A Mother’s Day Confession: I Feel Like a Bad Mom
Now that my first Mother’s Day ever is around the corner, it feels like an appropriate time to write a post that I’ve been thinking about for a while now—the Mommy Guilt post.
Mommy Guilt: I’ve got it. Bad.
In fact, I had it even before Lila gasped her first breath. My Mommy Guilt started during pregnancy—a common occurrence, I’m sure. I felt guilty from the very beginning—guilty that I wasn’t giving up coffee, guilty that I resented the pregnancy for taking away my wine, guilty that the artificial sweeteners I hadn’t completely cut from my diet meant that Lila was going to come out with a tail and three ears. And most of all, I felt guilty that I wasn’t excited enough about the (unplanned) pregnancy. I felt guilty for my anxiety, and for the fact that when I saw the two blue lines on my pregnancy test, my reaction wasn’t one of pure joy—in fact, I distinctly remember thinking, “Shit.”
My negative thoughts about the pregnancy ultimately did transform into excitement and happiness and gratitude, but it certainly took me a while to get there.
And now that I’m plunging into actual motherhood, the Mommy Guilt is back in full force. Turns out that what I thought was Mommy Guilt during pregnancy was only the tip of the iceberg.
When you’re a mother, there are things to feel guilty about during every second of every minute of every hour of every day.
My baby drinks formula, and I feel guilty about it. Instead of staring blissfully into Lila’s eyes during our feedings, I sometimes play Angry Birds on my phone, and I feel guilty about it. I feel guilty that I feel relieved when Lila goes down for a nap. I feel guilty that instead of reading baby and parenting books, I’m eagerly awaiting Lauren Conrad’s next tome (actually, I think my guilt about that one stems from being an English teacher, but regardless…). I choose to go to an exercise class instead of snuggling with Lila for an extra hour in the morning, and I feel guilty about it. I resent my new “mommy belly,” and I feel guilty about it.
And most of all, I worry that I don’t feel guilty enough about any of these things…and then I feel guilty about that.
I spend a lot of time reading blogs of new mothers, and I’ve noticed a startling (for me, anyway) trend—there seems to be a tendency for new moms to say things like…
I can’t imagine being away from my baby—the minute she goes down for a nap, I miss her.
Even on his worst days, I wish time would just slow down!
…and, perhaps most pervasively…
I can’t even remember life before our baby.
I read statements like this, and I just think…really? Like, REALLY?!
When Lila goes down for a nap, my first thought is almost always, “Thank fucking god.” I’m already looking forward to our first childless vacation. On Lila’s worst days, it’s a struggle for me not to call the hospital and ask about their return policy. And, finally, I definitely still remember life before Lila…and it was awesome.
We traveled every summer. We met up with friends for spontaneous beers on random Tuesday nights. We slept as late as we wanted, and stayed up late drinking wine and cooking elaborate dinners and just enjoying each other.
How could I forget all this? And, more importantly, why would I want to? The notion that, after childbirth, a mother forgets everything that came before is one that disturbs me. I love Lila, but I also love my husband, and I love myself, and I loved those days before we had a child. I’m incredibly grateful that we took the time to be with each other just as a couple before having Lila, and, if I’m totally honest, there are definitely days when I miss our pre-child identities.
One thing I’m learning about motherhood is that many, many women like to treat it as a competition. Who can breastfeed the longest? Who can raise the smartest kid? Whose kid is smiling/rolling over/crawling/walking/talking first? Who is the happiest mother?
Sometimes it seems like admitting that motherhood is difficult, or challenging, or uninspiring, is like admitting some sort of defeat—a defeat that makes you “lesser than” as a mom.
Why are we so reluctant to admit that raising a child is hard?
When you give birth, people send you all sorts of cards and messages and e-mails congratulating you on your big accomplishment, and assuring you that motherhood is simply the best. I was happy to receive the positivity in those messages, but I was much, much more grateful when one of Ryan’s cousins sent me this message, regarding the transition to parenthood:
It’s fucking impossible. Who ever thought bringing home a baby would be so ridiculous?
I read those words, and I thought, Thank you. It felt like such a relief to know that I wasn’t the only one who found all of the late night feedings and diaper changes and hours of crying difficult—in fact, fucking impossible. Just knowing that I wasn’t alone in my feelings made me feel a little less guilty about them.
When Mother’s Day rolls around this Sunday, I want to celebrate all of what it means to be a mother—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The failures and the successes. The pride and, yes, the guilt. If you’re a mother, I hope you will too.