Letting Go of Mom Guilt
A few weeks ago I attended an all day event here in Nashville that was targeted towards growing businesses with dynamic speakers and was sure to have great content. Best of all Tony Robbins was going to speaking and there was absolutely no way I was going to miss him. The organizers didn’t put together an agenda which meant there was no way of knowing when a speaker was coming on stage. When the MC announced that Tony was coming on after lunch, I was relieved. I had to leave by 4 to pick up my son before his daycare closed.
After lunch a different speaker came on to talk about real estate. I was burning a hole in the broker’s head, urging him to hurry up. And then another speaker came on. I was bouncing my leg up and down as I was imagining my 3 year old sitting alone on the playground, craning his neck to see if my car was coming down the road. He would ask the daycare owner “where is my mommy? Is she coming?” And she would assure him that I would be there soon while she looked at her watch and he would say to her in a melancholy voice, “you’re my mommy now”.
By 3PM Tony came on stage, the room was vibrating, people were losing their minds. They were high-fiving, dancing and crying and he just walked on stage. I didn’t know what was going on but I knew it was going to be good and I figured if I stayed just a few minutes after 4 I would be able to hear at least most of his speech. “Hey everyone,” Tony Robbins started, “ the event had some issues and I started about 2 hours late, so if it’s okay with you guys I am going to speak until 7 tonight. That alright with everyone?!!”. The theater exploded with excitement.
Well, #&%$ !
I spent an hour writing down everything I could and I asked a friend to send me her notes from the rest of his speech. I busted out of the door, jumped into my car and of course…traffic. The GPS arrival time said 5:20PM.
I texted my daycare owner, “I’m so sorry. I’m running 20 minutes late. I’m happy to pay you a fee, or give you anything you need. So sorry. I feel like such a bad mom. So sorry! See you guys soon”. While she reassured me everything was fine I beat myself up the whole ride there. Mom guilt was strong with this one. And when I picked up my (has no concept of time) happy boy, everything really was fine. But still I couldn’t let go that I had let my son down in some way, so I bought him up a massive cookie to make up for my absence.
I often joke about how I was the perfect mother before I had kids. I used to say things like I would never let my kid eat bad food, or have a tablet at a dinner table. If he had a temper tantrum I would get on his level and lovingly correct him. Noelle before having kids was Mary Poppins. But I don’t want to be Mary Poppins and even if I did, even she got to fly away with her umbrella after she done working with the kids.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about that feeling. The “bad mom” feeling. And the more I think about that sense of guilt, shame and failure, I decided that I had enough. I am no longer giving myself the “bad mom” label every time I couldn’t do it all. In fact, I’m rejecting the expectation that I am supposed to make it all work on my own and with a smile on my face.
My mother, grandmothers, aunts, sister and cousins have all been working mothers. Their mothers were working mothers. When I think back on my childhood, I have memories of my mother getting her degrees, winning a Pulitzer and having an incredible day with her on Bring Your Daughter to Work Day but no real memories of saying “why isn’t mom here?”. If there was anything that she couldn’t do because of work and school, my father, aunt, grandparent or neighbor would. During the summer, after camp, I didn’t cry wondering why there wasn’t warmed baked cookies when I got home, I got some change together and rode my bike with my friends to grab a zeppole and came home when the street lights came on. When my mom did make cookies we never took it for granted and while my mother somehow found time to cook most nights, the rare days when neither hard working parent had the energy to cook, we would grab fast food and it was a delight! I never felt like I was missing out because I had a working mother, if anything I loved that she had such a cool job. Also, I always wanted to be a working mother. I love working and I love being a mom. There is no resentment about needing to work, it’s what I always wanted to do as I am proud to come from so many brilliant successful mothers that work fulfilling jobs.
I’m taking an action today to let go of society’s standard of the “how does she do it” woman who is June Clever, Peggy Olson and Jessica Rabbit at the same freaking time. Who even IS that woman? I can’t say that I will never feel bad about what I need to miss out on, but I can chose how long I let that feeling last. It doesn’t have to own me, and the bad mom label certainly doesn’t need to be a descriptor of who I am just because I had a rough day and couldn’t make everyone happy.
Fellow moms out there, enjoy your macaroni necklaces and breakfast in bed. But this year give yourself the gift of remembering you are a good mother and that mom guilt is crap.