Recently, I stumbled upon a post that a new mom wrote about how guilty she felt for having a planned C-Section with her first born child. Although she had had complications in her pregnancy that made her doctor feel that the C-Section was advisable, she felt that she could have “at least tried” to have a natural birth.
When I read this, my first response was a feeling of sadness for that mom, and my second was a little bit of outrage as I wondered to myself, Who the hell is convincing moms that there is only one “right” way to give birth to a child?! I started to think of this unfair expectation that moms put on themselves in the context of our children. Would we ever belittle the accomplishment of one of our kids if they hadn’t achieved it in the “typical” way? Would we ever tell them that there was only one “appropriate” or “acceptable” method to reach one of their goals and that, if they received any outside assistance in attaining that goal, it wouldn’t count and they should be ashamed of themselves?
So why do we do this to ourselves? Where does all of the pressure come from? I can’t pinpoint a moment or a person who has made me feel like I should feel bad about anything I’m doing as a mom, and yet, I feel it all the time. I started to think about all of the things that I, or other moms have probably felt guilty/bad/embarrassed about at one time or another, and devised this little quiz to help you determine what kind of guilty mom you are. Give yourself one point for each item on the list that you’ve felt guilty for, total them up, and read your result when you’re done. Good luck (you’re gonna need it)!
WHAT KIND OF GUILTY MOM ARE YOU?
I’ve felt guilty about…
[ ] gaining too much weight during pregnancy
[ ] not gaining enough weight during pregnancy
[ ] not purchasing the trendiest or most expensive baby gear
[ ] spending way too much on baby gear
[ ] having a C-section
[ ] accepting drugs to assist with labour pains
[ ] having a hospital birth
[ ] having a home birth
[ ] paying for a doula
[ ] not having a doula
[ ] getting an induction
[ ] getting a membrane sweep to encourage labour
[ ] not taking enough prenatal vitamins
[ ] not taking enough postnatal vitamins
[ ] lifting heavy things while pregnant
[ ] lifting heavy things after giving birth
[ ] taking too much time to recover after giving birth
[ ] not taking enough time to recover after giving birth
[ ] having to ask for help with day to day tasks after giving birth
[ ] going back to work after having a baby
[ ] enjoying being back at work after having a baby
[ ] not going back to work after having a baby
[ ] putting my baby in daycare
[ ] cancelling plans with friends because I was too tired
[ ] cancelling plans with friends because I hadn’t gotten dressed that day
[ ] cancelling plans with friends because I just didn’t feel like going
[ ] not making enough milk while breastfeeding
[ ] not being able to get my baby to latch to breastfeed
[ ] deciding not to breastfeed
[ ] hating pumping
[ ] my baby not gaining enough weight
[ ] my baby gaining too much weight
[ ] not spending enough time with my partner
[ ] not spending enough time with my baby
[ ] not spending enough time with my other children
[ ] not exercising enough
[ ] eating too much junk food
[ ] not making healthy enough meals for my family
[ ] not having a clean enough house
[ ] not leaving the house often enough
[ ] not getting dressed in the morning (or all day)
[ ] looking like a mess when my partner/spouse gets home from work
[ ] skipping pages while reading a bed time story so I can have some time to myself
[ ] just wanting to take a nap
[ ] just wanting to drink some wine
[ ] just wanting to have a minute, an hour, a day, or a weekend to myself
[ ] yelling at my toddler a little louder than necessary
[ ] being a grouch
[ ] not planning an elaborate enough birthday party for my child
[ ] hating mom and baby/toddler classes
[ ] not signing my children up for activities or sports
[ ] skipping activities or sports that I signed my child up for
[ ] watching my child destroy another child’s Lego tower and not intervening in time
[ ] using “Cry it Out” to sleep train my child
[ ] having a child who doesn’t sleep through the night
[ ] co-sleeping with my child
[ ] giving my child a soother
[ ] not giving my child a soother
[ ] having a hard time taking away my child’s soother
[ ] being bored while on maternity leave
[ ] checking my phone too many times during the day
[ ] letting my child watch too much television/Netflix
[ ] not letting my child watch television/Netflix
[ ] not brushing my child’s teeth regularly
[ ] disciplining my child during a public meltdown
[ ] not disciplining my child during a public meltdown
[ ] not being enough “fun”
[ ] counting down the hours until bedtime
[ ] looking at other “perfect” moms on Instagram and kind of hating them
[ ] something not on included on this list
If you scored 0 points…
You are a liar. Go back and take the quiz again.
If you scored between 1-70 points…
Congratulations! You are a mom.
BAD NEWS. Whether you scored 1 point or the full 70, you don’t win anything for beating yourself up for not being “enough” or doing things differently than (and consequently, maybe not as good as) the moms you see at school drop off or on your social media feeds. There are no awards for comparing yourself to other moms, dads, or families, and trying to be more like them. No one is keeping score (except you, while you were taking this quiz). You do things your way, because that’s what works for your family. There will always be fancier Pinterest meals you could have made and more whimsical nurseries you could have designed. Your house could always be a little cleaner, you could always spend more time with your old friends and try a littler harder to make new ones. Maybe your birth didn’t go the way you planned, but if you and your baby are healthy and happy, does it really matter? As long as you let yourself find something to feel guilty about, you will. But…
GOOD NEWS. You don’t have to feel this way! Although it’s totally normal that you do. You may have noticed that for many items on the list above, there was a reason to feel guilty for doing something, and a reason to feel guilty for not doing it. It’s a classic case of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. As Elsa (or was it Anna? I don’t know, I’ve never seen Frozen because it came out before I had kids, thank God) sang over and over and over again – Let It Go.
Mom guilt is some straight up bullshiz that almost everyone experiences at one time or another. I think that the real reason for it is because nobody really knows what the hell they’re doing, so we compare ourselves to others in the hopes that we’ve got things figured out just a little bit more than the mommy next door because that would make us feel a little better.
So, what can we do about it? Well, for starters, the next time you’re feeling stressed about any of the things you checked off on the list above, ask yourself – is anyone else feeling bad about this? Is it negatively affecting my partner? My kids? My friends? My coworkers? My acquaintances? If the answer to this question is an honest-to-goodness yes, then ask yourself how you can work on improving yourself in that area. (*Please note that the design on your child’s birthday cake really and truly will not do any damage to their current or latent psychological well-being.) But if it’s something that’s weighing on you because you just think other people are noticing (and judging) you, forget about it. Because the truth is, almost everyone is so busy trying to get their own crap together that they really haven’t noticed what you’re doing.
Second, stop worrying about what other people are doing and how they’re doing it. You have no idea how many shots that perfect Insta-mom had to take before she got a picture where she didn’t have a double chin, or her kid wasn’t crying, or her dog wasn’t taking a crap on the carpet in the background. Maybe that mom at soccer practice looks like a million bucks this morning but maybe she’s worn sweats and no makeup for the past two days and felt like this was a good excuse to get dressed up. Maybe your friend always has the best snacks at your playdates while you struggle to remember to put out a bag of leftover chips, but that’s just because she’s a damn culinary rockstar and you should probably give her a high five.
Instead of comparing ourselves to moms who seem to have it all together, why not cheer them on? Why not create a culture of celebrating each other for our victories in this mama game instead of tearing ourselves down when we feel we don’t measure up? Let’s stop assuming that the snapshots that we see of other moms is their whole story. Let’s remind ourselves that, as hard as it may be to believe, there are probably other moms out there wishing that they had it together as much as we do (lolzzzzzzz).
And finally? Let’s just be honest with each other. Nobody has everything figured out. Each day that we tuck our kiddos into bed alive, fed, and only semi-tantruming, we’ve done our job, and we’ve done it well. All the rest is just a bonus.