I recently went away on a five-day trip to Colorado with my husband. Two days before we left, my seven-year-old began crying, begging for us not to leave. My initial reaction was to cancel the trip. I hated seeing her so upset, but honestly, I thought about cancelling long before my daughter ever started crying. I was feeling serious mom-guilt for going and doing something nice for myself.
Soon after I settled her down, I began thinking, why the mom-guilt? Why is mom-guilt so prominent in motherhood? What is it about being a mother that automatically puts our own pleasures and needs last?
I wondered if I was the only one riddled with guilt, so I spoke to my fellow mommy friends. I found I was not alone. The feeling of guilt was universal. Sure, they had no problem telling me to go on the trip or reassuring me that I deserve a break from the kiddos along with the chaos of raising them, but when it came time for them to do the same, my friends admitted they were conflicted with the same struggle.
I decided to see if my husband had the same problem. When asked if he had the same guilt, he admitted that he did not have the same intensity. He stated in the end, he knew it would all be okay. You know what? He was right. It would be okay. The kids were in good hands with their grandparents. We had the money to splurge on nice things. It was okay to take a break from being a mom and vital to not put myself last all the time. We’ve all heard the saying, “If mama ain’t happy then nobody is,” and that rings true. When I came back, I felt refreshed. I didn’t feel bogged down with the responsibilities of motherhood and life, and the kids were fine! They got to spend special one-on-one time with their grandparents which was beautiful, and just as important.
So, why the guilt?
We as mothers put tremendous pressure on ourselves and are by far our own harshest critic. We need to be kinder to ourselves. Listen to our needs. Change our way of thinking. We know that we take the best care of our kiddos and when it comes to doing something nice for ourselves or removing ourselves from the daily grind, it might feel as though it’s some sort of betrayal to our family. In reality, that just isn’t true. We are more than just mothers. We have needs and desires that should be fulfilled in order to become a happier, healthier person.
What can you do if you’re feeling the mom-guilt?
• Ignore it. Take the trip. Do something nice for yourself, even if it’s just once a month. Buy that item you really want. Start small if you need to. Take the time away from your family, because it’s going to be okay. Things may not run how it would if you were there, but that doesn’t mean everything will automatically fall apart.
• Rely on support, whether it be your significant other, friends, and/or family. You likely already do the same for them.
• Be your own advocate. Being put last all the time does not make you a better mom. It makes you a tired and frustrated one.
Maybe as time goes on and we as a family grow older, the mom-guilt will subside. In the meantime, I’m learning to overcome it as best as I can, one day at a time.