Mom Guilt. You simply can’t win. Even with the utmost preparedness, this heart-wrenching feeling will creep into your soul very early on in parenthood. I hear it stays FOREVER. I am not a perfectionist, and I knew going into this parenting thing that I was going to do my best but that my best would, with all certainty, not always be enough. And that’s kind of odd because I am literally the only mother my children have. It’s not like I can compare myself to someone else. I’m the only one.
Something about motherhood causes us to look in on ourselves from a not very clear perspective and scrutinize every single thing we do. Let me take that back. Sometimes we are too tired to think that hard and then we feel guilty for not having the energy of Mary Poppins, which starts the cycle of feeling that we’re falling short all over again.
Today, our family definitely had a case of the Mondays. Upon waking, Harrison managed to wet two different beds within fifteen minutes. Who on earth has that much pee? He crawled into our bed at an hour way too early to warrant getting up and snuggled his little body right up to mine. The only reason I didn’t send him straight back to bed was because he was being quiet which is no small feat for my kid. All of a sudden, after I had just about drifted back to sleep, the whine came. “My paaaaannnnttsss are wet!”
Shooting up like a rocket, I jumped out of the bed, and shooed Harrison out immediately. Because, you know, it was THE ONE DAY that I had the waterproof mattress cover in the dryer. He stood there, soaked in pee, whining at his embarrassment and discomfort while I hurriedly took the sheets off the bed.
Luckily, my cat-like reflexes prevented any pee from getting on our new mattress. No harm, no foul, right?
I had sent Harrison up to get new clothes, and somehow this meant to him that he should wrap his pee-soaked self up in HIS blankets and pee AGAIN on HIS bed. Upon tearing off those sheets I realized that his mattress was done for. (No, I did not have a mattress pad on there, critical people of the internet; it melted in the dryer the last time I washed it. I am seeing that my track record with mattress pads is not very good.)
After haphazardly bathing him, I demanded that he get clothes, and hastily moved on to the rest of my morning routine, which, as I said before, had started much earlier than I usually like. I hadn’t had much time to reflect on the whole pee situation because it all happened so fast.
It dawned on me about fifteen minutes later that Harrison was still in his room. I could hear his little voice up there talking, so I assumed that he was playing with his toys, and keeping a safe distance from his not-so-impressed mommy. It wasn’t until he yelled down, “Mama! Can I come down now?” that I realized he thought he was being punished with time out, and that was why he had stayed up there so long.
He came down the stairs, fully dressed and gave me a hug. “I’m sorry for making a mess, Mama. Sometimes accidents happen.”
And then, my heart melted into a little puddle on the living room floor. He was right; sometimes accidents DO happen. And, he is THREE. That means his frequency of accidents (in all forms, mind you) is probably going to be quite high. I looked at my boy, wearing his pants on backwards, but so proud that he put them on himself, and I realized how gently I need to tread on this subject.
In no way do I want to shame my son for having an accident. But it frustrates the living daylights out of me that he didn’t follow the morning rules, which are to get up and pee and then wait for the alarm to go on before coming downstairs. I had no intention of giving him a time-out either. He just assumed that was next on the roster. Although my emotions consisted purely of guilt that he perceived that I was so angry, the truth was that I wasn’t really angry. What I feel sad about is that I made him feel that way.
About ten moms at preschool informed me that my child had his pants on backwards. Each time, I responded proudly, “Yes, they are. But he put them on himself.” And then I walked away. Perhaps, if that morning hadn’t been decorated with other toddler crises, I might have been more diligent in getting my boy to learn to put his clothes on correctly. Letting him go to school proudly and independently dressed was my way of telling my son that he was doing a great job at being three. It was also my hope that he’d understand that sometimes mommies make mistakes too-in the way we express ourselves to our littles.
Today, the guilt was from how I reacted towards my son over a bathroom related accident. Yesterday, it was probably over not giving my children enough vegetables at meal times. Tomorrow, it’s going to be something I didn’t even know I could feel guilty about. I know it’s not going to end, but I do know that even though this mom guilt is painful and often detrimental to our self perceptions, we can use these times to learn and grow. If you get to the point where you feel like you aren’t doing something right, take a step back and look at your kid. Backwards pants? Shoes on the wrong feet? No haircut in recent history? Imbalanced diet? Maybe. But catch that smile on his face, and you’ll feel a little better. You’re doing a lot of things right.