Yesterday I was consumed with preparing food and cleaning for upcoming company, and Gray was having a bad teething day. Tricky combination. Although I read him several books and engaged in a few rambunctious tickle fests, I just couldn’t satiate his mommy need for the day.
As a result, Gray rotated between dragging on my leg as I vacuumed and watching more “Wheels on the Bus” videos than I would have preferred, and Rain spent an unprecedented amount of time in her bouncer. Ensue major mommy guilt.
Why do we do this to ourselves? The guilt, I mean. On days when I really take time to play with the kids, I feel guilty that household chores are left undone. On days when I focus on keeping the house clean, bills paid, phone calls returned, and homemade food on the table, I feel like I’m ignoring my kids. And on the few-and-far-between days when I’m a Mama Rockstar and manage to keep on top of all the feeding, diapering, cooking, and cleaning, I realize it’s 1:00 p.m. and I’ve severely ignored myself. (Translation: unbrushed hair, unbrushed teeth, forgot to even drink water today.)
So what’s the answer? How do we free ourselves from the nagging guilty feeling that seems to plague us no matter how hard we’re trying? I have such a long ways to go in figuring out the answer, but here are some thoughts that have helped me:
Accept the feeling, then let it go.
Moms are so many things to so many people. It’s impossible to do it all, but as caregivers and nurturers, we still want to. Realize that the guilty feeling doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom, it just means you care and are motivated to do your job well. Accept guilt as a normal feeling, then do yourself a favor and let it go.
What are the three most important things you want to accomplish today? (Yes, taking the kids to the park counts as an accomplishment!) Focus on your big three, and forget about the rest. At the end of the day, instead of bemoaning all the things you didn’t get done, focus on what you did accomplish.
Life with toddlers (and bigger kids too) is really, really messy. At some point you have to choose between cleanliness and your sanity. Right now I am ignoring the filthy kitchen floor because we will be eating soon and all of my vacuuming efforts would be immediately undone anyway.
Call a friend.
We all need someone who sees our worth and validates our efforts. If this is not your spouse’s strong point, find a friend who reminds you what a good job you’re doing.
Go with the flow.
Life has rhythms; embrace them. So today you kind of ignored the kids in your mad cooking and cleaning frenzy. In a couple days the pendulum will swing and you’ll spend the morning crafting the perfect box fort while your house nearly self-destructs from the disaster.
These are just a few ideas that have helped lessen the guilt for me lately. What works for you?