Mom guilt. The first time I heard this phrase, my oldest daughter Emily was only about six months old. At this point in parenthood, I had experienced bouts of guilt-induced emotions, but I never imagined my mom guilt would get worse over time.
"Do you ever have 'mom guilt?" a friend and fellow mom had asked me one night. I hadn't thought much about it at the time, but I soon learned that mom guilt is a legit feeling of remorse that can leave you on a major emotional rollercoaster ride. From chatting with fellow moms, I've also learned that the majority of us suffer with mom guilt in some capacity or another. What I didn't know is how much it can affect your well-being as a parent. Guilt as a single emotion, is the sense that we've done something wrong, but as a mom, how do we know what is right and what is wrong with many of the situations that we face every day? And we quite obviously can't predict the future, so how do we know if the guilt that tugs at us will come up later in our child's life?
From the moment I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, Charlotte, I felt as if I was having a full-blown affair on Emily. I was cheating on the sweet little bond that we had built for three and a half years, and life would never be the same. I would literally watch Emily sleep at night and cry my eyes out thinking about how our bond would soon be infiltrated by a sibling. Would she feel like she was enough? Would I damage her confidence? I even feared that I'd have less time to focus on her and worried that my lack of attention would cause her physical harm. Would I be too busy paying attention to Charlotte that I'd accidentally forget to buckle Emily into her seatbelt?
Considering there are billions of people who have navigated their lives perfectly fine with a sibling, Emily's role as a sister has suited her well and she seems better off because of it. But, the guilt didn't stop there. This guilt was inflamed when Emily started getting upset about going to daycare, gymnastics, preschool, or any place where she wasn't within an arm's length from me. Her eyes would well up and her lower lip would quiver and she would cling to me like I was her only source of happiness. This started during my pregnancy with Charlotte and hasn't let up since. It happens when I drop her off at the daycare she's been attending since she was three months old and it happens when I drop her off at gymnastics camp and friends' houses or on the rare event when we hire a babysitter. And it never gets easier on me. After I peel her off of me, I always walk away feeling deflated, as if I've committed the worst crime in the world. I've murdered her confidence to trust that I would always be by her side. Sounds dramatic, right?
The mom guilt has been at an all-time high since we moved houses and towns. I'm guilty of pulling her away from the friendships she's had since she was old enough to sit upright on her own, and now she has to work through her immense shyness to meet new friends. Not only do I feel guilty about that, but I singlehandedly blame myself for any lack of time I've had with her before she heads off to kindergarten in the fall. My 20-hour-work weeks always linger in the back of my head, and make me question if I should just forego the job I love to spend every second of the day with her. The phrase, "they are only young once," tugs at my heart every time I punch the clock, or in my case, open up my laptop and write.
So, while it's pretty safe to say that mom guilt is my "new norm," I'd like to know some ways that other moms have battled the ongoing guilt. Any advice? Whether you stay home with your little ones or you are in full-time work mode, how do you ease the guilt about the things that range from a forgotten lunchbox to what you may, in your "mom-guilt induced state," perceive as a lack of quality time?