When my friends tell me they feel guilty when they’re working or they worry they don’t “do enough” as a stay-at-home mom, I tell them I understand. But in truth, I do not feel “mom guilt” — even when I know I’ve chosen to do something solely for myself. This isn’t to say I don’t feel guilt as a mom when I lose my patience or say “no” to that fun but not-so-safe activity.
I’m talking about all the other things we’re “supposed” to feel guilty about and carry with us every day.
I don’t feel bad about straddling the lines of stay-at-home and work-from-home mom. I don’t feel guilty about going out with my friends or taking time to myself, because my motherhood and personhood are equal. Becoming a mother didn’t make me less of a human and it didn’t make me superhuman (in spite of the lip service we get in article after article). So, how have I avoided feeling mom guilt?
I show myself insane amounts of grace. I show myself more grace than friends and family members with set-in-stone ideas about who mothers are supposed to be. I show myself more grace than society and corporations show new and seasoned mothers. You would be surprised to see that even the most eccentric people and liberal workplaces have unrealistic and antiquated ideas about motherhood.
Sometimes those ideas can feel so close to us that we adopt them as our own, even if they don’t suit us. Other times, our beliefs about motherhood don’t fit our personality, temperament, or true belief system. There are some attributes we must grow into — like patience — but we should never find ourselves shrinking to be a parent.
They say the kids don’t come with a manual. Well… neither do the parents! And so grace is my manual, and this is my mantra:
“You don’t have to be perfect, because perfection isn’t real. Good is real, and you are already good. Keep being good, and you’ll be great.”
I believed I would be many things as a mother, and, mostly, I am two of those things: I am a mother who cares deeply for her children and desperately wants the best for them. I believe that starts with giving them the best of me. For me, this means not hiding the parts of myself that are ignorant or selfish or tired. Mothering is a humbling reminder that there are so many things I do not know. As a parent, I feel more deeply and I am more selfish with my time and my love. And I am certainly much more tired than I used to be — my kids should share in that with me, as they are the cause!
Should my children choose to become parents, they will know it’s OK for both parents to still be people. It’s OK not to have all the answers — it’s OK to learn things together. It’s also OK to figure it out on the fly and apologize when you get it wrong.
If no one’s told you already, I’ll tell you now: You have to do motherhood in a way that suits your family, even if it only suits your family. You need to set honest and reasonable expectations for yourself; that’s the only way parenting with your sanity intact works. You CAN just decide to believe that motherhood doesn’t cancel out personhood, and you don’t have to feel guilty for making decisions that honor all the parts of you.