My son, Hudson, came into my life with a sensitive heart and a needy personality. Needing constant contact, love and attention. To be completely honest, this quality of his drove me insane. If I wasn’t holding him, he was crying. If I didn’t co-sleep, he wasn’t sleeping. I never showered. I never slept. I never left the house. Yes, yes, all of this sounds pretty typical of a newborn baby but three years later he is still that same sweet and sensitive soul. Needing constant hugs, affection and acknowledgement. Even now as I am writing this, my little man is asking “can you hold my hand, Momma”? This is his favorite and most common request of me. When he’s tired, bored, lonely, or scared he needs a hand to hold. And it breaks my heart anytime I must tell him no. In February we added a little girl to our family and with twice the children, I have inherited twice the workload. Twice the meal planning, twice the laundry, twice the cleanup. Which, rarely leaves my hands available for holding his. And my heart filled with the fear that I’m not fulfilling all of his needs.
Now, I know this particular feeling I get when I must turn him down falls under the umbrella of that all dreaded ‘mommy guilt’. The guilt that every mom everywhere is acutely familiar with. But, lately, it has been like a monster that creeps up on me every day. It is the reason I still rarely sleep, shower or leave the house. Lest, I spend any time on myself and neglect my son even more.
So how does one battle this type of mommy guilt, exactly? You can set aside special quality time for each child. Make more of an effort to be present in every conversation. Make a bigger deal out of their individual accomplishments. All of these are great expert recommended tips. However, their success relies on the assumption that anything I do will actually stop me from feeling like I fall short as a mother. And I am quite convinced of the opposite. I know that no matter what I do or how much I devote to each individual child, I will inevitably feel a small twinge of guilt for my imperfect parenting. For I can not be everything to both children all of the time.
So, why not just accept the guilt? Instead of dreading it and letting it pull me down, why not acknowledge it, own it and move forward. Acknowledge that I am in a tough stage of life where I will often feel spread too thin. Own it as a valid emotion that is not going anywhere soon and move forward with the view that perhaps there could be a good side to it. Perhaps the guilt is just a healthy coping mechanism to keep me from legitimately neglecting either of my children? Or a reminder to stay on my toes in this especially formative period of their lives?
Please, don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying we should give into the lies that we are not enough for our children. But rather that we should know we ARE enough and that the mommy guilt need not have any control over us! So instead, let us put our own positive spin on it to keep it from taking over. When we have to ignore one child momentarily for the sake of another, let us acknowledge the inevitable guilt, accept it, and keep on moving knowing that we are mothers filled with so much love there is literally not enough time in the day to dole it out. And what a blessing that is!
And for those days when no amount of positive thinking can make us appreciate the guilt monster, we can remember this: our duty to our kids is NOT perfection or even unlimited quality time, But to instill in them the knowledge that they are unconditionally loved. And while I may not always get to drop everything to hold my son’s hand I am confident that he knows he has a tight grip on my heart.