When my mom friends were showering me with gifts and telling me how cute my *big* belly was (notice, I didn’t say little. There isn’t much that’s little about me when I’m pregnant), they forgot to tell me about the friend that comes around ever so often once that baby is out of your belly…and no, I don’t mean THAT little friend…I am talking about plain old guilt…mom guilt.
Sometimes, there’s not a choice you can make to avoid it…you can stay home with your kids until the day you sign them up for college…there she is, guilt – in the corner – eyeing you – whispering all the things she thinks you did wrong during those 18 years. You can slap on some heels and earrings and head out the door to take your little one(s) to daycare. As soon as you drop the kid(s) off – she shows up…waiting in the car for you. Then she will be over your shoulder all day long whispering silly thoughts in your ear about what you should have done or maybe what you should be, rather than a working mom.
Now, listen up — (I am specifically talking to myself here and anyone else who cares to hear) – guilt does not speak truth and conversely, truth should not produce guilt. Now, let’s take a little lesson from our parenting textbook here and remember that choices may produce consequences, but truth – the kind that’s in your core, lives in your soul, and helps you navigate life – that doesn’t produce guilt (provided your moral compass isn’t that of an ax murderer).
Not so long ago, I was half way to work when I realized that my oldest son (age 3) did not have on shoes. My little guy takes his shoes off as soon as I put them on. It’s like the one thing he has found in his life thus far to be the ultimate form of rebellion against his parents. So naturally, I begin asking: “Buddy, why did you take your shoes off? You know that we are barely going to get you into school in time for snack and water play. This will put us behind…” and I just kept going. Until he finally looked up from the iPad in his lap (go ahead, judge me…it’s a 45 minute drive to work most days) and said, “Well, well, well, Mommy…you forgot to put them on me…”
Immediately, out of the corner of my eye I could see her…almost visibly – guilt. How in the world did I forget to put shoes on him? What else could I have forgotten? Had I brushed his teeth? Then I counted: 1,2 – 2 kids, whew! Breakfast, yep. Blankets? Ok. Everything else was done. But shoes! How did I forget his shoes? What kind of mother takes her kid to school with no shoes?
I forcibly made myself hit pause in my own head…what is the truth here?? I’d just forgotten…in between pulling grapes out of my one year old’s diaper (how did they even get in there???) and helping my husband with his tie & collar (have I mentioned how smashingly adorable he is?), oh, and then there was that quick save I made when my three year old (the one without the shoes) almost flipped off the backside of the couch while dancing and singing *loudly* the theme song to Phineas and Ferb. In that one quick move I practically saved him from a broken arm. There is nothing that I am purposely doing to make my child suffer by sending him to school without shoes. It was an accident, simple as that and while I am preaching at him about accidents and grace and forgiveness for mistakes maybe I can listen up and shake that nasty friend, guilt, off of my shoulder.
Because here’s the thing…that guilt, she just wants to steal my joy. I fight fiercely minute by minute for my kids. I fight to get to their hearts, help them understand their actions. I fight to hear their motives, and help them understand that their choices may have consequences. The things I preach to them I pray they will capture as truth and love to use as they journey through this world. So why in the world would I allow guilt to strip me of my joy in parenting them?
Now I am aware of the battle I am fighting for myself…to yield the moment I see guilt trying to get in my corner. I check my motives, my heart and offer myself a little grace and tell her (guilt) she has no place here!
We just missed it in time for snack and water play…but it rained, and when I ran into the house to get the shoes, I stopped and grabbed a bag of skittles for the ride. Go ahead, judge me – guilt has no place here.
Do you struggle with guilt that tries to get in your corner? How do you remind yourself that she is not your friend?