by Kristina Mulligan
mom•guilt /mahm-gilt/ (noun): the unhappy feelings caused by thinking or feeling like you did something wrong, like missing your child blink, not having time to make teacher gifts, or forgetting that they don’t like scrambled eggs this week.
I’ll never forget the first time that I felt the unwavering, knock-the-air-out-of-my-lungs, stinging pain of mom guilt.
Before having Flynn, I had planned on breastfeeding. After he was born, though, he was unable to eat on his own, so I was pumping what I could to swab his mouth or store away for later. It was a very difficult process for me, especially given all my body had been through. Who knows what my experience would have been like if he had been born full-term? Maybe I would have had the same issues, but all I know is that my milk hadn’t fully come in at 6 months pregnant. Along with my doctors, I made the decision to stop pumping all together when Flynn was just a couple weeks old. I felt guilty all on my own, as a mother not being able to provide the “best” for her baby, but I also had several friends at the time comment about how I had simply given up.
“You’re not trying hard enough. Breastfeeding is the most important thing you could do as a mother.”
Especially without the support surrounding me that I really needed, I had a really hard time. Eventually, I was able to be the encouragement that I needed and was able to lift myself out of such a dark place. Mom guilt is no joke and extra support is so important.
Mom guilt is the worst kind of guilt because a mother’s love for her child is the fiercest kind of love. This is the case for all mothers. There is a special, unbreakable bond between a mom and her sweet baby. As a mother, we know our child the best – every quirk, behavior, word, and thought – especially when they are little. When there is something that we feel disappoints our children, negatively impacts their lives, or makes that little lip quiver, it’s like a shot right to the heart.
Why did I feel so guilty about not being able to breastfeed my son? Because I was constantly told that “breast is best” and I wanted my baby to have the best. Anything less was unacceptable, and it frankly broke me to let him down, especially within his first days. That’s a mother’s love.
I don’t know if there is a remedy to prevent mom guilt. I think as long as the love is there, the pangs of guilt will still arise every now and then. They’ll happen when you are at a meeting and your child does something new without you. They’ll happen when you snap after being asked the same thing over and over, or after hearing “mom” four million times before noon. They’ll happen when you have to calm them because you bought the wrong type of crackers – they hate this kind now. And they’ll happen when you’re distracted with work or school or a chore and you have to tell them you can’t play right now.
What’s important to remember is: you’re doing an amazing job. Your child thinks so, too. I promise you that they won’t remember what kind of snack you bought that they hated, that you weren’t able to do a puzzle with them on a random Wednesday, or that you missed their first time using glue. They will remember the times that you were there for them, the kind words you used to heal them and dry their tears, the kisses for their boo-boos, the trips to the playground where you ran and played with them, your support and love, and the forts that you built on Saturday mornings.
Bottom Line: Don’t be too hard on yourself, mama. You’re doing great!