Being a mom and feelings of guilt seem to go hand in hand. From the moment we get confirmation that we’re pregnant, it’s far too easy to start feeling guilty, for judgment comes quickly from all corners.
Enjoy a sporadic glass of wine while you’re pregnant? You’re guilty of harming your fetus.
Ask for an epidural during labor? You’re guilty of drugging your baby.
Stop breastfeeding after a few weeks because it’s horrifically painful? You’re guilty of decreasing your child’s future IQ.
Let your kid eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries once in a while? You’re guilty of ruining their long-term health.
Allow your tween to watch an R-rated movie? You’re guilty of turning them into a deviant.
When does it ever fucking end?
I contemplated this recently after chatting with a friend. She confided in me that she was upset because her twenty-one-year-old daughter had been posting Instagram stories of herself and her friends out at a restaurant on New Year’s Eve having drinks – in a state where COVID cases have been skyrocketing. My friend sighed, “I’m sure my relatives all think I’m a horrible Mom because I’m letting her go out and be an idiot.”
On the one hand, I could commiserate with this sentiment. What these young adults were doing was kind of stupid, and I’d honestly be pissed if it were my kid doing and publicizing the same thing. But as I reminded my friend, her daughter is a legal adult. She is fully within her rights to go to a restaurant that is open and serving alcohol, despite a raging pandemic that is ongoing in our state and getting worse by the day. (I’ll blame our dumbass governor.) This young woman was buying her own booze and had not been encouraged by my friend to go out socializing with a large group of friends. In fact, my friend had suggested her daughter stay in that night, but we’ve all been invincible 21-year-olds. No one in their right mind would have justification to blame my friend for her adult daughter’s behaviors. Yet she still felt a fair amount of guilt about this.
Because society assigns way too much blame to the mother for how a child turns out. Even today, in our so-called post-feminist culture, and even if said child has two active parents in their life. The default responsibility for negative behavior or unfortunate outcomes still gets placed at the feet of the mother. And it’s complete bullshit.
It’s bullshit when your kid is three and bites another toddler at daycare.
It’s bullshit when your kid is eight and steals a pack of cookies from a classmate’s backpack.
It’s bullshit when your kid is fourteen and cheats on their Algebra test.
And it’s a special kind of putrid bullshit if someone judges you because your 21-year-old is out carousing on New Year’s Eve and potentially spewing or sniffing aerosolized droplets of a highly contagious virus. Yes, even then.
Because if you’ve birthed and raised a child to almost any age beyond five, you recognize and understand deeply into your core that a huge chunk of their personality and temperament is inborn, rock-solid, and unyielding to teaching, coaching, coaxing, yelling, and bribing. They are who they are. They will do what they do. It is what it fucking is.
You can be the best parent on the planet. You can do everything “right”. You can conform to and follow all the parenting experts’ advice. You can read all the damn books, watch all the ridiculous videos, listen to all the respected podcasts, offer up only organic food, and your kid will still sometimes be an asshole.
And it’s NOT YOUR FAULT.
So, we need to cancel Mom Guilt, right along with science-deniers, Q-Anon imbiciles, and the entire repulsive clan of tRumps. We need to strip that two-word phrase from our collective lexicon. Erase it from our hearts and minds. Quit buying into the shame that none of us should ever feel – unless we’re knowingly and purposefully doing physical or emotional harm to our children.
We’re all simply doing the best that we can, almost all of the time. (Yep, sometimes we’re exhausted, lazy, or have just had it – but isn’t that the case for every human being on occasion? And every Dad as well?) And we particularly need to cut ourselves a massive amount of slack while we mother our children through such tentative and frightening times. This pandemic combined with a racial reckoning and a political nightmare has pushed us all to limits that we never anticipated. No one wrote “What to Expect When Your Kids Are Home 24/7 for an Entire Year” or “If You Give a Mom a Scary Global Pandemic.” We shouldn’t feel guilty for shit right now, and we need to carry that bravado forward.
Even when our world arrives at a much more stable place, and our kids are back in school, and we’ve returned to hugging our friends and have ditched the annoying Zoom meetings, we must keep repeating to ourselves ad nauseum– “Mom Guilt is dead.” Say it loud. Say it proud. How ‘bout we make some sparkly t-shirts?
Let that dreadful bitch move on over to the burning trash dump of history where she belongs.