The term “mommy guilt” seems to have become as common place as the term “facebooking.” I have been reading articles lately tailored to the idea of mommy guilt, and over heard mommies in coffee shops and playgrounds confess to mommy guilt as if it is just as normal brushing your teeth.
When did we as mommies decide that it was ok to beat ourselves up for being human?
Being a mommy is hard and so is the ceaseless journey of growing up. As the mommies strive to do the best they can, the children are also striving to figure out this world they live in.
Pick any parenting topic and google it. You will find an article to support it and article to tell you that it is the worst idea ever. Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, cribs vs. co-sleeping, stay at home moms vs. working moms are big debates, but you will find articles that argue that even using powder can be deathly to your child. There is no end to the debates on what to do and what not to do when you are parenting. And unfortunately, people seem to think that whatever worked for them, or whatever methods they subscribed to, ARE THE ONLY WAY TO DO IT. This “well-meaning” advice given to sleep deprived new moms creates a culture of moms questioning themselves, which is the worse thing you can do as a new mommy.
Here’s the thing; every woman is different. Every child is different. EVERY MOTHER AND CHILD PAIR WILL REQUIRE DIFFERENT THINGS.
I was lucky enough to know this. I was that girl who wanted to be a mommy since she was 12. I spent my teenage years babysitting and gaining experience and gathering ideas. I reflected back on the way I was parented and what worked and what didn’t. I went into this mommy thing with a very clear-cut plan on how I was going to do this. Not everything has gone according to plan, but I knew what aspects of parenting were important to me and what things I would not compromise on.
Because I was confident in how I wanted to parent, I was able to blow off those silly old ladies in the grocery store who always seem to have some sort of advice. I was able to tell my mother-in-law, gently, that I was doing what worked for me. I was able to answer questions and defend myself to one particularly harsh critic, because I knew that I was doing the best thing I could do for myself and my baby.
I survived the beginning of mommyhood without a lot of mommy friends. I did not follow the parenting magazine advice and didn’t fit into some of the playgroups I tried in the early days. But I parented in a way that made me happy, made my child thrive, and in a way that allows me to look back on these first two years and think, you know what? I did that really well.
My mother will still look back to this day and criticize some of her moves as a parent, but she raised three children who are now all successful members of society. Although I am not doing things exactly the way she did them, I think she did a great job. My mother-in-law still carries a lot of mommy guilt and a broken heart for some of the parenting choices she made 30 years ago. But she also raised three children who are now all excelling as adults.
Two of the greatest factors in determining a healthy, successful child are love and stability. In the end, it will not matter exactly which parenting methods you pick and choose from, but rather what works for your heart and your baby’s personality. Instead of subscribing to parenting magazines and the advice of others, parent in a way that allows your baby to thrive and allows you to be at peace with yourself. Parent in a way that when you look back in 30 years, you will not have a broken heart because you went against your own instincts. That thing called “mother’s intuition” is a real and powerful thing. It is something that no one but you can have. Your mother, mother-in-law, those old ladies at the grocery store, or even your husband don’t have the amazing gift that you do, which is to know what works specifically for you and your child and what doesn’t. Babies do not come with an instruction manual, but mommies do. Listen to that intuition, and it will guide you every step of the way on this amazing journey we call motherhood.
There are many characteristics that make up a mommy. I have just started down this road, and I know that there will be many more stops on this journey that I will struggle with. My greatest hope is to parent in a way that keeps my son thriving and keeps me happy. I hope that at the end of my parenting journey I can say, I may not have done it all perfectly, but I did it all in the way that worked for us. That leaves me standing in a place far away from guilty.
Sometimes I feel like I should feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Should I look back on these first 2 years and pick them apart to find things that I did wrong? Or can I just tell myself with confidence, you are a good mommy. You did everything in the best way for your baby, yourself, and your family. There are days that are not perfect, but there are days that are amazing. And that is nothing to feel guilty about.