Mommy Guilt

It’s my habit to go to the gym twice a week and lift weights while my 2-year-old plays in the childcare center.  Every time we go, we pass the swimming pool.  And every time we walk past the pool, my daughter says excitedly, "Wah-wer!"

"Yes, that’s the water," I always respond, as I hurry her into the childcare area. 

And every time I walk by and look into the pool area and see moms and their babies playing in the "wah-wer", I feel a little twinge of the Mommy Guilt .  And I think to myself, if I were a really good mom, I would bring our bathing suits and take her swimming when I’m done working out.

But I never do.

The other day when we were leaving the gym, we walked out behind another mother-and-child pair.  And I overheard the mom say to her child, "Let’s go swimming and then we’ll get something to eat."

And I felt not a twinge of the Mommy Guilt but a BIG HUGE STAB of the Mommy Guilt.  See now, there’s a mom who is truly committed to her child.  Unlike myself, a mom who would sooner spend an hour at the grocery store than to put on a suit and go swimming with my daughter.

Who am I kidding, I would rather spend an hour in the dental office than to put on a suit and go swimming.

Why don’t I put my selfishness aside and do something for my daughter every once in a while?  Am I so devoted to my own comfort and convenience that I can’t even make the time and effort to do something fun that she might like to do?

Instead I take her to Target and buy her a "mil-lilk-shake" (a Vanilla Milk from Starbucks) to compensate for the Mommy Guilt.

This is just a small example of the myriad of things I feel guilty about when it comes to my kids.  Let’s not even talk about the times I say "Just a minute" when my kids ask me to do something for them and then get absorbed in whatever I’m doing and forget all about their request.  Or all the times I get impatient and lose my temper when my kids don’t do what I ask quickly enough, or when they make innocent messes. 

We all have the Mommy Guilt.  I know that.  And some of it is purely unavoidable.  Sometimes I know I’m doing my best and I just have to ignore the Mommy Guilt. 

But sometimes I know I’m NOT doing my best.  Maybe the Mommy Guilt is my conscience trying to spur me into action.

At what point do we stop saying, "I’m doing my best" and start saying, "I need to do better."

Please don’t tell me I’m doing a great job and I’m a great mom.  I’m not fishing for compliments.  We all love our kids and want what’s best for them.  But I know there are plenty of times when I’m not giving my kids’ needs their rightful priority.  Or when I allow my impatience and frustration to get the best of me.  I know I can do better.

What things cause you to have the Mommy Guilt?  What are the areas you would like to improve?  And what are you going to DO about it?

I’m planning to go to the gym on Friday, and I’m going to put two bathing suits and a swim diaper in my gym bag.  And maybe, just MAYBE I’ll get motivated enough to actually use them after I work out.

Of course I’ll probably go to Target and get a "mil-lilk shake" and call it a day. 

But I’m hoping for the former.

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30 Responses

  1. Girlymama – I never “play” with my kids. I will play board games on occasion (usually with my son, who is old enough to play games I actually like — almost never with my daughter who wants to play Candy Land, which is the one game that makes me want to poke out my right eye with a spoon) and I will read (not often enough) but I never sit down and play dolls or anything like that. UGH. Add that to my list of things to feel guilty about.

    Heather – I can relate to having “easy” babies that don’t demand your attention. Makes it easy to “just do one more thing” does it??

    Georgia Mom – I can see how homeschooling would cause many instances of that insecurity and feeling of “I should be doing more” – I bet that’s a constant battle. But from my perspective, I say you deserve that 30 minutes and much more!!!

  2. The Mommy guilt can be overwhelming at times. It’s funny, that I homeschool my kids and I still often feel selfish and that I don’t spend enough time with them. What’s up with that! I feel bad that a lot of days, I fix my kids lunch and turn on a half hour show and I got eat my lunch in bedroom, while I watch what I want on TV. It’s my down time. But, I feel guilty that I don’t sit with my kids a lot of days. But, that’s often the only 30 min. I get to myself.

    I could go on and on. I know this “Mommy Guilt” so well. It’s a closer friend that I’d like to admit. Good discussion.

    Georgia Mom

    PS. I still think you’re a good Mom :o)

  3. After two babies that would be euphemistically referred to as “higher needs,” I have a dream of a baby. She’s breastfed but sleeps through the night. She plays on a blanket on the floor, cooing and looking at her hands. She smiles, laughs, and is a perfect doll.

    Guilt? Oh boy. I must not be holding her enough, what if she has learned to be self-sufficient because I’m not nurturing her enough? What if I taught her that I wouldn’t come when she cries because the other two were having meltdowns and she had to cry in her swing and on and on and on.

    That voice needs to jump in the lake. I know there are times when I could do more, probably even much more. So far though it has been a voice of condemnation. I’m doing my best to ignore it, if it ever decides to offer up some encouragement, I might listen. Then again I freely admit to being pretty neurotic.

  4. I need to play with my kids more. I’m always saying “Just wait until Mommy is finished with this or that” and then I never get around to actually playing with them.
    The fact that they get SOO excited when I do tells me I don’t do it nearly often enough.

  5. oh man… I see my self in similar positions… not necessarily with swimming, but with other simple things that she would love to do and I just don’t. I can’t understand it most of the time and my inner me will sit there and ream myself for not doing it… I hate it… Or simple things like all of the shows she has on the Tivo (and not bad things. Things like Strawberry Shortcake or Adventures in Oddysey.) and I let them rack up because she is being a disrespectful girl and i don’t “feel” like rewarding her. Then she is sick, or sweet and miraculously sleeping and I chew myself out for not showing more grace…

  6. I am the queen of mommy guilt. I often tell my husband I need counseling. I feel guilty for EVERYTHING. I feel guilty for spending time schooling the boys while my 4 yr. old plays alone in her room for hours–and then I usually get angry at the huge mess that is the result. I feel guilty if I play with the 4 yr. old because then I have neglected school. I feel guilty if I ignore the cleaning and play with the kids because the house is disgusting but if I clean, I feel guilty for not spending time with the kids. I feel guilty for not getting in the proper servings of fruits and veggies and for giving my kids dessert after almost every meal. I (like Georgia mom) feel guilty for wanting to eat by myself and not wanting to watch with my kids. It is ridiculous but it is a mommy thing!

  7. I have been involved in ministry a lot since having my kids. I feel so much guilt for the time it takes away from them and THEN I feel guilty because I think I should not be feeling guilty about serving God through ministry. THEN, I ask myself if guilt is really an emotion that God wants me to feel. I think yes, if I am convicted to change an action. But, no if it guilt turned into condemnation. That just becomes a vicious cycle. I think if you just continue to feel that pang of guilt over and over about something then, yes, this could be a prompting for some change. Take a look at what you do overall as a mom, though.
    Being a mom is hard work! When you are home all day with them, it can be mentally exhausting. I am not trying to feed you compliments, but to say give yourself a break. I don’t know you personally but can guess that you are an excellent mother!
    BTW, I hate swimming indoors during the Winter. I avoid it all costs and have the very same problem with my children at our gym. I have done it twice this year and it was ONLY to make them happy. It does seem to appease them for awhile, though.

  8. I was telling Al about my Mommy guilt AND my Wife guilt (because oh, yes, I have that too!) a few weeks ago and he seemed genuinely surprised to hear about it. I think he thought this guilt is an unusual condition and that I might be a rare case to feel that way. Inside, I just sorta laughed, because I know I’m totally not alone. I guess he must not have “Daddy guilt” though. I wonder if many Daddies do? I agree with your assessment that the guilt serves as a nudge – a constant, pressurey nudge – to give and do our best.

    Shave those legs and suit up, girl. You might just enjoy a little water time with that precious precious little one of yours. And I KNOW you’ll enjoy and remember her beaming smile, which will be such a salve for that guilt that maybe it’ll even fade for a minute or two?

  9. This is a constant struggle for me. Which you probably know from reading my blog. Actually surrendering to my call to be a mom is a very difficult thing for me. I could write thousands of words about my guilt. I think you are taking the right approach–maybe doing one thing that you usually would not do and going from there. I know that the times I actually sit and play Memory or read a stack of books the kids are so happy to have my attention that I eventually forget what it was that was so important that I couldn’t be bothered to play. I need to do it more often.

    Also, I keep feeling like I’m supposed to be homeschooling my kids, but I am totally ignoring that.

  10. We play the “just a minute” and the “maybe another day” game all the time. I hate doing it, but sometimes I have to. When you work 40 hours a week and then throw in 2 hours of commute time each day, time in the evening is very limited. That translates to doing all chores on Saturdays and Sundays leaving almost no time for fun stuff. The kids hate it, but I’ve tried explaining that if mommy doesn’t work, we won’t be able to afford a house and food. I feel horrible when they have problems in school. I feel like it’s my fault because I’m not home. Mommy guilt sucks big time.

  11. We just might be related! I felt like I was reading my own conversation that pricked my heart. Well, it pricks my heart, but I don’t always try to do better. I don’t “play” a lot with my daughter like I should–games, dolls, Little People. When I do, she kinda acts surprised–how’s that for guilt? I also struggle with “Just a Minute-itus”. I realize I have a deep selfishness that is very stubborn–must improve. So…you’ve made me more aware and I WILL try to do better. Great thoughts and discussion.

  12. Yes, I experience “mommy guilt” too – for so many things, but especially for too many “just a minutes” and “mama just needs to finish this one e-mail/blog post/work project.” Finding balance is so difficult.

  13. I tell my children “we only do that when Daddy is here.” It can be anything from eating Cheetos (too messy) to building a fort with the couch cushions (too much effort). I’m using the “I’m too pregnant” excuse right now. But, I know eventually I’ll have to buck and and be the fun one occasionally.

  14. OMG that could so be my post.
    We last went swimming in about January, it ended with me walking through the water in my jeans to get my 18 month out and telling my partner who was going hypo to get out and eat something.
    Maybe I got traumatised, but I manage to find a reason not to go everytime my 4 yr old asks.
    One day I will brave it, I think.
    As for everything else, you are not alone, even here down under we have the very same guilt at the every same times, so smile in the fact you are not alone. Kathryn

  15. I am trying to get over my Mommy Guilt as well. But, I know there is only so much time in the day and it can’t always be about the kids and what they want to do. I also have things I want and need to do.

    Good luck with the pool if that’s where you end up but I think Target is a better choice!

  16. I’ve had a post stewing in my mind for a few days, and you inspired me to get it out. My guilt is sometimes twisted the other way. I feel like I am slacking off if I take time to just be still with my kids. It’s time for a new perspective and to listen to my heart.

  17. I have been thinking of the same things. My kids are a bit older (ages 6-19) and I am able to do some of those things that I have put aside for many years. This is a good thing. I do find, however, that I have stepped a bit too far in that direction and I need to re-evaluate what I am going with my time. My kids aren’t feeling like they are my priority and that means that things are messed up a bit.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do think it is a good thing for mothers to be themselves and learn and grow and experience life. But I also know that kids grow up too fast to waste too much of my time doing frivolous things just to make myself happy.

    Great post!

  18. Some days the guilt-0-meter needs to be decreased by swimming, other days by a milk shake. Whatever works to get the level down is what is “best” for you and your family.

    When Aviva and I got the study back from our book, and Yelling was identified as the Numero Uno inducer of mommy guilt, we were surprised since housekeeping and time aren’t always things within a mom’s control. The level of our voice should be something easier to control, but often it isn’t. Particularly if one grows up in a house of yellers, It’s a hard habit to break. The key is to identify the guilt and think of it more like tuning in a radio station, sometimes it’s really clear, other times static, but in most cases you control that dial.
    Hope you enjoyed the milkshake and/or the pool to the fullest!

  19. This is such a good post. We all feel it. As you know I have a child that is just about to turn 1. And this whole year I have felt guilt. I think I work too much. I’m addicted to Reality TV. I love the damn internet. I still like to have cocktails with girlfriends. But, you know what? I love him to pieces. I would jump in front of a train for him and I think a milkshake and a big hug is HUGE to our little munchkins. We have to do for ourselves so we’re happy beings and if some time to work out makes you happy and productive it in turn makes your kids happy and productive. Keep doing your best, love. That’s all we can do.

  20. I don’t play with my kids enough- like really play, I don’t read to my kids enough and I don’t feed them enough healthy food. I just get lazy and tired and do what’s easy. I think that most of the time I’m doing okay, but after this post I’m not so sure :). I guess I need to log off now and spend some time with my precious kids.

  21. It makes me feel much better that this seems to be a common thing with moms. It helps me know maybe I am in the “norm” and maybe I’m not a horrible mom after all! But it doesn’t make the guilt go away! My daughter (almost 3) LOVES to play outside. She would stay out ALL DAY if she could. I am an inside kind of gal – I don’t like to be outside for terribly long lengths of time. And she wants to go out every day. I always seem to find an excuse – it’s too cold, or too hot, or something. Then I feel so bad! So I’m trying to make myself take her out more often.

    And then there’s the guilt that I’m so much more relaxed with her than I was with our son (who’s 10.5 yrs older) and I stop what I’m doing to play with her more than I did with him. Only because I realized how fast he grew and I felt like I missed so much with him (even though I was always home with him.) So there’s that guilt too – that she is having more fun than he did. And she does get more attention, because she demands it – he never did. Yep, guilt all the way around!

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