8.23.2010

Ditching the Mommy Guilt

You know the feeling. You’re talking to a friend who tells you that her children are allowed 24.5 minutes of “screen time” per day, no exceptions. Your mind automatically rewinds to that time last week when you were sick as a dog and plunked your own kids in front of the T.V. for time periods that would make the “experts” gasp in disapproval. Or worse, those times too numerous to count that you weren’t even sick, but you really needed to accomplish some tasks, and T.V. was the ready-and-available babysitter mutually agreeable to both parties.

Another friend mentions that her children eat only organic food, and you happen to know that she packs lunches for them whose menus would not be out of place on the pages of Southern Living. You then remember with a twinge of embarrassment the lunch you threw together under pressure yesterday before your daughter ran out the door: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, potato chips, Capri Sun, and a sugary, trans fat-laden cookie.

Still another friend details to you at length the roaring successes of her extensive family chore charts, the effectiveness of her discipline policies, and the fact that her children have been cured forever of whining and know lots of Bible verses by heart. And you’re left laying your head on your pillow that night feeling like an inadequate parent.

All of these factors contribute to a debilitating condition known as Mommy Guilt. Those who suffer from it carry around with them an uncomfortable sense that they’re not doing enough…or they’re doing too much…based on artificial standards.

Where do these standards that we set for ourselves, and by extension, our families, come from? Most of the time, if we’re honest with ourselves, they’re formed by what we see in others. “If so-and-so operates in a particular way, at a particular level, then shouldn’t I? And if I’m not, why aren’t I?”

The comparison game is the first step down the slippery guilt slope. There’s nothing wrong with adopting good, helpful ideas set forth by friends, parenting books, and the endless parade of bloggers and parenting web sites. But sometimes, all of the advice, the ideas, the mantras and conventional wisdom serve to create a toxic stew of insecurity for average moms desperately looking for a step-by-step guide with all the right answers.

My logical husband is fond of reminding me that he spent an inordinate amount of time watching T.V. and playing video games as a kid, and he “didn’t turn into a freak.” (To his credit, he graduated valedictorian of both his high school and college classes and turned out to be a well-adjusted person, so he does have a point.) But I’ve also noticed that dads don’t seem to struggle with Mommy Guilt near as much as mommies do.

I give my children Fruit Loops for dinner sometimes because they didn’t like what I made. (Because granted, sometimes I don’t like it either.) I skip the bedtime story because I’m tired. My craft skills are deficient. I am too strict and not strict enough. I misplace my priorities on a regular basis. I am a work-in-progress that needs refining.

But if I look too closely at how everyone else is living, I think my head might just overheat and explode. Seven years into this mommy thing, I can only do the best I can, with the Lord’s help. Not necessarily what Suzy Homemaker is doing, or the panel of experts on the Today Show, or even what I’m reading on all these wonderful blogs that I’ve discovered this summer. As Popeye the Sailor Man sang in that weird and delightful movie from 1980, “I am what I am!”

And a little high fructose corn syrup never hurt anyone.

30 comments:

  1. LOVE IT. I recently read from an author of 'life's to short to fold fitted sheets'. similar concept of shedding the super mom crap...it's better to be real, honest and loving than anything else right..Love covers a multitude of fruit loop nights and too much tv...(heck they'll love that you served the loops!)

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  2. ooooo I do love this one! And that cwazy chaotic hilarious Popeye scene...him swinging around Sweetpea and taking a stand, I Yam whut I Yam! You betcha! Down with Mommy Guilt!
    ps. you are a darn sight prettier than Popeye tho :o)

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  3. I love that too..."What am I...some kinda barnacle on the dinghy of life?" hahahaha!!

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  4. Thanks for posting. I read the article about how kids of working moms aren't liked as much over the weekend and had a case of guilts. You just dug me out! Thank God for my sanity checks with the other mommy bloggers who get it!

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  5. Love it, Jennifer, as usual! I've always wondered why/how dads manage without that "guilt" stuff... hmmmm...

    Hope you have a great day :-)
    -Angela

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  6. Awesome!! I especially can relate to the part about too much TV and this whole paragraph... "I skip the bedtime story because I’m tired. My craft skills are deficient. I am too strict and not strict enough. I misplace my priorities on a regular basis. I am a work-in-progress that needs refining."

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  7. This is wonderful, we home school and the comparison game gets quite old,especially being that my theory is quite different from the theories of all of my peers!

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  8. THIS IS AMAZING!!!!! Just what I needed to hear today - as I'm sure is the case for everyone else reading this post!

    You are brilliant!!! Now I can go about my day - guilt-free and secure that I am what I am - and I don't have to be anyone else!!

    I would quote some of my favorite things that you said - but I would just end of copying the whole thing.

    I'm so glad you're my friend!

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  9. Excellent post! And keep this in mind...When others are sharing their accolades, it's just one part of them. They're telling you about one hour or two of their lives, not the entire day. :o) Thanks for sharing. Happy iFellowship Day! :o) Larri at Seams Inspired

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  10. For the record, my girls had ice cream for supper last night. They told me they had never gotten to do that before so I decided it would be a fun treat. I think we can sometimes learn from each other, but ultimately we raise our kids in our way and we are all different.

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  11. You make me smile!

    I've done all of the things you've done and then some.

    My kids survived, and yours will too.

    But if you're worried, let them eat chocolate chip cookies for breakfast; they cure everything.

    Sweet dreams.

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  12. You are so right! I am right there with you.... We have to stop comparing ourselves to other mamas. We are all "a work-in-progress that needs refining"..... even those mamas who look like they have it so under control!

    Thanks for the wonderful reminder that it's okay to just be the way we are....

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  13. I think every mom needs to read this each morning before beginning the day! I resonate with each and every word you've said!! I am always worried about too much TV, but like you, my husband watched thousands of hours of TV, and he turned out to be an amazing man!

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  14. I've enjoyed reading (and remembering) all your comments. As a mom who's finished up this task of parenting, my counsel is to listen to your husband Jennifer,and keep "with God's help" center stage. One foot in front of the other ladies. Love never fails.

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  15. I know just what you are saying. I often fall short when compare to Super Mom. I some times don't cook healthy enough, then I am too strict, I don't do crafty at ALL, and at the end of my day I am just too exhausted to give any more...my kids don't need bedtime stories they are 12, 14 and 18. We don't watch television but I don't get out and kick the ball around with them either. There are times when I do feel really bad. But there is only so many hours in the day and so much of me to go around. Thanks for the great post.

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  16. You absolutely made my day with this post. I am so thankful that other moms feel the same way I do. I am such a work in progress and I feel like time is just slipping away. My baby just went to Kindergarten and now both are in school full time. I can't believe all the mistakes I have made since my 8 yo was born. Thank you so much. I am a new follower. Have a blessed day!

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  17. It's definitely all about being the best mommy for your kids! I dealt with this same topic on my blog this past spring: Mommy Guilt over TV Usage. Definitely something that plagues us all!

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  18. Oh thank you ... loved this and needed it today.

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  19. Thanks for the reminder that the comparison game can be a deadly game! I will continue to strive to be the best mom I can be for my kids and savor the time I have with them because it sure is flying by!

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  20. I think this is an awesome writing~so often young moms get fed the guilt menu and it is so wrong. Unless a mom is negligent or uncaring most moms do a good job and it won't hurt your children to eat cereal for dinner or burritos for breakfast. My own grand daughter did not like breakfast food before her preschool so I would take a wheat burrito shell then added in low fat black refried beans-cheese-chopped up olives and sour cream heated it up in the microwave then I added chopped avocado. She would eat the whole thing and I would win and she would win. The other thing she really liked was chicken noodle soup. Who cared if it was 8am or 1pm as long as she ate I didn't care. We also spent alot of time watching 'bear in the big blue house, dora the explorer, blues clues etc' she is a smart 11 year old now and it didn't hurt her to watch tv with grandma.
    Take advise from a grandma of six... I am sure you are doing a great job.

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  21. Hey Jennifer! Thanks so much for stopping by my place and sharing your blog with me. I'm so thankful that it's brought me here :)

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  22. I love it, i feel this way to and i feel so guilty. I have a wonderful brother in law who cooks all meals from scratch from ingredients he has grown himself. Everytime we go out together i feel so guilty. Yet my daughters seem to forgive me xxx

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  23. Just stopping by again to say hi! You know I'm a huge fan of your blog. Hope your week has been blessed

    Meghan
    www.thetuckerstaketennessee.com

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  24. It's so easy to fall into the trap of mommy guilt. I needed to read this today! Thanks!! :)

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  25. That's funny... today I read someone's tweet saying something like, "Am I a bad mommy because I don't give my children chicken nuggets and mac and cheese? Real food is better for them." And wouldn't you know my boys had just finished eating chicken nuggets and mac and cheese! Seriously. Hopefully having great people like you stand up and say, "I am what I am" will help us all free ourselves from the trap of Mommy Guilt. Thank you, Jennifer!

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  26. What a great post! I can totally relate to some of that!! Saw you at Friend Fridays @ Trendy Treehouse. Have a great day-Would love you to stop by if you get the chance:
    www.karismaheartsavannah.blogspot.com

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  27. Okay Jennifer, I tried putting a comment here yesterday, however it was all weird at the time... I thought it went through but I don't see it! So I just wanted to let you know that this post is the best post I've read in a long time about being a Mama! There is not one Mama that is perfect. I loved this post so much that I put it on my Friday Five today! :)

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  28. Really enjoyed the humor and sense of relief this brought me. "Movie Night" is a special night for my kids...when they get to eat chips and popcorn for dinner, but when I'm really just too tired to deal with cooking and cleaning and ...well, you really hit the nail on the head. Thank you for putting into words what we all feel from time to time.

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  29. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! I am a new follower from the Monday Hops! Have a great week!
    Dawn
    http://flipoutmama.blogspot.com/

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