I don't do Mommy Guilt. I've always thought it was a silly term. Guilt in general - I'm a pretty big believer that nobody can make you feel guilty but your own self. Well, and maybe God. Although in the grand scheme of things I doubt it's all that big of a deal if you didn't hand puree organic baby food for your little sprout. I don't think He has much of an opinion on breast vs. bottle, attachment parenting vs. daycare, or co-sleeping vs. crying it out. So really, it is just yourself. And those Huffington Post articles that are just published to start vile, sleep-deprived wars in the comment section.
There are occasions when I think "Well, I could be doing this better/differently/healthier/stop-taking-shortcuts," but 99.9% of the time, I'm very comfortable with the parenting choices I make. Even those involving Chick-Fil-A eaten in the carseat because it's right next to Starbucks, which has an insanely long line at all hours of the day and I just need some peace and quiet and zoning out to the radio without somebody crying about chicken nuggets while I wait for a dose of caffeine.
Well, today I got some of it. Not from a blog or another mom I admire, but from myself.
We've had a very hectic three weeks. All of the Christmas craziness, traveling out of town, having guests for a week. In the middle of it all, I had one emergency root canal which didn't fully heal the infected nerve (so almost a second procedure), strep throat (which left me completely out could not get out of bed for three or four days), and a problem with my hip making it painful to get around (requiring weekly doctor, physical therapy and cortisone injections). Seriously - am I just falling apart? Needless to say, our little routine has been off and Georgia and I haven't spent as much time together as we usually do.
By this morning we were both ready to get back into the swing of things, I could tell. The holiday decorations are packed away, we have a spot for all the new toys, our guests have gone home, and all of the unhealthy snacks are in the garbage. But one of my good friends is about to have a baby any day and we didn't get to celebrate her birthday since I was sick. I was looking forward to treating her to a pedicure and lunch.
Georgia was really excited about going to play with her friends Cooper and Chompers (her nickname for little brother) for a couple of hours while the mommies caught up. But on the way home she suddenly said in a very little voice, "Mommy I miss you. I wish you didn't have to go with Mrs. Lore. I wish you could have played with us." And oh how my heart broke.
Now I know that this child is not deprived of me or of any playtime or attention. In fact, she is pretty spoiled in those areas of life. But of course her comment got my mind racing and I realized how little time I've spent with her over the holiday crazy weeks. It's usually just us and I love it that way. We cook breakfast together, cuddle to watch a little TV together, she even gets out her little makeup kit and gets ready with me. Yet I felt horribly guilty for leaving her for three hours where she spent the entire time playing with one of her best friends. What in the world is wrong with me?
I'm a mommy, that's what.
As much as I've rolled my eyes about Mommy Guilt, now I get it. It's that feeling that giving it your all still isn't enough when you need a break or need to think about someone or something outside your household. That feeling that somehow one of your teeny little faults or missteps is going to have your teenager sneaking out the window and burning down the school. That your preschooler might grow up to be another Charles Manson because you needed to park him in front of the TV to call and get a medical bill straightened out.
The fact that you have that Mommy Guilt - it's a good thing. Those parents that don't ever question whether their choices are right and worry, even after praying and fretting, that they're making the wrong one? Well, hopefully they're not, but that's probably who is raising our next Mr. Manson.
So my advice - and this advice is as much for myself as it is for anyone reading: keep questioning yourself along the way if you must, but have complete confidence in your choices; and don't let anyone (especially yourself!) make you feel that you are anything less than an amazing mother.
And on those chicken nugget days, just smile your way through the Starbucks line because all she's going to remember when she's older are those fun times when you let her have the greasy "crunchy" nuggets in the car.