Guilt is a thief.
It comes in and plays a wicked game, totally convincing you that it has your child’s best interests at heart and that’s why it’s making you second guess everything in your life from the kind of bread you buy to the way you just spoke to your child, and from the kind of schooling you’ve chosen to the last round of shots you did or did not give your tot.
Our society fosters guilt. It really is the perfect storm. The Internet at our fingertips, we can diagnose our kiddo with eczema or get a recipe for gluten free Pop-Tarts from carline. But we also can hear one tiny snarky comment that can make us feel completely incompetent to raise children and render us guilty of the crimes of imperfection and laziness. We read article after article written by the people who know everything and they’re not one bit happy with the fact that we let our children watch television, eat Goldfish crackers, or sleep in our bed in the middle of the night.
I’ve had enough.
I’ve had enough of young moms not enjoying the ride.
I’ve had enough of the experts taking the fun away from all of us.
I’ve had enough of people who have never met my child telling me how to parent him.
I’ve had enough of whoever “they” are and how little they really care about the actual person my child is and the human being she is becoming.
I’ve had enough of the constant look of failure in the eyes of my fellow moms.
And I’ve had enough of moms trying to please everyone and losing the joy of their motherhood in the process.
We only get to go so many laps on the tricycle of childhood before they’re burning rubber out of our driveways in the family car, girls. It’s time to get with the program before we’re out of time.
Guilt is an enemy of joy. It beats us down and makes us feel like our best wasn’t enough. And if you know you didn’t actually give your best? GASP. You might as well just lie down and quit. Our Instagram society has painted pictures of motherhood that are as far from our actual reality as a Victoria’s Secret model is from my pajama drawer. All we see are pictures of perfect cherubim children and insanely gorgeous moms who miraculously take stunning pictures every single shot while standing in a house they must not actually live in by the looks of it, and we look around our kitchen at the pot with the dried mac and cheese from two days ago still sitting on the counter and the child with the dried green snot smeared down his cheek and we want to put back on the yoga pants we wore three days straight and get on the couch with Ben and Jerry and the Golden Girls.
Here’s the deal.
Someone else’s happiness may kick start your own journey to joy, but it won’t sustain you.
And in the same token, someone else’s correction can give you a wake up call, but it won’t carry you through the highs and lows of the process you have to walk out. Becoming free from mommy guilt may be the hardest process in all of life. Our total existence as moms is about loving and nurturing and creating a habitat for our children to thrive. And if we feel we are failing them in the process, joy is stolen from us.
And if joy is stolen from us, the mom thing isn’t fun at all.
Here’s some things you shouldn’t feel guilty about.
1. Napping. Ever. Take the nap. All glorious five or fifty minutes. Heck, nap three hours if your kids do. Nap the snot out of your day. Nothing is better than a rested mommy. NAP. Nap all you can. NAPPPPPPPPPPP. And when someone calls and says, “Are you sleeping? It’s 2 pm!” Say, “YES! I was napping and when I hang up with you, I’m going back to sleep.” Then stick your tongue out because you can.
2. Not looking every time they say, “Look, Mom!” Seriously. It’s ok to not see every single one of the 503 jumps they make off the couch onto the pile of cushions. I promise you they won’t grow up with a rejection complex because you looked at the book you’ve been trying to read for six months instead of their 504th jump. Your eyes can’t take it all day long. Save the eyeballs and don’t look every time. It’s ok.
3. Putting them in front of a TV so you can take a quick shower. I’m sure your husband is like mine and would appreciate a fresh looking wife every once in a while when he comes home from work. The kids can take one for the team on this one. Just be careful because shaved legs and showered mommas can lead to more babies. And that may or may not be okay with you.
4. Saying, “Not right now” when they ask you to play. You’re their mother- not a puppet, not a pal, and not a peer. What you’re doing matters, whether it’s related to them or not. It’s ok to finish your coffee, read your devotional, or finish last night’s episode of The Blacklist (which I highly recommend) while they play alone in their rooms. It’s good for them to have to be creative without you. I promise.
5. Wanting to peel your skin off from all the touching you have to accommodate for. In fact, it’s perfectly ok to smile nicely and say something like, “Please stop touching me or Mommy will have to peel her skin off.” You get the drift.
6. Texting or Facebooking. You have no social life. Let’s be real. Stay connected with your girlfriends. Lord knows if your kids had their way, life would be one big playdate. You’re an adult, so you can have one big playdate on your phone. It’s a perk. USE THE PERKS.
7. Quick dinners. Ain’t a bit of shame in the sandwich game, y’all. In fact, I am a better woman because of sandwiches. Sandwiches mean I wasn’t in the kitchen for hours and might get to play a board game with my kids or read a magazine for a minute. Or shave my legs. #nomorebabies
8. Losing your cool. We all do it. Make it right and move on.
9. Having days when you’d sell your last belonging for the kids to be in college already. Enough said.
10. For being the imperfect mom you are. We have a very flawed parenting theology that it’s doing everything right that makes great children. I completely disagree. As I look back on my own parents’ parenting, I see that the moments that defined my life the most are the moments when they failed and made it right, the moments when I was able to see their fears and their flaws, and the moments when they didn’t have all the answers and were forced to seek the One who did. I was made by those moments. They’re the gamechangers that forged me into me.
If you’re busy trying to climb the ladder of praise and acceptance from others all the time, you’re missing every single thing that really matters. Did you ever stop to think about how the people you’re trying to please or impress, the ones you accept the most guilt from, go home to their own families and aren’t there to cut the crusts off of PBJs with you every day, nor do they care you haven’t had a hot meal in 8 years? And the truth is, by trying to please the masses and taking your eyes off course, you’re making your motherhood about you and not what you really care about most… your children.
Stop. Measuring. Your. Motherhood. By. The. Opinions. Of. Others.
A rule of thumb I use is this. If you do not directly and positively influence the lives of my children or my own heart, your opinion on how I parent my children does not matter to me. Surround yourself with co-laborers, not yes people. You HAVE to have safe people who can tell you straight what you need to hear. But equally important is this: don’t surround yourself with people who only have ideals and zero of themselves invested in your child’s heart.
Mommas, joy comes when we mandate guilt to leave.
And we can only mandate guilt to leave when we realize that we are human beings, perfectly imperfect, and doing a better job than we give ourselves credit for. So you blew it badly before 9:00 am today. Pause a second and think of a small victory you won by 5:00 pm. It’s in there. Look for it.
Now, please excuse me as I celebrate the victory of just now having a completely peaceful conversation with my oldest child that normally makes me want to go unconscious for a few minutes afterward. I may have felt guilty ten minutes ago for the fact that I yelled at her to get out of the shower a little louder than I should have. But right now, I am celebrating that we both shared a mature conversation and walked away a little wiser.
I choose joy.