This summer, after being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, I started working. It’s part-time, and at home, but I’m keeping regular hours and getting shit done. It feels amazing and freeing. In fact, I’ve been shocked by how good it feels to concentrate on something other than my kids for a few hours each day, to accomplish stuff, and to make money.
And yet, I’m constantly feeling guilty. Am I really a good mom? Am I spending enough time with my kids? Will the whole summer pass without us doing enough fun stuff together? Do my kids think I’m abandoning them?
What the hell is wrong with me? Why do I spend so much time thinking I’m a shitty mom?
Here’s a snippet of my annoying, insipid inner dialogue:
“Shut up! The kids are fine, you are fine, and you’re spending half the day with them anyway. Also? You felt totally guilty when you were a full-time SAHM. You thought you weren’t doing enough with your graduate degree. You felt weird about not contributing enough to your family’s income. But wait…maybe you were supposed to set aside your aspirations for a while and just do the mom thing. Maybe your kids really still do need you around that much. Maybe…”
I could go on and on. My critique about myself as a mom literally goes on forever. And the thing is, I know I’m not alone.
Why are we moms so hard on ourselves all the time?
Most of us grew entire mini-humans inside our bodies, then pushed them out of our vaginas — or had them surgically removed from our bodies. And even if our bodies weren’t directly involved in the process of creating our kids, all moms work their asses off for their kids on a daily basis.
We prepare a million meals a day for our kids. We wipe counters, butts, and tears. We lift our kids in and out of beds, cribs, car seats, and off the floor of the grocery store after an epic meltdown.
We moms are the ones who remember when each kid ate last, whether their food contained enough protein, how much they ate, and when they’ll get hungry again.
We know who pooped when — and if they are little enough, we have a mental image of their last bowel movement, what it might say about how their little tummies are doing, and when to expect the next poop (you know, so we can be prepared for a change of clothes if we’re expecting a baby poop explosion).
We know if our kids are feeling hurt. We’ll feel it before anyone else does — as soon as they walk in the door from school. Or, if they’re three rooms away, we’ll hear it the minute the first tears start well up in their throats.
Some of us moms possess weird ESP-type powers. When the phone rings at 9 a.m., we know before we even answer that it’s going to be the school nurse calling to tell us that our kid threw up.
All these little details swimming around in our brains — details no other human should have to hold, often involving bodily excrement — we hold them.
Even when we aren’t with our kids, we are tethered to them, thinking about them, worrying about them, always wishing we could be in more than one place at once, and always hoping against hope that our kids are happy and safe.
And yet, we are constantly beating ourselves up and questioning whether we are doing a good enough job — often being certain that we simply aren’t.
Jesus fucking Christ. Let’s give ourselves a break, okay? We need a giant pat on the back and a big smooch for being there every day and doing our freaking best.
Where did all this negative self-talk come from? Is it because of social media and the constant comparison game that goes on between moms? Or is it an idea that has been branded in our brains since we were little girls — that no matter what we do, we will never be good enough, nurturing enough, or successful enough?
I don’t know, but I’m done with it.
Here’s the deal, moms: You are doing great. You’re doing better than you think you are. Just the act of questioning whether you’re a good mom proves that you are. You’re trying. You’re showing up. And your kids feel that. They feel the effort, the love. They know you’re there for them even when they’re away at school, or when you’re at work in the other room or 1,000 miles away.
You need to remember that you’re a kick-ass mom, and you always will be. You need to own it more too. Ditch the voices in your head who tell you otherwise. Same goes for the people online or in real life who send you the message that you’re failing at motherhood in some way — say, “No, thank you, I don’t need that bullshit,” and move the fuck on.
Practice positive self-talk, no matter how corny it might sound. Do it for you, but also for your kids. They need to know that moms really are as powerful as we are. They need the model of a confident mom — someone who knows her worth as a mother, and as a woman.
I know it’s not easy, and there are definitely times when we just need to wallow in self-doubt and worry about it all. There are times we’re just going to succumb to the pressure and question our ability to mother amid all the insurmountable stresses of life.
But then we pick ourselves up — we all do eventually — because we’re mothers, and we love our kids so damn much it hurts. It’s that love that pushes us through. That’s our fire, our drive. It’s what makes us successful as moms, even when it seems like we’re failing.
So let’s get on with it, moms. I’ll pinky promise to tell all the irritating, grating, negative voices in my head to shut the fuck up if you do it too. Deal?