My friend Laney has a big, bold personality. She is confident and unapologetic about the things that matter to her—and she always says it like it is.
I, on the other hand, am naturally prone to people-pleasing and worrying about things I have no control over. So being around Laney is like a breath of fresh air.
A few years ago, Laney and I were talking on the phone about an online article that encouraged moms to stop being so hard on themselves. Laney was bewildered by the article and asked me an interesting question: “Rachel, is ‘mom-guilt’ a real thing? I mean, do some moms really feel like they aren’t enough for their children?” I assured her that many of us moms do.
Then she said, with her signature honesty, “The only thing that I ever feel guilty about is how often I think, ‘My kids are so lucky to have me!’”
I burst out laughing and she joined me, and then she continued, “But seriously, Rachel, my kids have such a good life. They have parents who love them, grandparents who love them, aunts and uncles who love them. I read them books every night, they go to good schools, they have food to eat, friends to play with, beds to sleep in, clean water to drink. I mean, their lives are basically perfect.”
She went on: “I am not going to waste my time and energy feeling bad for them or bad about myself because they watch a little too much TV, they eat more sugar than I’d like, and I yell at them on occasion. My kids know that I love them. I am doing my best, and they are lucky to have me.”
Even though it’s now been several years since that phone conversation, I think of it often. Whenever I feel a familiar twinge of ‘mom-guilt’ creeping in—the thought that maybe the life that I’m giving my kids or the work that I am doing as their mom isn’t enough—I think of Laney’s wisdom and heave a sigh of relief.
I recently went to South Africa for ten days, and the poverty that I witnessed in the rural areas was truly heartbreaking. I saw so many children who don’t have clean water, nourishing food, or opportunities for education. I talked to single mothers who travel by bus to their work as domestic helpers in the city. Because they must leave for work before dawn and come home after dark, their children are alone much of the time, fending for themselves in communities that aren’t safe and don’t have consistent access to food and water.
My experience in South Africa reinforced what Laney was saying that day on the phone: my kids and I really do have incredibly blessed lives. There is no point in feeling sorry for them or bad about myself because I can’t be it all or do it all for them
So if you, like me, struggle at times with “mom-guilt,” try this as you go about your day today: If a thought enters your mind about something that you aren’t doing for your kids or some way that you wish you were better, immediately challenge that by thinking about how blessed their lives are. List off all of the many, many things that you and others are giving them.
I will forever be grateful to my bold, wise friend, Laney, who, in one life-changing conversation, helped me to stop “mom-guilt” by reminding me that my children have great lives, and they are lucky to have me as their mom.
QUESTION: What causes “mom-guilt” in your life? Is there any way to challenge those thoughts by listing off all of your kids’ blessings?
CHALLENGE: This week, notice if you have habits of negative self-talk, comparison with other moms, or mom-guilt. Refuse to believe it anymore. Write down all of the ways that your children have blessed lives and the reasons that they are lucky to have you as their mom.
Image by Cate Johnson Photography. Edited by Sarah Monson.