Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mom Guilt

You might have heard of a little concept called "Mom Guilt".

It's a real thing. Sometimes it comes at a time when no guilt is warranted, such as when leaving the kids with a sitter so I can go get my haircut. Or worrying about Emma and hoping she is happy while Paul and I go out for a much-needed date night. The guilt immediately disappears when I return to find that the children were perfectly happy and content during my entire absence. 

But, at other times, it comes when all remnants of patience leave my normally calm exterior and I forget my resolve to be a calm, zen-like, yet firm parent . I yell, I punish, and then as I reflect upon the emotional battle that just occurred, I put my head in my hands...and then the regret, the guilt, floods my soul. It's a horrible feeling.

I had one such moment the last night.

We have been struggling with getting Matthew to eat dinner. It's not that he does not enjoy what we have put in front of him, he just takes so long to finish! He takes a bite, chews it carefully, then chats about the random thoughts floating in his head, dances a little bit in his chair, claims he has to go potty, goes potty, comes back and chants some more, gets yelled at for talking too much, gets yelled at for not eating, slowly takes another bite, and repeat....

It is so frustrating.

So last night, I was completely at the end of my rope. It had been a long day and I was in no mood for the usual dinnertime shenanigans. Matthew was not eating once again although he was being unusually quiet (now that I think about it). By the time Paul and I had finished eating, Matthew had taken maybe a single bite of his meal. I asked him to please eat and he just made a gagging face at me. 

That did it.

I lost my temper and angrily ordered him to march upstairs and climb into bed. He dutifully did so, hanging his head all the while. A little while later, he came to the top of the stairs and asked for a bedtime story. Still fuming, I yelled back at him: "You should have eaten your dinner like we told you! No story tonight!!"

His door closed and all was quiet for about 45 minutes.

Then, Matthew tearfully returned to the top of the stairs, crying: "Mommy...yucky came out my mouth!"

He had thrown up everywhere. In his bed. On the floor. All over himself. The poor child had fallen asleep and woke up puking. No wonder he did not have an appetite at dinner. He was feeling sick.

I felt terrible. Paul and I cleaned Matthew (and everything else) up and then settled down for a long and painful night of helping him puke about once every hour. As dreadful as it was for us as parents, we both felt so bad for the little guy. He was really, really sick. Even now, it has been about 24 hours since he first threw up and the little guy can barely keep a couple sips of water down. His fever is still rather high (102 degrees) and he has spent the entire day in bed. And I have a serious case of mom guilt.

Situations like this make me realize that the "mom guilt" is not just a transitory symptom of motherhood - along with "mommy brain" - but an intrinsic gift that allows me to become more aware of certain flaws in my parenting that warrant constant improvement. My latest experience illustrates my continual struggle with anger. I am so quick to lose my temper and often get easily frustrated with my son before allowing him a chance to communicate what he may be feeling at the time. I need to be more loving, more caring, more compassionate, and less selfish overall. Perhaps if I had been more so, Matthew would have been able to tell me that his stomach was bothering him and that he did not feel like eating. It breaks my heart just thinking how I may have caused him even the slightest amount of suffering.

However, there is a positive side to all of this.

While talking with a priest about my failures as a parent, he replied: "You may fail to be the best you can be from time to time, but the important thing is that you do care enough to always want to be better. The fact that you have such guilt and anxiety about how you are raising your children is evidence of your love for them. Do not despair in it, but always strive to improve." I will be keeping that in mind as I pray for additional grace and kindness in mothering my children - I certainly am in need of it.

Will you pray for me too?


  1. Absolutely praying for you, Monica, and for Matthew to feel better. Motherhood tests us so much at times. I had a lot of "Mom guilt" this week as well. Every day is a new day--for you and for Matthew. Keep turning to our Blessed Mother, too...she will help us grow as mothers!

  2. I certainly understand this! I feel it every day I put Luke down for a nap but he plays in his bed for a long time before falling asleep. I feel like I should keep him up longer and play but then when I try that he gets fussy and never sleeps. I dont' think there is any guilt like Mom guilt! Praying for you (and little Matthew to get better!!)!

  3. Yes you have my prayers. I love your blog as I can relate so often!

  4. Don't be so hard on yourself. You're only human and will have days like that. As long as kids feel loved, they'll get through the occasional yelling unscathed. And don't ever feel guilty about getting a sitter!