About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
Search This Blog
Books that shifted paradigms
Walking Barefoot on Facebook
Login
« A runner is one who runs | Main | I'd rather comment than care »
Monday
Mar242014

Mother guilt

Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night with a gremlin sitting on my chest.

He's a heavy little monster, crushing the breath right out of me.  He sits cross-legged and stares at my face until I awake, and when I do, he begins to whisper mean things like, think of all the times you got mad at your kids today

Or, you had so many chances to have quality time with your kids, but you didn't, did you? You found some other project to do instead of just sitting down and playing with them

Or, did you even smile once today? Did you even look your kids in the eye?  At some point, they are going to stop coming to you for what they need, and by the time you realize it, it will be too late.   

When I hear the gremlin's voice, instead of shoving him off my chest and choosing to remember all the good I did that day, I lie there as if paralyzed, letting each icky word sink in.  And in the dark of the night, nothing seems truer than his accusations.

His words confirm my deepest fears; more than anything, the fear that I'm gonna wake up one day and they will be grown and gone, and I will wish I could do it all differently.

 

Sometimes I lie awake until my husband's alarm goes off at 6:15 a.m., and then, without giving my man a chance to greet the morning, I roll over and say, "I am doing everything wrong. I can't do this job. I suck at it."

He's like, "what job are you talking about?"

"Mothering," I screech, with all the intensity of having already spent over an hour replaying the ways I fail my children.  "This job is for the birds. I just don't have what it takes.  Who signs up for a job where they feel perpetually inept? If I felt perpetually inept at something, I wouldn't apply for that job in the first place!" 

My patient, and still half-asleep, husband will say, "You are being too hard on yourself. You are a GOOD MOM."

Even if I continue to shake my head in despair, his words sink down deep and start to do battle with the gremlin-lies. And then the sun comes up, and everything regains some perspective.  I go about my job with renewed determination to give it my all; until the gremlin shows up again. Not always at night. Sometimes during the day; sometimes the moment my feet touch the ground for the day; always less convincing as long as it's daylight, but ruthlessly persistent regardless. And so it has been since I became a mother.

 

At church the other day, I overheard a father of four kids talking about one of his parenting strategies. Every couple of weeks, he and his wife will ask their children how they are doing as parents. They invite their kids to give them honest feedback on what's going well, and what's not so hot.

I decided to try it.

On the same day the gremlin spat his latest slew of accusations, I asked my seven year old son, "What could I be doing better as a mommy?"

I held my breath and waited for him to say something similar to the gremlin, something like, "I wish you would hang out with me more, Mom. I wish you weren't so stressed. I wish you would smile more. I wish you tried harder..." 

He thought for a minute, and said, "Trust yourself, Mommy. I think you just need to trust yourself."

Sometimes, when you hear something very wise, all you can do is nod.

 

I've just begun reading Brene Brown's Daring Greatly, and my son's words reminded me of this passage:

"Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.  It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It's going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn't change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging" (10).

For the mommies who are reading this, I know if you are anything like me, if you are anything like all the mommies I know, the gremlin accuser has visited you.  That sometimes the weight of mother guilt, of what you could be doing better, threatens to choke you.  That you lie awake at night and count your failures instead of sheep.

May I offer you (and myself) a piece of advice given to me by a wholehearted seven year old boy?

"Trust yourself, mommy. Just trust yourself."

You have what it takes to do this job. You are exactly who your child needs.   

Whatever lies the gremlin tries to tell you, whatever other moms say or what culture says or what you read last week in a magazine about what being a mom should look like or feel like; even what you might sometimes think or feel about the job you are doing; none of these things changes the TRUTH that you are enough.

Love,

Trin