“When I hear you and you’re crying
It resonates, dear,
In a place I didn’t know was there”
– “When I’m With You” by JJ Heller
The term “Mom Guilt” is something that is frequently tossed around the internet and social circles these day. It’s usually defined as a feeling of guilt a mom encounters when she’s away from her child for whatever reason (usually because she’s doing something important like, you know, making an income or getting her workout in at the gym or catching up over coffee with an old friend). But for me personally, it’s a feeling that I experience at least twice a day, and most of the time, it has nothing to do with me leaving my child to go do something that I need to. It’s my every day life where I experience guilt, sometimes for even the most mundane things. Today, I’m compiling a list of things I feel guilty over. Welcome to my life…
Things I feel “mom guilt” about:
- The obvious – “Is my child okay without me?!” every time I leave her with my spouse or one of her grandparents so I can catch a break to go out for coffee or run to the grocery store.
- My child oversleeping / undersleeping
Prior to having a baby, I knew nothing about infant sleep and I wish my life stayed that way. Ignorance is bliss. I fret over the exact number of hours and minutes my baby is sleeping or losing.
- Sleep training
It was the hardest thing my husband and I have ever had to do since becoming new parents, but so necessary. We weren’t getting our sleep and it was taking a toll on all three of us. He didn’t understand my guilt, but my heart ached as I listened to her cry, and all I could do was long to “rescue” her, hold and cuddle with her, even though I knew she was completely safe in her crib. I also knew that the whole purpose of us sleep training her was so that she would learn how to fall asleep in her crib, but it was so hard for me. Two nights later, though, she gracefully went to sleep on her own. As we are reaping the benefits now – our baby sleeps all night through for about 11 hours straight each night, and goes down in her crib without any tears – we all agree that it was so worth it. It’s incredible. However, as I’m writing this, I’m listening to her cry because she is not “nap trained”, but I’m wanting her to get used to sleeping in her crib during the day. So, I’ve set my timer and I will check on her when it goes off, but hopefully she’ll fall asleep on her own before the timer goes. Even now, as I’m writing this out, I feel guilty over leaving her in her room (I have the baby monitor right beside me so I can see that she’s fine), but I feel terribly guilty.
- The gym scenario
The fact that I won’t make time to workout & leave my baby in the gym nursery because she doesn’t do well with new people/places these days
- Any time someone wants to hold my baby
She “plays strange” these days. She gets freaked out by new people, and lately she is not a fan of anyone who is not her mom or dad. And I feel bad for her when she freaks out, even though I know she is totally in good hands and I’m right beside her, but I feel a sense of needing to “rescue” her.
- Crying in the car
When I am driving and can’t hop back there and figure out what’s going on. It pains me to listen to her cry.
- Crying anywhere
I just feel bad for her and, again, have this sense that I need to “rescue” her.
- Play time
Is she getting enough stimulation from her toys? Are they age-appropriate toys? Should I be introducing new things to her?
I took a break from writing this post to go “rescue” my sweet baby from her crib. Nap time turned out to be a disaster yet again today and I felt terribly guilty listening to the sound of her cry echo down the staircase while I sat in the livingroom and tried to write. It’s like this slow ache and hurt comes over me whenever she cries; something’s not right, and I have a need to “rescue” her, even though she is healthy, well-fed, changed, and perfectly safe in her crib.
I ended up spending the last half hour or so holding my baby while she slept in my arms. I absolutely will miss moments like those once she is “nap trained” and will be able to nap in her crib. As I was holding her, I had an epiphany: my need to rescue really stems from my need to control. The urge to save my daughter from her crying comes over me as I feel guilty that she’s upset for whatever reason (not always sleep related… see the list above ;)) and I feel a need to fix it as quickly as possible.
So much of motherhood so far is realizing that I can’t control the things I’d like to. I cannot control what my baby does, how she behaves or who she is, because she is her own person. And as she grows, I will surrender more and more control.
My husband lost a sister to SIDS twenty-three years ago. That is something that haunts our family to this day. Throughout my pregnancy and our preparation for our new baby, we had conversations about fear over losing our beloved baby. But, it is something we have absolutely zero control over. I prayed, and still do, over my baby every night. I pray that she will be safe and that her heart will keep beating and that she’ll be able to breathe and grow and remain healthy because I am scared and I cannot control these things.
And so this twisty mess of control and fear has a lot to do with my mom guilt. I want my baby to flourish and grow up to be an incredible person. Deep down, I know that I am doing all that I can to ensure that she does; but, when I can’t control why she’s crying or can’t instantly fix the problem, I am overcome with mom guilt. Must be that “mama bear” instinct; so protective over our young us mamas can be.
The quote at the top of this post is from a song by JJ Heller. I often play JJ Heller’s lullaby cd in the car when I’m out and about with my baby (it’s called “I Dream of You” if you’re looking for a wonderful, soothing soundtrack). And when I heard that line, I could totally relate. Until about 7 months ago, I didn’t know that I had this capacity to love someone as much as I love my baby. Prior to giving birth, I didn’t know that I had a place within me where her cry hits so hard and resonates so deep – like a punch to the stomach, so raw and rough.
Going forward, I will continue to remind myself, and my baby, that she is safe and that I’m doing my best to meet her needs. When she’s crying, I often tell her, “I hear you,” as I’m trying to solve whatever the problem is.
I guess I just need to be more gentle and patient with myself going forward. I am a good mom and I take care of my baby the best way I can.
If you’re reading this and you too are new at this and can relate to feeling guilty in the mundane, I get you. Hopefully, you feel a little better knowing that what we’re experiencing is normal (I think?).
As I sign off from my living room floor, with my daughter happily playing beside me, I feel like I must be doing something right. She’s cutting her first tooth (a healthy sign for sure), and she’s content and smilie and it warms my heart.
Gotta go play, have a good day!