When I speak with busy moms around the country, one of the most common themes I hear about is “guilt.”
Moms everywhere appear to be feeling stressed out and guilty about nearly everything. And to make matters worse, we as moms have a tendency to catastrophize. “Well, I didn’t read to my child every night when he was a baby, therefore he’s probably going to end up illiterate.”
I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. Trust me, I was mother of the year with my first child… but by the time my fourth came along, not so much.
I skipped bedtime stories, baby-teeth brushing, and green vegetable preparation more than a few times, simply out of sheer exhaustion.
And guess what? All of my kids appear, so far, to be happy and well adjusted.
Even the fourth one.
It is so hard for us to be gentle with ourselves. But if we can learn to be gentle with ourselves, we will model the same for our children.
Here are a few things I would like to give you permission to forgive yourself for right now (and forever).
1. I don’t always prepare healthy foods
If we listen to certain voices in the media, those of us who are not preparing natural, organic, gluten-and-dairy-free, GMO-free, sugar-free, vegan, unprocessed meals 3 times per day are scarring our kids for life.
Give me a break.
I’m not saying healthy food doesn’t matter – it does. But enjoyment of life matters too. Balance matters. Fun matters. Food, for many people (me included), is one of the great pleasures of life. Isn’t it important to teach our kids that, too?
My kids love a good steak, warm chocolate cake, pizza, and nachos. Do we have those things every day? No. But when we do, we really enjoy them.
Do your best to serve healthy foods, and don’t sweat it when you don’t. Sometimes you’re too busy, or you just don’t feel like it, and it’s going to be ok.
2. I don’t always have as much time to give to my kids as I’d like
When I had one child, I would race home from my full-time job to spend quality time with him every night. We did puzzles and read books and took long walks outside. I read so many stories my eyes started to hurt.
One afternoon, I was interviewed on CNN…and afterwards, I raced home like a maniac in order to get to our 4:00pm weekly playgroup on time. Still in a business suit and full hair and makeup. It was complete and utter insanity.
By the time my fourth child came along, I had long ago quit my full-time job… and yet I still barely had time to bathe and/or feed him.
Whether you are working or not, whether you have many kids or just one, you love your child(ren). Does your child know that? Does he/she know that consistently, every day, no matter what, even when you’re not there?
Then it’s going to be ok.
If time is at a premium because you’re working a lot, or you have a lot of kids, or you’re dealing with aging parents, or whatever the reason, and you’re not able to spend as much as you like with your child, please forgive yourself.
Quality time is great, but the most important thing you can give your child is love.
3. Sometimes I lose my temper
We have ALL had our moments of losing our minds, and our tempers, with our kids. And the tendency after that happens is to blame yourself for your own shortcomings as a parent.
I get it, because I’ve been there.
There are a few things I want to say about this…
First, sometimes our kids act in ways that are inappropriate or not nice, or sometimes they trigger us in ways that remind us of our own issues, and we are only human and so are they.
Second, and this assumes there is no actual abuse going on (emotional and/or physical), losing your temper or raising your voice is a normal part of life that happens sometimes, and your kids will recover.
Third, you can use the incident as an opportunity to model adult, responsible behavior. If you lashed out in anger and, in retrospect, think you were maybe overreacting, apologize to your child and take responsibility. And maybe try to talk about it.
You’re not perfect, and you’re not expected to be. Forgive yourself. Be nice to yourself. Talk to yourself the way you would to your best friend. And see how that feels.
What else will you forgive yourself for? Please let me know in the comments.