Being a mom can be pretty stressful. You read all the books and articles on the many conflicting ways to “do it right,” and scroll constantly through pictures of tidy, well-behaved families on social media…and OMG.
Hallmark Writer Amy T-Y is well aware that the books don’t know the dynamics of every family, and that social media is often just the highlight reel, but it’s easy to get in your own head when you’re raising humans. When we saw her witty advice to her daughters, we knew she’d be just the right person to talk honestly about Mom Guilt here at Think.Make.Share.
Warning: We usually read her stuff with a box of tissues handy.
Dropped my youngest, a kindergartener, off at school this morning. It’s field trip day and the kids were lined up in their matching blue t-shirts, excited and ready to board the big buses to the aquarium. And there, counting sack lunches and clutching clipboards, were the volunteer moms. Fanny packs and children hung on their sides as they took post-worthy pics on their phones and Sharpie’d my kid’s name on a sticky name-tag. Mia waved and I drove off, undecided if I felt anger or pity or jealousy at these moms.
Yet another sting of Mom Guilt to start my day.
The exact emotions morph and mutate—they dictate how we see other moms, other kids, sometimes even how we view friends, but it almost always boils down to a serious affliction of Mom Guilt.
I blame Facebook. And Instagram. And the anxiety-inducing a-hole that is Pinterest.
The bar has been set seriously high—and now someone has decorated that bar with paper mache and organic icing. It’s creating shame and competition and stress and some serious eye rolls. But, more than anything, beneath it all is guilt.
The Mom Guilt Confessions
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m attempting to free myself of Mom Guilt. I’m laying it all out there. I’m listing all the things that have taken up space in my guilty conscience in the last year—no matter how embarrassing or weird or petty or valid.
And, in honor of both the day and my own sanity, I’m offering myself the small gift of a counterpoint to each confession. Let’s begin…
I currently have no sticker on the back of my car announcing my child’s academic successes or extracurricular activities.
There are no decals declaring my support of their hobbies on my rear windshield in any form. No vinyl silhouettes of ballerinas or softball pitchers or karate kicks are to be found.
Counterpoint! My girls do actually have extracurricular stuff! There was a brief t-ball season that resulted in zero balls hit but seventeen thousand dandelions picked. They love their weekly guitar lessons and gymnastics classes. And (bonus!) sometimes we even show up on time.
My third grader wore a shirt to school last week that was missing a solid two-thirds of its rhinestones and 77% of its glitter.
It looked like something from a Miami strip club lost and found.
Counterpoint! Said rhinestones and glitter are currently clogging up the vent and sticking to my husband’s dress socks in the dryer. And that means I’m washing my family’s clothes. Me: 1. Miami strippers: 0.
I cannot, no matter how very hard I try, give my complete and full attention to every magic show/dance routine/cat walk/concert/talent program they perform in my living room.
In front of the TV. During The Bachelor.
I “ooh” and “ahh” and applaud as necessary, but one can only witness so many dress-twirls and hair flips to Taylor Swift before one loses her damn mind.
Counterpoint! I’m a quick thinker. With in-laws who never had girls.
ME: OMG, girls, show Grandma and Grandpa that amazing hour-long Cirque-level show you guys made up last week!
GRANDMA AND GRANDPA: [GRAB POPCORN, ROLL VIDEO, AND SETTLE IN]
Let The Bachelor commence. I’d like to give a rose to my problem-solving skills.
I was busy working from home last week (writing this, so thankyouverymuch, selfish reader, for forcing me to neglect my kids!), and asked the girls to get themselves dressed and find a quick breakfast ‘til I could make something (scrambled eggs—don’t get crazy here).
Looked out to the swing set ten minutes later and saw my youngest pouring Cheez-Its directly into her mouth, all while chilling on the slide in Hello Kitty panties and a full-size life jacket. Part WTF-ness and part disgrace overtook me.
Counterpoint! But looking back now, it’s all pride for my trend-setting li’l weirdo…because that’s some style and self-sufficiency. Girl is killin’ it.
We don’t own an Elf on the Shelf.
Counterpoint! I don’t clean up the mess from said non-existent elf’s mischievous antics.
I don’t cook. Yes, I make spaghetti or Hamburger Helper or tacos on occasion. And I can turn on a Crock-pot. But my kids eat fast food a lot. Like, they could have an academic discussion on nugget quality for any major chain restaurant.
Counterpoint! Two words: apple slices. Fruit, y’all! Also, an extensive collection of Happy Meal toys. Vitamin C and imaginative play.
Our family scrapbook is currently stuck at “first lost tooth,” circa March 2014.
All the acid-free, stick-on glittery doo-dads in the world are at my disposal, and I can’t seem to get caught up. HOW WILL THEY REMEMBER THE FUN WE HAD AT THE PUMPKIN PATCH?? HOW????
These are the things that keep me up at night. And don’t even get me started on the second kid and the utter lack of memorabilia.
Counterpoint! Score one for having both weird umbilical cord stump thingies in a baggie, though. And all lost baby teeth (only one of which was appropriately documented, clearly). And first locks of cut hair, hospital bracelets, and teeny inked footprints, all kept close to my heart (aka in a shoe box under their beds).
I curse a lot. Sometimes in front of them. In fact, my girls come from a long lineage of trained female cursers, all highly skilled the artistic usage of colorful language. It’s in my genes; I can’t f—ing help it.
Counterpoint! They, luckily, don’t repeat the cuss words that befall their precious pierced ears. And if one day they tap into their genetic predisposition for swearing and find themselves calling a bad driver an a-hole, they’ll simply be “creative communicators.”
We like “screen time.”
And not like the little screen on my iPhone when I consistently take photos of how they’re changing and growing. (I think I took like 11 pics in all of 2016. Whoops.) We like TV screens and iPad screens.
Oh, and lest you give credit where it is def not due, we aren’t watching BBC documentaries. We’re watching Liv and Maddie and Goldbergs. And likely eating the aforementioned nuggets in the living room while doing so.
Counterpoint! How else are they going to recognize all the characters on our Disney trip? And Minecraft has to be pseudo-educational, right? Isn’t it building stuff? So, basically just Lincoln logs. Yep, we’re just improving our fine motor skills over here. (Crossing my fingers for a college aptitude test on cartoon characters’ catch phrases.)
I can pinpoint the exact moment my Mom Guilt began. I was still in the first trimester, happily highlighting in my crisp new copy of Your Pregnancy Week by Week when I read something about avoiding fish because of the mercury.
I had just returned, literally that day, from a week-long anniversary trip to Jamaica. As in, the Caribbean. As in, we ate fish at every meal and OMGMYFETUSWILLDIEAHORRIBLEMERCURYDEATH!
I cried. And worried. And counted fingers on the ultrasound. I’d gone from beach trip to guilt trip.
But here we are, nine years since a pink plastic stick declared that I was going to be a mother. I’ve served canned spaghetti for dinner, watched Bachelor contestants cry instead of my kids dance, and let their nail polish chip away to teeny glittery dots. There’s no chance you’ll ever pin something I’ve beautifully braised or accuse me of going “over the top” with birthday parties.
And you know…I’m okay with that. Most days. I’ll never get it all done. I’ll never get it all right.
But we have such fun in our family.
Kevin still laughs at my jokes. Lydia still tells me she loves me.
And Mia still hugs me, squeezes me tight…against her bright orange, mildew-smelling life jacket.
See? This is why we love our Amy. (Sniff.) If you’d like to read more, check out this letter to her daughters and her back-to-school guide.
Are you a victim of Mom Guilt? We’re now accepting all confessions—and we’re sitting here ready to tell you you rock.