“If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy”
There are hundreds and hundreds of pregnancy and baby books which guide you through the trials of pregnancy and living with a newborn, giving you every scenario of the excitement of your growing baby and the intense fear of everything that could go wrong. They cover every aspect of prenatal health and the postnatal care down to learning how to teach your muscles how to support your bladder for long term comfort and deciphering what every coo stands for in your newborn cherub. There’s advice on breastfeeding, post partum blues, twelve different forms of diaper rash and survival tips for living sleep deprived and feeling like mush. Yet the one fact that we are kept sheltered from is the warm introduction to our new lifelong companion, Mother’s Guilt.
Mother’s Guilt is one of the most powerful emotions you will ever experience which follows you around like your first boyfriend who just seemingly hit puberty. And not normal guilt like you did something wrong and were aware of it; useless guilt for not being in the same room when your baby opened their eyes alone or when they still seem hungry after they ate and you were ill prepared to meet their momentary whim. Guilt that you have to work to keep clothes on their back and a roof over their head. Guilt that you stay home with them and don’t love every minute of it. Guilt that they cry when you are not around and guilt that they do cry when you are around and you can’t soothe them. Useless, unnecessary guilt that grows stronger and more pronounced as they do.
When I first had my babies, I rarely left the house outside of work. I felt like I couldn’t leave them because no one could care for them as well as I could. Plus, I worked and oh the guilt that came with that—wow! I felt I had to compensate for my absence by filling our time together with meaningful activities and joyous outings. My time spent with friends was usually limited to play dates. My life was not my own; it was theirs. I was a slave to making sure they had everything I thought they needed. My husband regularly encouraged me to get out more, but I rarely took his advice. Instead, I built up resentment towards him because he seemed to live his life so freely and I was holding on to my guilt of not being everything for my children and slowly losing my identity of who I thought I was.
I am well aware of the fact that in order to effectively take care of someone else, you must first take care of yourself. I have offered that knowledge to others and meant it. But it wasn’t until I started living it myself that I discovered it really is true.
I started to take care of myself by learning to trust that my children would be okay without my watchful eye and acknowledging that I was not the end all be all for them. I began to attend “Book Club,” and “Ladies Night” and added in regular dinner dates with friends. It was time for me to be me and relinquish my role as mommy for a few moments to role of woman who has a brain and interests outside of managing every aspect of my child’s wellbeing. And an amazing thing occurred, I was re introduced to a friend I forgot how much I once liked and respected, ME!
As our child’s primary educators in life we are teaching them the importance of taking care of ourselves by our example and the satisfaction that comes with it. We need to train them and ourselves that the word “selfish” does not have to come with a negative connotation. We are teaching our children our values within our absence. When I go to the gym, my kids learn that I value health and wellness. When I go out with my friends, they learn the value of maintaining friendships and the necessity of tending to their growth. When I go to work, they learn the value of getting an education which allows me to work in a job that I enjoy. If we want our children to grow up to be individuals we must teach them that we too are individuals AND be okay with it.
Now my Mother’s Guilt has me playing legos for longer than I’d like and having a picnic dinner on the living room floor because its “fun,” but it feels much more manageable since I have found its natural remedies which are following my personal values and Mother’s Intuition to know when I am doing what is best for my child. I am still the greatest mother in the world to them because I want to be there and I want to take care of them, which makes balance that much easier.
As our children grow, so do their problems and our insecurities on how to handle them. We will always have questions on how to solve these problems, as we should. How do we know if we are doing it right unless we’ve done it wrong? Let go of the guilt and hold on to the faith that together, you will get it right.