Saying “No” to Mom Guilt

Someone asked me the other day if I felt guilty for being a working mom. Maybe I once did in the past, but I don’t anymore. I am grateful to Michelle Obama for pointing out in her book, Becoming, that part of being a working mother is demonstrating for our daughters what they can become. I like setting that example for my daughters.

A lot of what motivates my actions as a parent is: “How will my children perceive this?” Or “What does this teach my children about how a woman/a mother should act/behave?” These questions make me braver any time I want to be cowardly. They make me try (as best I can) to be a better version of myself each day. Sure, I mess up. Sure, I make mistakes. Sure, I lose my temper over the 100,000th time the dishwasher was not loaded and the sink was full of dishes when it was time to cook dinner….But I always apologize and vow to try harder (or be better) next time.

Recently I read this New York Times article, “Neglecting Yourself Doesn’t Make You a Better Mother,” (partly because I am on a new kick of daily self-care) and this was one of my favorite lines: “If I’m not careful, [my child] might start to believe that mothers exist to serve others until they fall over β€” or that taking care of himself should be his last priority.” I regularly think about this, which is largely why my children have been making their own lunches since Kindergarten and/or taking on other tasks to be self-sufficient since a young age. I used to joke that it was because I was lazy. But this is not really the case. It’s because: (1) I always had that quote in mind; and (2) as a working parent, I just didn’t have the time!

Nowadays, I don’t feel guilt for working. But I do sometimes feel guilt at the end of the day when I’m just so tired and all I want to do is read. I encourage my kids to snuggle up next to me and read their books with me. Some days I muster the energy to read to them or “snalk” (snuggle & talk) with them in their beds. But there are just a lot of days when all I want to do is read MY book. And after reading that article, I told myself that that is okay!

Econ-Mom: Well, I definitely relate to the mom in that article who said: β€œThe problem with all these self-care expectations is that they are just one more thing to beat ourselves up about.” That’s how I often felt when my kids were younger. People would say to me, “Oh, you should take a night off.” I know they were trying to be helpful, but honestly putting the burden on me to justify my (lack of) self-care didn’t feel that helpful.

My reality was that my boys had a very hard time with new babysitters. On the rare occasions that we did a date night, I would feel so much anxiety that it barely felt worth it. (I realize I probably sound kind of dysfunctional here, but I’m just being honest. By the way, I did very much appreciate that the article talked about slowly building up one’s “resilience against the guilt.” That incremental approach sounds like something that would have worked better for an anxious parent like me.) Anyway, I do very much agree with Law-Mom that we should try to model healthy behaviors for our kids. As the boys get older I have focused more on encouraging them to be independent, and I do take more time for myself. And luckily, I finally have enough parental confidence that I can say this: my boys are probably not doing as many things independently as most 6 and 10 year old boys are, and I give zero *bleeps* about this.

Law-Mom: Yes, to all this, Econ-Mom. I feel you – especially the part about having so much anxiety, it doesn’t feel worth it. Sadly, this is how our family feels about going out to eat dinner (regardless of pandemics) because of food allergies. But that’s another blog post for another time. πŸ™‚

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