Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ode to Mom Guilt

Ah, Mommy Guilt, the most plaguing and underestimated of all the guilts. It starts as a nagging undercurrent of panic and self-doubt the moment the nurse leaves you on the curb with your wrinkled, helpless newborn in your arms as you wait for your husband to bring the car around to go home. The entire ride home from the hospital may as well be the first time you've been a passenger in a car and looked out the window at your surroundings. The whole world looks completely different, and the perspective through which that familiar drive home is filtered has now been forever altered.

You're a mom. You are half of the responsible party for creating life, you've spent forty weeks growing a person, and now you've got to figure out how to raise a tiny human without completely damaging your child's capacity for happiness and self-worth. No pressure.

If I've learned anything in my seven years as a mother, it's that Mom Guilt never disappears. Rather, it undergoes its own unique metamorphosis that parallels every stage of my children's development. When Camden was two weeks old, I felt guilty because I couldn't get him to latch and traded water blisters and tears for baby formula. Now that he's seven and a headstrong, dramatic, hilarious individual, I feel guilty because I get frustrated with his histrionics more quickly than I should. I worry I'm not promoting his self-worth enough because sometimes I'm just so exhausted from fighting the battle that comes with bringing up a strong-willed child.

With Hudson I feel guilty because he's the middle child, and I don't always know the right ways to boost his self-esteem. I worry Lawson will get lost in the shuffle of four children because he is the most laid back and accommodating of all of our children. Surprisingly, I feel pretty confident in my abilities to handle Scout right now, though I know my fair share of juicy, guilty morsels of sleepless nights lie ahead.

I can't completely bash my friend Mom Guilt, though. It's the voice in my head that tells me to take a step back when I need to or the overpowering urge to hug my children out of the blue. It is part of my motivation to pray with my children on the way to school each morning after an inevitable WWF smack down just to get everyone in the car. It's why I roll my window down to call after them that I love them once they pile out of the van each day just so I know they heard at least one positive word from me to take with them. It's behind every napkin note in their lunch boxes and every "I'm sorry" I utter to them when I lose my temper and handle myself in a disappointing fashion.

Mom Guilt is a double-edged sword of inadequacy and accountability. Every mom has experienced it in some fashion, and every mom has considered how to incorporate it into her daily life without feeling consumed by it. Just in case no one reminds you today (because motherhood is by nature a job without immediate positive feedback), know that what you do is important and of great value. To borrow my favorite tag line from Nick Jr. (a very reputable source), "We're not perfect. We're parents."