“Guilt: The gift that keeps on giving.” — Erma Bombeck
I always joke that if you’re not feeling guilty about something, you aren’t a mom. We feel guilt about everything. I know that I felt horribly guilty going to work after the kids started school. Even though I only worked part time, I felt like I was missing out and disappointing them somehow. Never mind that they were busy and hadn’t even given me a thought. I tortured myself with what a bad mother I was.
Then it was guilt over not having enough energy. Pretending to be normal and trying to stay on top of everything was hard enough, but I wanted to be Supermom. I, of course, overdid everything out of guilt and exhausted myself constantly, which, in turn, caused more guilt. It’s a vicious cycle. And I was quickly burning out.
Luckily, I come from a very tightly knit family. We’re one of those large groups with dozens upon dozens of cousins and most of us live near enough each other that we can give each other a hand. I took my family up on it. My kids were some of the first kids from my generation so they kind of broke everyone in and the kids had a lot of fun. When my kids got older, they became babysitters and kid wranglers too. It takes a village.
But still…guilt. Was I doing enough? I couldn’t help but compare myself to other parents and find myself completely lacking. I’m a very harsh critic when it comes to myself. And one day I finally decided that needed to stop. I realized that if I had a friend who treated me the way I treated myself, I would hate her and get as far away from her as I could. She was toxic! So why would I allow that for myself?
I needed to start treating myself like a dear friend and that’s what I started doing. The guilt eased. Yes, I can’t do as much with my kids as other parents, but they get amazing experiences with other members of my family. They are making some great memories. Also, due to my chronic illness, they have become really compassionate young people. I was constantly stopped by their teachers and told how kind and accepting they were of everyone. Would they have been as open and loving had I not been sick? Maybe. But I definitely think seeing it all their lives affected them deeply and that moved me more than anything I could have heard from a teacher. It made me realize that maybe I wasn’t such a bad mom after all. I mean, I had two really great kids and that doesn’t just happen on its own, does it?