Posted in Lessons Learned, Mommyhood

My Mom Guilt and My Mom (Guilt) Trip

Last Updated on February 9, 2020 by World's Okayest Mom

I’ll admit it. I’m a chronic sufferer of Mom Guilt.

This is my problem. Not my child’s. Not my husband’s. All mine.

Mom Guilt

You know what I mean, right?

I would like to blame it on a sexist world. Men are expected to be out of the house, providing for their families while the women stay home doing housework and child rearing. So when the woman breaks free from her bonds and works outside of the home, the world imposes this terrible thing called Mom Guilt on her.

But that’s not fair. First, no one, especially The Husband, has ever tried to bind me or impose those traditions on me. Second, I’m not the first woman to ever work a regular, 40-hour week while still being a mother. My mom did it. Very successfully, I might add. And her mother did it. And her mother’s mother did it. Third, no one can make you internalize guilt besides yourself.

So this is all on me

Sometimes Mom Guilt makes me a better parent. It’s that small voice that tell me to spend the few extra minutes snuggling with My Girl as I tuck her into bed, even though I am more than ready for some quiet time and that glass of sweet red wine. (Tabor Hill demi red is the current de-stressor of choice.)

It’s the voice that forces me to “Let It Go” ala Elsa style when I’m mad as I’m dropping My Girl off at school because she tried walking out of the house without socks or brushed teeth, but a battery-operated, light-up headband. But Mom Guilt reminds me to start her school day with a hug instead of a sneer.

It’s that small voice that makes me second guess my preferred dinner of microwave popcorn and demi red (wine for me, not My Girl… I’m not that bad of a parent) and serve her something with vegetables at least. Hey, baby carrots and ranch dressing count.

But most of the time, Mom Guilt works against me

Mom Guilt makes me lose my patience. In my more desperate moments, I think: My Girl misbehaves because I’m not a good enough mom. With self-loathing like that, I’m quick to see faults in her, because it must reflect on me.

Mom Guilt makes me assume everyone sees the bad parent that I am. It’s like the heartbeat under the floor that tortures Edgar Allan Poe. If My Girl gets in trouble at school – who am I kidding? when My Girl gets in trouble at school – my first reaction is embarrassment. Now the teacher/bus driver/principal/cafeteria aid knows what a bad parent I am. (And yes, I’ve received complaints from that entire list of people.) They know I work 40+ hours a week and “neglect” my child. They know I lose my patience quickly. They know… Fill in the blank with whatever parenting shortfall I’m piling on the alter of my motherhood at that time.

Mom Guilt can make me defensive – especially with The Husband. I can easily turn any comment on my parenting into a criticism. I would venture to say 90 percent of the time that’s because I’m already criticizing myself.

Mom Guilt makes me suspicious of anything The Husband does to help around the house. I feel bad when he folds the laundry, vacuums the living room carpet, prepares dinner. Those are “my jobs” and I’m letting my family down.

The cure for Mom Guilt

So like any sufferer, I need to address it. I need to cure myself.

Just like any fear, what’s the best way to address it?

If you’re afraid of heights, you stand on the top of the Willis Tower in Chicago, with its glass floor and look down.

If you’re afraid of snakes, you walk slowly through the reptile house at Potawatomi Zoo and stare long and hard at its 12-foot long, bright yellow, Burmese python.

If you’re afraid of gas stoves, in your junior high years, you spend the afternoons with a girl who makes tacos for an after-school snack and lights the gas stove while spraying Pam Cooking oil into the burner. Wait… Maybe that’s why I’m afraid of gas stoves.

But if you are crippled by Mom Guilt, you do the most shameful, lowliest, most mom guilt worthiness thing you can think of.

You go with Monica to Florida for a kids free, sans husband, beach long weekend.

The Mom (Guilt) Trip

‘Good for You’ and other guilt trips

I know I put this Mom Guilt on myself and it’s only me who thinks this Mom Trip is a completely irresponsible thing for me to do. When I sheepishly told people at work where I was going to be for four days, many said emphatically: “Good for you!”

But I was suspicious of that sentiment. Were they just saying that because that’s the socially acceptable thing to do? Was it like when someone gets a terrible hair cut but you make up for your negative thoughts with an over the top – “I LOVE your new hair! It really brings out your eyes!”

Because, if I’m being completely honest, that’s usually me. I am straight up not a good enough friend (or acquaintance) to tell you the truth – that you look like a shaggy sheep dog just died on your scalp. Unless you’re Leslie Ann. And that’s only because I think she would beat me up later if she realized I let her walk around with decrepit Lassie on her head.

Some people said: “You deserve it!”

But that made me question the whole trip too. Do I deserve it? What, exactly, did I do to deserve it? Be a mom? Isn’t motherhood a reward in itself? (I ask this as I take 10 deep breaths to prevent screaming at My Girl as she tried to wrap our dog up like a birthday present.)

And if I deserve this, don’t all moms deserve this? But all moms aren’t going to Florida for a long weekend. I know for a fact that Leslie Ann and B. Swift deserve this.

Leslie Ann is the mother of a teenager. A teenage boy. A teenage boy that is possibly smarter than all of us. A teenage boy that is possibly smarter than all of us AND knows it. Yeah. She needs a vacation.

And B. Swift is the mother of three children under the age of 7. No. That’s not completely accurate. She’s the mother of one baby vampire (see here) and two petri dishes of contagious germs. She’s had a sick child in her house (at least one) every week since Thanksgiving. Pray for her.

But it wasn’t until the other day, telling a client about my Mom Trip, that I truly felt like I needed to stop apologizing to strangers for going. He stopped me from talking about the trip and said:

“Why are you saying this like you’re apologizing to me? My only question is why did it take you so long to do this?”

The Fear is Real

Taking this trip and facing my fear of Mom Guilt was not without trepidation. Just like when you’re staring that python in the eye, starting to sweat and wondering if that glass could really hold it back or does someone next to you have Harry Potter-esque powers that you should know about… Just like that, my Mom Trip had some concerns before it even began.

Mainly was the meltdown I had the night before the trip. I was stressed. I was worried. I was feeling guilt ridden. That’s the perfect cocktail for a Mom Meltdown. (And I can put My Girl to shame when it comes to full-out hissy fits. Just ask The Husband. Actually, don’t ask him. I’m afraid of what he might say.)

I was thinking/saying: I shouldn’t go. I’m needed at work. I’m needed at home. I’m needed for My Girl. All these things. But, like the voice of reason telling me that Potawatomi Zoo is only frequented by Muggles, The Husband calmed me.

I’m not saying The Husband is a saint. He has his moments, both good and bad. But I will say (mush alert! shield your eyes) that I wouldn’t trade him for anyone. And when I had this complete meltdown – we’re talking Chernobyl grade, nuclear meltdown – he was so supportive. He hugged me and said the right things. Things like: “You need this.” “I was mad at first, but now I understand why you’re going.” “I support you.” “I’ll be fine.” “We’ll be fine.”

And, spoiler alert, he was fine. And they were fine.

Girls during Mom Guilt Trip
Looks like our girls did just fine without us.
This taken during a dinner with just their daddies while Monica and I enjoyed the beach.

The consequences

But the trip didn’t magically make the feelings of Mom Guilt dissipate, though Florida sunshine, after the permacloud that is our weather in Indiana, does go a long way in making any stress start to lift. Unfortunately, it’s not a cure-all.

The second night was riddles with nightmares. The cause was, I’m sure, mainly due to the lingering Mom Guilt about the entire vacation. But it wasn’t helped by the movie watched that night. Knives Out (awesome movie, btw), two bottles of wine (no judgement – they were shared with at least one other person), and Mom Guilt are the perfect combination for bad dreams. Throughout the entire night, I dreamt that My Girl and I were being attacked by deadly, syringe-wielding doctors. Thanks again, Knives Out.

And since my Mom Guilt makes me paranoid, I’m convinced God or maybe Poseidon or just the Atlantic Ocean punished Monica and me. It was the one time during our trip that we complained about our girls. If you’ve kept up with this blog, you know My Girl has her issues, but for the most part, I really shouldn’t complain. Since I don’t live with Monica’s girls, I would say that she has even less reason to complain.

But complain we did. As we walked along the beach. Fully shoed and fully clothed. In the midst of our complaints, the ocean smote us. Though we had been successfully avoiding wave after wave, we were caught off guard and soaked with salty, sea water. We took the hint and ceased our bitching.

And as I wrap up, let me set two things straight

First, I’m not a martyr mother who has never received a moment to herself. Though this Mom Trip was certainly an outlying event, I have annual concerts with B. Swift, bi-weekly lunches with Leslie Ann, and weekly wine nights with Monica. So I’m not the suffering momma who has been deprived of anything. Let the record show.

Last, while I had the breakdown prior and the nightmare during, and, of course, the attempt on my life by the ocean, I was not debilitated by Mom Guilt the entire four days.

In fact, the quick trip to Florida was nothing short of glorious. Monica and I – those crazy party animals that we are – spent three full days on the beach: eating crackers and cheese, reading, napping, eating more crackers and cheese, reading more books and napping a little more. You get the idea.

Florida sunrise
It’s hard to feel guilty with a view like that.
Photo credit to Monica for capturing an amazing FL sunrise.

And guess what? Our husbands survived (and are still speaking to us). And our girls made it through (and are still speaking to us, but that could be because we bribed them with Ron Jon souvenirs).

Also, my Mom Guilt is in no way cured, but maybe it’s under control enough that Monica and I are already talking about our Florida getaway in 2021.

Share your own imperfections.