My husband is away at a training school, and I am at home full-time with my son. As a stay-at-home mom, I can say that most days are fun, rewarding, and totally exhausting at the same time. My son is really good almost all of the time. So it’s a mystery why I cannot stop dreaming about having a “Lauren Day.”
This past weekend my husband came home for a 36-hour visit, and you know the first thing I wanted to do was leave the house to spend the whole day alone. By myself. I didn’t. Instead, I took a shower. I thought maybe if I stayed in the bathroom for a few hours, my son and husband wouldn’t notice? Seriously. I wanted to leave for the whole day. Somehow nine whole months have gone by and I have yet to take a day just for me. Not a few hours, a whole day. I didn’t leave. I never do. Mommy guilt.
In American culture, we allow our children to claim a mother’s attention twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Mommy guilt is one of those feelings that seem to creep up on us whenever we get the grand idea to take time for ourselves. For some moms, the guilt may come from what they feel society expects of them. For others, the guilt comes when they look at their children and believe that they should spend 100% of their time and energy on them. We should squash mommy guilt with a giant lead foot. We should lock mommy guilt up in a box and bury it in the back yard. Let’s start now.
1. A perfect mother doesn’t exist.
Someone from somewhere polluted our brains with the idea that we should achieve completeness and flawlessness as mothers. We set the bar so high, we are forever falling short of reaching our goals. I cannot imagine a pressure any more intense.
We wake up early, go to bed late, kiss all the boo-boos and wipe all the tears, and invest our best into our children. We carry on until our energy reaches zero. Every day we show up, parent, make dinner, and do our very best. Our very best is always good enough.
Let’s accept well enough as well enough and take the immense pressure off ourselves to be the ‘perfect’ mom. Let’s give up our indefinite pursuit to be the perfect mother who does everything right and allow ourselves the chance to actually enjoy the journey of motherhood and our sweet, sweet babies.
2. Redefining attitude.
Sometimes at the end of the day, we lay in bed getting ready to fall asleep, nitpicking ourselves to death over the things we did or didn’t do. It’s so illogical and exhausting. If that weren’t bad enough, we somehow think we are the only mother who fails to meet the standard. The truth is we are all beating ourselves up over absolutely nothing.
We should judge ourselves less harshly, eliminate perfectionism from our parenting, and uncompromisingly protect our free time to take a moment alone. This does not mean we love our children any less than others. And none of this means we care any less about our children’s future.
We should instead remind ourselves of all the amazing things we accomplished every day. We are our children’s constant. Over the course of the past nine months, I can say with one-hundred percent certainty that every single day my son inadvertently makes mistakes and falls down, and you know what? I was there to help him up every time. And so were you. We all were there helping our children in our own perfectly imperfect way.
3. Enjoy some guilt-free time every day.
Apparently French mothers, or so I’ve heard, assert no misgivings about enjoying regular adult activities absent of children and protecting things like quiet time or uninterrupted adult conversation. I whole-heartedly agree with this. For me guilt-free time comes in the form of independent playtime, naps and an early bedtime for my son. In the books, On Becoming Babywise and The Baby Whisperer Solves all Your Problems, teaching our children to play independently is strongly encouraged for an endless multitude of reasons (I’m currently working on that post!). Rest time is also strongly encouraged for older children, in which they need to lay in their bed and do a quiet activity or read a book.
In our house, independent playtime means my son plays by himself for 45 minutes every morning in a playpen with toys. He gets time to problem-solve, think critically, and explore the world independently, and I get time to prepare for the day and offer myself a little bit of sanity. The rest of the day, he gets my complete devotion and undivided attention.
When we take time to explore our own passions, needs and desires, we become more present and patient when we are with our children. We must willingly take the opportunity to spend a few coveted hours each day to ourselves and not feel guilty about it.
Mommy guilt is a ridiculously unproductive, manipulative, and toxic emotion. We can all rest assured that our very best is always enough. Adjusting our mindset reminds us that we are all permitted to take a little bit of time to ourselves, away from our children. We can use tools like independent playtime and rest time to take a few moments at home each day. Personally, I’m still working on gathering the courage to take a complete “Lauren Day.” I know it will happen eventually. Until then, I’ve got my lock box and shovel, ready to bury my mommy guilt somewhere in the backyard of coastal North Carolina.
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