Our girl missed the cutoff for kindergarten by a number of days, so we have one more year of preschool ahead of us, and let me tell you, preschool shopping is a painful process. So painful, in fact, that making a decision this week threw me into a full-on mom guilt attack. Mom guilt is a real, true thing. I know the mamas out there reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. And to those of you who aren’t parents, trust me. It’s real.
One thing about mom guilt is that it’s sneaky. It creeps up on you when you’re not expecting it, and then it makes you question every decision you’ve ever made and worry about the ones you have yet to make. And it can leave you absolutely reeling if you let it. The other thing about mom guilt is that often, you find yourself in a lose-lose situation. That is not to say that you can’t make good choices. Of course you can; you are a good and strong mama. I just mean that you’ll probably experience some feeling of guilt about whichever choice you end up making. One example to illustrate: working moms can feel guilty because they’re not home, but stay-at-home moms can feel guilty because their children aren’t seeing a mom that is financially independent and has a career. I’ve been on both sides of that coin now.
In my case this week, the question about school for next year threw me for a loop. We were faced with two choices: one full-time preschool that is completely in line with my philosophy on early childhood education, the other a part-time option but more of a social outlet than a serious learning environment. And, let me just pause here to explain that to me, a “serious learning environment” includes a day full of messy play and hands-on discovery. I’m not talking about desks in rows and worksheets here. Both options would work for us financially and schedule-wise. We just needed to pick.
Of course, I leaned toward the full time option. I want my girl to be challenged and have fun and have the freedom to be her own social, inquisitive, bright self. But the thing that made that mom-guilt monster flare up and scream at me was the full time thing. Because of the fact that I quit my job to stay home with my babies, why would I want to send her to school five days a week before I have to? And furthermore, I’m a teacher, I have the resources and the knowledge to provide a good learning environment here, why shouldn’t I just suck it up and homeschool her? (The answer to that is a conversation for another day.)
The self-doubting questions just kept coming at me until I felt like a legit crazy person. I even had trouble sleeping one night, which hasn’t been an issue here lately. So…how do we quiet that mom-guilt monster? I’ll tell you what helped me crawl out of it this week. And, let me say for the record that obviously I have not mastered this, I’m mostly writing this post in hopes that when I find myself here again, I won’t wait days to fight off the guilt, but rather recognize it earlier and do something about it. So, here are my three “easy” (LOL) steps:
- Acknowledge all the good things you’re doing. Make a list if you have to. Look around your home and at your children and find the places where joy lives, where there are smiles and giggles and extra cuddles first thing in the morning. Look at the pile of toys that were left in such a way that you know a little someone has big plans for them tomorrow. Look at the stack of books you read together today, all the connection you built, the conversations you had. Look at those dirty dishes that just an hour ago held a nutritious meal for your family. Take a deep breath. You are doing a good job, mama.
- Remember the big picture. Is everyone fed? Is everyone (mostly) happy? Did you engage with your kids today? Talk to them, hug them, let them know they are important to know? Did you model kindness to yourself and to others? When faced with a decision, did you consider your options thoughtfully and make a choice you are comfortable with? Brené Brown says in Daring Greatly, “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.” Isn’t that so freeing? It is to me, helps me worry less about the small stuff and focus on the bigger picture of parenting.
- Lean on your people, your mama friends and your spouse. I’m pretty sure I sent panicky freaked out texts to no less than FOUR girlfriends this week and not one of them (bless them) told me that I was a psycho or that I needed some Xanax. They all listened patiently and gave some sage advice, most of which sounded a lot like, “She’s going to be fine. You’re a great mom. She loves school and learning, this is more about your feelings than hers. She’s going to LOVE it.” And the best thing I heard from one friend was this: “We just aren’t big enough to ruin God’s plans for our babies.” SO. MUCH. YES.
So, next time you find yourself at the entrance of the rabbit hold down to mom-guilt town, stop and breathe, reflect, reach out. And chances are, you’ll still have a naggy little mom-guilt voice in your head (that’s just part of life as a human), but it’ll be much, much quieter.
Educated by Tara Westover. This book was so good, painful to read at times, but was one I could not put down until it was done. Tara Westover’s heartbreaking memoir of a childhood full of fundamental Mormonism and emotional and physical abuse is hard to read, but her story is completely redemptive. Her parents did not allow her or her siblings to attend school of any kind but also did not teach them much in the way of traditional knowledge. Still, she ended up attending college and eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge. She is an amazing example of the power of an education and the power of self-creation, that you can make your own future for yourself, not tied to what someone else (in her case a manipulative father) would dictate for you. I definitely will be recommending this one, especially to friends who have loved The Glass Castle and The Sound of Gravel, Westover’s story is reminiscent of those two but incredibly unique as well. Her story will stay with me for a long time.
The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz. The 5th book in the Lisbeth Salander “Millennium” series. It was a good thriller, exciting, and fans of Lisbeth and the series will like it.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. I enjoyed this very much. It was like a WWI novel meets Downton Abbey meets Sherlock Holmes. Maisie is a great character and the story was fun to read! Plus there are several more in the series that I’m so excited to read.
Currently Reading: Check out my Good Reads page for current books. I’m tracking my goal of 50 books for the year over there, so you can keep up with me!
Thanks for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.