When Mom Guilt Takes Over
Mom Guilt has possibly been my greatest struggle in the last decade. It was the voice inside my head that I suppressed and have worked hard to silence and correct. It’s a journey of becoming comfortable in your own skin and asserting to others that you’re not going to conform to this world and its idea of who you should be. This shaming is prevalent in a time of a shifting culture where women have a voice, have an impact, and are being seen for their full potential – but we’re still so close to that shift that we have to be strong enough to withstand the heat that comes with stepping outside the expectation of a woman: working only within the home.
We have two daughters, Dakota (9) and McKenna (6). They’re full of a spunk and sass. They live to dance and sing around the house for hours on end, to get dirty outside and to put on Mommy’s high heels and make-up. Ugh, even my splurge-an-embarassing-amount-of-money-super-cute-heels. Why do they want to wear those ones?! I digress. They’re brilliant. They’re funny. They’re not the least bit shy. But, boy, they are stubborn and will fight me on bedtime and veggies. I think they even try to disagree with me just to see who has more willpower. I try to remind myself in those moments that this tenacity will serve them in life someday, but in the interim its triggered my first grey hairs and shown me that they can completely push me over the edge within about five minutes.
Those little munchkins are my greatest accomplishment though. It’s hard to follow a statement like that with opening up about my most vulnerable emotions with motherhood. It’s a story that I need to share because I know there are so many mamas that struggle with this. There are women that aren’t yet mamas and they struggle with this – the impending guilt they know they’ll feel if they try to balance their thriving career with a child – and its prevented them from having children thus far.
In high school and college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I majored in Business as a default because nothing tugged at my heart, so Business seemed reasonable. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be a mom. My best friends would remember that to this day – I guarantee you. They knew what they wanted to do. And I’d tell them all I knew was that I’d be a mom. And so I was at the ripe age of 23. Since I had always wanted to be a mom, I figured I should be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) if I could ever afford the chance. And so I was. Within a couple months, I had incredible doubts that I couldn’t share with anyone, not even my husband. Especially not my husband. I wasn’t fulfilled. I wanted more for my life. I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment, and I wasn’t getting that from being at home. I worried he would think I wasn’t meant to be a mom, or that I battled post-partum depression. Ugh? Do you hate me just reading this admission? How could I feel this way?
Let me stop here before we go farther and address something. If you are a SAHM, please stop seething at me. Hear my heart. Being a mom is the absolute hardest job there is. Its so much more than being a mom, isn’t it? You handle probably 98% of anything related to the kids, manage the household, the finances, your husband’s schedule and anything and everything that needs to happen within your home and family: car repairs, home maintenance, vacations, shuttling kids to and from everywhere, meal planning & cooking 3 meals a day, shopping, budgeting. The list goes on. This is not a competition between SAHM’s and working moms.
No. This is about God’s purpose for our lives and understanding that we aren’t all meant for the same role.
I can remember the day I broke down to my husband and told him I wasn’t fulfilled. We sat on the landing of our staircase. He listened. He understood this had nothing to do with our child or with him. It was an internal struggle that I was dealing with. He asked questions. He didn’t shame me. He didn’t try to talk me into anything. He just heard my heart and wiped my tears as I tried to explain that I just wasn’t happy with my decision to be at home.
I took a chance on being a work-from-home mom after that. While that initially gave me a little sense of accomplishment while our daughter was a baby, that tide took a turn as she got older. It was gut-wrenching to hear her say, “Mommy, stop working. Come play with me.” Ugh. I hated that. I felt like such a bad mom when she’d say that to me. It led me into a time where I tried to hide “working” from her. I developed a habit of working before she’d wake in the morning and then working after she’d go to bed. But when she was awake… I still didn’t want to get on the floor and build with legos or play with dolls for hours on end. That unfulfillment crept right back in to my heart.
I tried to fill my time in hopes that it would fill my cup. If I wasn’t working, I was shuttling kids to or from school, sports, birthday parties, volunteering at church, running a household, you know… alllll the stuff. It was exhausting, but I felt like I was needed. If I was busy, then I was important. If I was busy, then I was accomplishing something.
I was a chameleon to other women. If I met a SAHM that would ask me what I do, I’d tell her I worked part time from home and had the most flexible schedule ever. If I met a working-mom, I told her I had a flexible schedule but shared the truth about what I had accomplished in building a thriving business with my husband. Why was I doing that? Why was I conforming my story to who I was talking to? I was so afraid to not be accepted and to not make new friends – because let’s be real for a second, motherhood is isolating. You don’t see your friends often and life gets so busy that weeks can go by before you have time to send a simple text to your bestie. I was desperate for approval from others because I didn’t approve of myself. In my mind, I had failed at being a SAHM because it didn’t fulfill me.
I’ve learned that there is no perfect balance. Balancing motherhood, whether its with a career or not, is different for all of us. So balance is just a perception. What works for me may seem ludicrous to another mom.
At the end of the day, if you’re balancing a crazy life and keeping your head above water then you’re doing pretty well, mama. Remember this… our kids learn most by watching us. Kids don’t remember every moment of their childhood, they just remember the recurring moments or the ones that really made them feel a certain way. Good or bad. I fed my kids waffles for dinner two nights ago. It was rainy and cloudy outside – it “looked” like morning and I had zero interest in making a home-cooked meal after already working late that day. So we took out the waffle maker and did it together. They thought I was the coolest ever. I’ll take that win. Those are the little moments, right? Sometimes we work late, but the kids won’t remember that if we sprinkle in some fun and intention along the way.
You want to know my favorite part? My girls are watching me. They’re watching their mama pursue her God-given purpose. They’re watching their mama take on the world and build another business. And they’re so excited for me. They want to do this with me someday, they tell me. How amazing is that?! You guys, my girls GET that they can do whatever they want to in this world. Nothing is just for boys or just for girls. I’m showing them that. I’m gifting them the strength to dream BIG. Really big. And that is the best thing I could ever, ever do for them.
Here’s what I want you to take away about this mom guilt thing. First of all, don’t judge others. We judge ourselves enough. So pinch yourself if you catch yourself thinking those thoughts about another mom’s choices to be at home or to work or how to discipline her child. If she has screaming kids in a grocery cart, don’t you dare make a face. If anything, go put your hand on her shoulder and say, “You got this. I’ve been there so many times I can’t even count them. Let them cry it out.” Let’s be the women who encourage each other. Let’s be the women who cheer each other on regardless of whether we can relate to another woman’s journey or not. Let’s be the women who take a deep breath and remind themselves that comparison gets us nowhere. Let’s be the women who stop silencing our own inner voice and begin to explore those dreams placed on our hearts. Let’s be the women who stop letting our cultural past tell us who we need to be. Live this life on your terms. Your future self with thank you. And so will those little minions that are always watching their strong mama pave the way.
You’re meant for more.