Mom Guilt: Struggling with Perfection and Owning Your Reality

We were never made to be perfect, so why can't we accept it?

4 min read

I have it. You have it. You know how glitter is considered the herpes of crafts? A Mom's guilt is the herpes of parenting. As much as you try to forget about it, an outbreak is lurking just around the corner. If you think you are immune from experiencing mom guilt, you might as well start planning your trip to Mars with Elon Musk, because you, Lady, are a dreamer.  

We live in a world that allows people to display an edited version of their best selves. Facebook and Instagram can’t be opened without seeing a picture of a mom drawing an oversized yellow lemon on a piece of tag board for their child’s lemonade stand or a family lined up for a family photo in front of a baseball diamond with the family staged from tallest to shortest sporting matching T-shirts the matriarch of the family planned in support of her child’s baseball game. These versions of what a mom should be, leave me feeling less than adequate in the successful mom department.   

The baseball games I attend are filled with my attention being stolen from every direction as a child gets stung by a bee or I’m trying to defuse a meltdown at the concession stand and I end up missing my child’s turn to bat. There is no way I can fathom planning matching T-shirts for my family.  I’m lucky if my kindergartener leaves the house wearing a clean shirt or pants. Honestly, I would settle for just pants.   

Barney, Teletubbies, Full House.  I grew up on all of these shows and my parents didn’t put restrictions on how long I could watch TV.  Saturday mornings were designed to binge-watch TV and I turned into a productive, contributing member of society. So why do I feel like my children will turn into homicidal maniacs if I let them watch more than 30 minutes of their iPad a day? Some days I need my children to watch their iPad so I can continue to be a productive, contributing member of society and not become the homicidal maniac I am trying to avoid raising.  But then, in creeps the guilt because we all know someone who posts on Facebook that her family doesn’t let their children watch TV, have an iPad, or play Minecraft and it doesn’t appear that they are losing their minds.   

But the reality that provides me with the most guilt is that I’m a working mom. Lemonade stands don’t exist at our house because I still have to work during prime lemonade selling season.  I’m drawing nothing on tag boards because I am too exhausted after work to hit up the store and come home with enough energy to Google a step-by-step tutorial on how to draw a lemon. My hope is that the sight of my boys seeing a woman in a leadership role outside of the home will somehow outweigh the missed lemonade stands, the missed baseball practices, and the 45 missed waking hours that I’m away. I have no doubt in my mind that mothers who choose to stay at home don’t doubt themselves in similar ways, questioning if putting their personal career goals on hold will keep them from fulfilling lifelong dreams or if the financial woes of a one-income household will negatively affect their children.  

If being at work most waking hours doesn’t make me guilt-ridden enough, I feel guilty about needing some alone time.  I would fight the good fight of 1,000 wars for my children but sometimes I need them to be away from me in another room so I can eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup without having to share and watch one episode of 20/20 without having to open a cheese stick while simultaneously taking a nerf bullet to my head.  And I feel guilty about that.       

To make matters worse, the guilt sometimes makes me quietly judge the perfect moms and their perfect children.  I see their flawless pictures on Facebook and think to myself, “Yeah, whatever.  Have fun in your rocking chair in your precious Norman Bates’ attic.” Then I tuck away my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapper at the bottom of the garbage so my children don’t see the evidence of my treat and I feel a little bit better.   

There is no shortage of topics to feel mom guilt about and I don’t have an answer on how to cure parenting herpes, but I do know that I am not suffering alone.