Okay, so I work outside of the home and am basically gone from 8-6 five days a week. Of course I’m infected! I hate being away from my boys and I feel awful missing the daily antics as well as the important milestones. And on the mornings when my oldest refuses to let go of me as I hug him goodbye I feel a knife twisting in my heart. And yes, there are days like the day that I was off last year and I picked him up from pre-school. The fact that the teacher asked me who I was there for (we HAD met a few months before) still haunts my parenting nightmares.
But, come on, last Friday I took the afternoon off to attend my son’s end-of-school program. The train was timed perfectly, I arrived 15 minutes early, and I got a great seat. I was scoring pretty high on the Good Mommy Scale. Then, other mothers began to file in. It quickly became apparent that they all knew each other and the teacher well. They talked about their playdates together and the recent Parent Council meetings. Suddenly, it was as though the floor dropped out from under me. I felt like a delinquent sitting in a spotlight with my sins and inadequacies written all over my face. I wanted to cower in the corner with my head covered in shame, like I didn’t truly deserve to wear the title of Mommy.
Why did that rock me so hard? Was I really that bad?? Mommy guilt is the ultimate expression of our perfectionism, our constant comparison to others, our Superwomen Syndromes, all rolled up into one. Deep down I know that the guilt and shame are ridiculous but I still don’t know how to cure myself. So, I’ve come up with a few general rules to at least minimize the impact of the disease.
- No more comparing! My comparisons are almost always unfair, unreasonable, or based on inaccurate perceptions of Moms around me.
- No more compensating! Usually guilt-ridden compensation leads to either overindulgence (kids do need rules and limits) or overcommitment (I don’t have to volunteer to do everything just because this is the only fieldtrip I’ve made it to this year)
- Think about quality rather than quantity. When we’re together it’s clear how loved my boys feel and how attached they are to me. They don’t look like neglected waifs starved for attention and emotional intimacy.
- Aim for “Pretty Darned Good” Parenting. Many Moms take comfort in the resilience of children and the concept of “good enough” parenting. But, some hate the phrase “good enough” and their lingering perfectionism leads them to feel like for their standards it’s not, well...good enough. I like to think that “as a parent I’m not perfect, but I’m pretty darned good!”