Alright, moms, time to discuss a tragically common experience we all go through when the people around you know you are pregnant- unsolicited “warnings” disguised as jokes.
Yes, you know the ones. Family, friends, absolute strangers even that go, “HA! Enjoy sleeping now, you’ll never sleep again.” Or, if you have fur babies like me, “Once your baby arrives, you won’t care about those dogs anymore.” (Yes, that is an actual warning I got while pregnant with my first.)
People just chomping at the bit to give these “warnings” of what to expect as a new mom, followed by their very best, obnoxious sitcom laugh. They genuinely think they’ve given insight that is helpful when, in reality, it’s just another thing to add to your plate of new mom anxieties- even though some pieces of advice may actually be very true. Yes, I’m looking at you, the “you’ll never sleep again” advice-givers.
But do you know what no experienced parent mentioned to me at all throughout my first pregnancy? To expect the arrival of my new best friend over the last few years: mom guilt.
I’ll admit, I have battled crippling anxiety my entire life so I may face off with the nagging monster on my shoulder named ‘mom guilt’ more often than some but still- give me a break, sis!
The arrival of Mom Guilt
No one talks about when those long days end. When you’re putting the wreckage of toys back in their places, sweeping up crumbs from the day’s snacks, cleaning the drool, spit-up, and sometimes things you can’t even identify off your exhausted body. All while checking their little faces on the baby monitor fast asleep; that’s when my good friend MG pops in to make me second guess myself.
‘Did I help Ellie practice her numbers, letters, and colors enough today?’
‘Did I read to Emmie enough today?’
The worst is when MG just skips making me question myself and jumps straight to doubting.
‘I definitely didn’t get Ellie to eat enough veggies today.’
‘I let them both see me get way too frazzled today.’
‘We had way too much screen time today.’
And, if I’m being completely transparent, my mom guilt can be way more intense than these examples but you’re just getting to know me as the ‘hot mess express momma’ and I can’t go scaring you away just yet.
It’s like when you’re a teenager and you do something crazy embarrassing, so you replay it at the end of the day just to cringe another dozen times before bed. Just like that, only it’s a play-by-play of the entire day now that you finally have a second to just slow down and think.
I can’t be the only one
There have to be other moms out there facing this monster that is mom guilt too, right?
Especially in the world of social media. Can we all honestly say that this pressure for perfection is entirely self-imposed? Or is being surrounded by social media an unfortunate contribution? It keeps us connected, sure. But doesn’t it also provide a (sometimes rather intimate) peek into the lives of others? It’s never healthy to compare- ever. But, in all honesty, is it entirely avoidable?
When I’m scrolling through groups based on motherhood and coming across elegant baby Charcuterie boards as my toddler is scooping finger chunks of peanut butter out of the to-go portion I gave her (avoiding the spoon that’s given, of course), isn’t it human nature to question why myself and this random group momma have such different expectations or experiences? Good ol’ mom guilt makes me question if I’m trying hard enough if I’m doing enough for my family, and how I can be better.
The Answer is Super Simple
Different expectations and experiences exist because, as moms, we are all just as unique as the little nuggets we welcomed into the world. What works for Susie in the group dedicated to baby-led weaning or babywearing may not work for you and your family- that’s more than okay! We are not all meant to live the same, eat the same, play the same and that doesn’t make one momma’s ways invalid or wrong.
And this is how my day typically ends (after the cringy play by play)- I figuratively punch mom guilt right in the face and tell her to “buzz off”.
Of course, I know I’m trying. Of course, I know that I’m kicking butt at being a mother and that my girls are happy, healthy, and thriving. Deep down I know that I am doing the best that I possibly can and that our days will never be perfect. This unspoken pressure to be perfect that I put on myself is just a nasty, seemingly unavoidable factor of being a mom. Sure, there is always room for improvement or things we can do differently tomorrow but, that doesn’t take away from all the incredible things we did today. Did my toddler have too much screen and snuggle time today? Probably. But, she was sure happy as heck to be curled up with me, delegating what show to put on Disney+ next and singing the songs at the top of her lungs with me.
When we Become Mothers
No matter what path leads us to motherhood, we have the huge responsibility of molding incredible little humans. Not just to survive but, to thrive. Mom guilt is an opportunistic you-know-what; she creeps in because she knows the high standards we hold ourselves to and how seriously we all take this beautiful privilege we’ve been given.
She’s unavoidable, it seems, even over the most trivial of concerns. But we don’t have to let her win. I hope this resonates with one or two mommas out there who, like me, are giving their all day in and day out but still questioning themselves at the end of the day. It’s okay to reflect and adjust without letting MG consume you or change who you are. You are enough and your children, surely, think you are a superhero. It just doesn’t get much better than that!