Sometimes I don't feel like I deserve to be celebrated. On Mother's Day, or on any other day.
It's this reoccurring, aching feeling, that you're doing this whole mom thing wrong. You're not living up to whatever standard you hold yourself to in your mind, and you're clearly screwing up your kids in the process.
For me, mom guilt started from the very first day my son was born, and it continues to this day (he will soon be turning 5). It is heightened even more because my son was diagnosed with Autism in January 2016. I'm sure nearly every mom can relate to mom guilt. Especially the moms of special needs children.
As Mother's Day 2017 is winding down for me, I'm reflecting on the roundup of events that cause the gnawing mom guilt I've experienced. Go with me here:
- Day 1 of my son's life, he was barely hours old, and was being taken care of in the NICU at the hospital (nothing major). Since he wasn't latching to me, or eating from any source for that matter, they had to feed him through a tube. It was the first time I had seen him since he was taken to the NICU, and they started to feed the tube through his nose and down his throat. He started to gag as the tube made its way down (sorry for the detail), and I immediately ran out of the NICU as fast as I could. I must have been such a sight. Hospital gown still on, and probably flying open at the back as I ran back to my room, bawling my eyes out. I couldn't stand to see him like that. I immediately felt like the worst mother ever. I couldn't be there for my son when he could have used some comfort.
Now, obviously I know that there was a crazy rush of hormones surging through my body, which led to my reaction, but in that moment... in that moment, I was an utter failure as a mother, and I had only had the job for a few hours. Mom guilt.
- The first 5 weeks of Jaxon's life included many visits to a lactation consultant. Don't EVEN GET ME STARTED on the pain that was trying to breastfeed! But alas, we were supplementing with formula and our little guy was gaining weight REALLY quickly. I was so impressed with myself actually. I could do this! Until I noticed that we had not been watering down his formula with 50% water as the cans clearly indicated, and had been giving him straight up concentrated formula all those weeks. Holy cow! Surely I had just messed up his entire digestive system. Mom guilt.
- We'll fast forward through those first couple years, past all the "I don't play with him enough", and the "I don't read to him enough", and the "He eats too much processed food" guilts. Oh, and don't forget the "He watches too much TV", and the "I've had another baby and aren't showing him enough attention" guilts. Those are pretty run of the mill, I would say. But nonetheless... Mom guilt.
- Jaxon is 3 years old, and we've been going through the process of having him assessed because of some delays and odd behaviours we've been noticing. When the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder was given, we. were. heartbroken. It was like the dream that we had for his future was being shattered. (Side note, I don't believe that this diagnosis defines him or what he is capable of, and I know that he will do immeasurably more than my mind can conceive. But that was what it honestly felt like in my narrow mind at that moment. And obviously I then felt mom guilt for putting limits on him in my mind.) The only logical explanation for his diagnosis that I could think of, was that it was me. It was something I did when I was pregnant. It was the foods I ate. It was the foods he ate. Here it is again... Mom guilt. This time x1000.
- And just yesterday, I was enjoying a day of lunch and shopping with my 2 little ones. On our way back to the car after lunch, Jaxon escapes my grasp and darts across the fast food drive thru lane as a car is making it's way through. He then proceeds to run around our car and in the parking lot during a busy lunch hour. I don't even know what I'm doing with my 2 year old daughter in the moments that followed as I chased him and screamed his name. In the process, I drop our water bottle. A well meaning woman tells me "You dropped your water bottle" to which I scream back "I don't care about the water bottle. My son is Autistic!". Mom guilt. I typically don't like letting those words come out of my mouth. Not because I am ashamed, but because I feel very strongly in the power of words, and I choose to say other things about my son. But in that moment, it just came out.
Not to mention... Mom guilt again because I have taken my son to a fast food restaurant where there are really no suitable options that adhere to his dietary restrictions.
I then proceed to yell at Jaxon, in the parking lot, where everyone can probably see. I was so scared. He's run away from me before and it is literally the most frightening thing in the world to imagine what could happen to him in those moments where he escapes me. I yelled at him because I love him, and because I was scared, and because that was the only response that I could manage. I didn't want him to get hurt. I just wanted him to understand. But yet again, Mom guilt.
I get the sense that this mom guilt thing will never go away. Maybe moms who have been at it longer than I have can attest to that.
I think it's something in the way moms were made. We were made to want to protect our children. We were made to love them and never want to see any harm come upon them. And what a beautiful thing! What a beautiful sacrifice, to put someone else's needs before your own.
We hold ourselves up to these standards of what we think a great mom is, or should be. But no mom is perfect. We're not always going to get it right. We're going to probably lose it on our kids (as I did yesterday) more than we care to admit (to ourselves, or to others). We're going to feed them things that aren't super great for them, let them watch too much TV, not read to them and not brush their teeth. We're going to generally mess up at this whole mom thing. But that's ok! We're keeping humans alive! That's a pretty impressive feat, if you ask me, and it DOES deserve to be celebrated, on Mother's Day, and every other day of the year!
I once told a girlfriend of mine, "You're a damn good mom, and you're doing a damn good job!". I think I need that reminder myself sometimes. Moms, we're in this together. Hold your head up high. You've got this, girl! You're a damn good mom, and you're doing a damn good job! Mom guilt be damned!
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!
Ps. I had originally planned to start blogging a series about our toilet training experiences with Jaxon, but I felt that this post had to happen first. I'll be sure to write all the poo/pee stories in posts to come. :)