking out my window at my neighbor’s backyard.
They had a playset and the kids were always outside having fun. I suppose that’s why I came to associate swing sets with kids being happy at home. I would watch my neighbor swing as high as he could on his swing and I imagined that he could reach the clouds and talk to God. I fantasized about getting on my neighbor’s swing and swinging really high so I could tell God that I wanted my own swing set too.
When I had my own kids, I knew that I wanted them to have a swing set. My husband didn’t share my obsession with swing sets and when I brought up getting one he was not on board. He expressed that we needed to save money since I had just left my job to become a stay at home mom. He also argued that we lived close to three parks.
Of course I was being driven by emotions and nostalgia and although my husband made perfect sense, I still set out to get a swing set. Yes my kids could go to a park, but I want them to be happy at HOME. Since my husband was being the rational human being that he often is (Fun! Fun! Fun!), I enlisted the help of my mother and mother in law. My husband did not stand a chance.
I can still remember the look on his face when he opened the box the swing set came in and saw a thousand pieces of wood and even more screws and nails. But you know what, seeing the kids out there today swinging as high as they could and laughing with joy made it all worth it. It was exactly as I had envisioned when I set out on my quest to get them a swing set. They were happy and free from worries. Exactly what I wanted as a kid.
Sometimes on this parenting journey it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when it comes to raising kids. You get caught up in the day to day of running a household and worrying if you are doing it right. If you’re not careful, mommy guilt will consume you and make your life a living hell. That’s pretty much the funk I had been in. I felt like I wasn’t spending enough time with my kids, I wasn’t doing enough to make them better students, I wasn’t doing enough to make them responsible, and the list goes on and on. Whatever problems my kids faced, I attributed to me not being a good mother.
However, when I saw my kids outside, swinging high and giggling, it made me realize that even though the house is messy, the laundry is piled up, and I don’t always make home cooked meals, I’m still a good parent and my children’s happiness is a testimony to that.
For once I set aside the mommy guilt and stopped worrying about all the ways I fall short as a mom. I left the dishes and my messy house alone and went outside to enjoy this moment with my children. It’s not often that I feel like I’m “winning” as a parent. I also don’t always appreciate how blessed I am and instead focus on all that I lack. But today is different. I’m so grateful for the life I’ve been blessed with and you know what, I’m a pretty good mom.
I encourage you to set your mommy guilt aside for a moment and take some time to appreciate how truly blessed you are, even if things aren’t going how you want them to. And while you’re at it, cut yourself some slack and tell yourself “I’m doing alright.”
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