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How I Kicked Mom Guilt to the Curb

A lot of ink gets spilled about Mom Guilt. That creeping, nagging feeling, however true or untrue, that we could have done it better. We members of the motherhood tribe are capable of making ourselves feel bad for any number of things, ranging from the legitimate (losing our temper with our kids) to the absurd (standing our ground with a tantrum). 

Mom Guilt feels like the cross to bear for those of us who choose to live some of our lives on social media. Instagram and Facebook sometimes feel like they exist solely to provide a highlight reel of how well other moms are nailing it. Beautifully curated photos of idyllic moments and well-intentioned articles urging you to be present seem to mock you while you scroll through it all while you’re covered in spit-up and wearing saggy sweats. Even if you thought you might be hacking it, one glimpse of other moms on the internet can open up the flood gates of Mom Guilt. 

Can we just pretend you’re sitting on my couch for a hot minute? It’s covered in unidentifiable stains and dog hair, but it’s comfy, and you can kick your feet up here. I’m going to tell you a little secret…

I’m kicking Mom Guilt to the curb. 

I mean it. This isn’t one of those declarations where I’m going to tell you I’m kicking it to the curb, but really what I mean is that I’m reevaluating my goals or something. 

Nope. I’m straight up setting the bar so low for myself that I can’t possibly feel anything but glee at whatever I accomplish in a day. I’m underachieving at motherhood, and I’m doing it proud! And I’m declaring it like a manifesto at the top of my lungs just in case any of you felt like you were ready to kick the guilt to the curb as well. 

I’m tired of beating myself up for doing the best I can. I’m exhausted by the shoulds and shouldn’ts that were crowding out my own gut feeling that I’m actually doing pretty good. Every time I found myself feeling like I did alright at this job that I take pretty seriously, Mom Guilt was there to whisper that I could have done better. So I’d try a little harder next time, only to find Guilt was right around the corner to admonish me again. And so on and so on it went. 

Until one day I looked around and realized I’m missing all the good stuff because I keep setting my sights impossibly high. So I said no more. 

I’m done feeling like I’m failing. If my kid wants to live off applesauce pouches and Goldfish until she can drive, so be it. If we don’t make it into the shower or out of the house some days, I’m not losing any sleep over it anymore.

Screen time? Why yes, Netflix, I AM still watching! 

I’m not stopping there, either. 

I’m letting go of the feeling that every activity needs to be enriching or that I need to be engaged in everything my toddler says and does. Yep, you heard me!

Sometimes in the car, I tune that little critter out and listen to NPR while she babbles on and on about the trees and the cars and whatever else she finds pressing to discuss, and I don’t even feel a little bit bad about it.

And you know what I like? Putting on my makeup in the morning in peace while my kid watches TV.

You know what I don’t like? Reading ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ eight times in a row.

I don’t like any activity in a house or with a mouse if I haven’t had coffee and my concealer isn’t applied yet. I want silence and I want to be left alone sometimes and I’m not spending an ounce of my energy feeling guilty about that anymore. 

I’m also saying ‘sorry, not sorry’ to the idea that I have to have it all figured out. A few weeks ago some friends who are parents of toddlers were discussing preschool options and I hadn’t given it even an iota of thought until they started talking about open houses and admissions paperwork. I started to let that nagging guilt whisper to me, and it was telling me that I was slacking because I hadn’t done any research and wasn’t sure if preschool was right for us this early on. And almost as soon as it came, I stopped that thought dead in its tracks. I’ll consider schooling options when it feels right for our family and not a moment sooner. I’ll cheer on my friends as they embark on that journey, and I’ll go at my own pace and I won’t let anyone, especially not Mom Guilt, make me feel like there is anything wrong with that. 

I’m letting go of this notion that as moms, we somehow have to feel bad about this stuff. I haven’t been momming very long, but I’m getting the idea that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you want to hack it in the long haul, you have got to employ boatloads of grace with yourself. 

Because here’s the thing – all that guilt? It comes from that deep well of love that mothers carve out in their hearts when we join the ‘hood. It comes from loving these little people so fiercely that we would do anything to nurture and grow them, see them succeed and get to experience every happiness.

We strive to create a world for them where they flourish and no one wants it more for them than we do, their mama bears. But we strive too hard sometimes, and we set the bar too high, and it exhausts us until we burn out. That’s not good for us and it certainly doesn’t help them. 

So I’m getting back to basics. I’m remembering that my intentions are good and my best is enough. Period. 

So what do you say, mama? You want to abandon that nagging guilt, too? Join me in setting the bar a lot lower, getting back to basics, and doing the best we can. Let’s do it! We’ll shout it from the rooftops with unwashed hair and well-loved kids, and we’ll shake the haters off together because we’ve discovered the freedom in saying “Peace out!” to Mom Guilt.

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