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DOES MOM GUILT EVER GO AWAY?

I've come across many articles about mom guilt, the reasons behind it and how to overcome the overwhelming feeling that mom guilt has on a mom. But does it really go away? When does acceptance and peace kick in? How long will that take?


I've been a single mom for 19 years but for some reason my mom guilt from year one of being a mom has followed me around throughout the years like a dark cloud. It won't seem to go away and neither does it seem to hurt any less no matter how many years have passed.



mom guilt


What is mom guilt

Mom guilt is a feeling of remorse, self-doubt and anxiety moms may feel about their parenting decisions and actions.


Moms experiencing mom guilt believe and feel that they are not doing enough or not meeting the expectation of their children. They also believe that they are not meeting the expectations of the societal standards set on what mothers should or shouldn't do. They hear these incessant whispers in their head telling them they are doing it all wrong and not being the mother they should be.


In other words, they feel they fall short of being the 'perfect mother'.




My own experience

My mom guilt comes in many different forms from many different times throughout raising my son. Some of which I share here.


Working mom guilt

This is a major one for me. But when my son was much younger I had to leave him with his grandparents on weekends and school holidays because I had to work or travel for long periods of time for work.


I could justify it because I'm a single mom, at that time, I was eager to show my worth at work and my job was demanding and was travelling a lot, and leaving him with his grandparents when I had to work long hours or travel was the correct and right decision at the time. I didn't leave him with strangers but with the grandparents that loved him with all their hearts and were willing to fill in where I couldn't.


With that being justified, why does my heart still hurt when my memory goes back to those years?


A lot of it stems from the fact that my son has memories and experiences that I was not part of. I feel guilty that I was not there when he felt sad, or when he fell and hurt himself, had an argument with my parents, when he had an ear infection, or when he over-exerted himself playing football he had muscle spasms and couldn't walk for days, or when he was the ring-bearer at my cousin's wedding, and the most adorable ring-bearer he was. I feel bad that I was not there when he just simply needed - his mom.


Where was I? I was working, most probably travelling for work.


I can't even remember exactly what I was doing but I remember what he was from what he and my parents would tell me and from memories captured on print.


I felt like a bad mother and I still do, and no matter how many people tell me otherwise, I myself still believe that I could've done so much better. I could have made better choices.


What keeps eating me inside is that I chose work. Should I have gotten a job that was not as demanding? A job that would not take me away from my son so much? Maybe I should have.




Premature birth

I gave birth at 29 weeks and I thank God till today and he was born without any complications, as a result of the early birth. He had to be in an incubator for a month, but he was a healthy baby. I thank God for his health every day, but I also blame myself for the premature birth for reasons I can't even think of. I don't know how I could've prevented it, but I just feel that I should have.


I feel as if I robbed him of being in the comfort of my womb for the full nine months to grow and develop as a baby should. Selfishly, I also feel like I didn't get to enjoy the full pregnancy like most mothers. It felt as if I was pregnant one day and not the next. It was fleeting.


As a single mom, I was stressed and worried for most of my pregnancy. Maybe MY stress caused him to come into the world prematurely? And yes, I will always have this guilt and blame myself for not giving him the full nine months he needed.


Breastfeeding issues

From day one, I had a hard time producing milk. As it is, my son was premature, I was alone and on top of that, I couldn't even provide the basic necessity that he needed. But I tried. I tried till my nipples were sore and raw.


I knew how important and beneficial breastmilk was, especially so for a preemie, but it didn't come easy for me. Only after a month of constant trying till almost giving up, I had some semblance of a constant flow, but it wasn't enough and I had to supplement with formula.


19 years on and I'm still kicking myself for not being able to give my son that one form of nourishment that seems to come so easily to other moms.


I realise part of having mom guilt comes from comparing myself to other mothers and having the feeling that I am so far off from being perfect or even a not-so-bad mom, but then again how can I not? I look to other mothers to gauge how I'm doing but it just fuels the fact that I wasn't doing anywhere close to what was deemed normal or how it was supposed to be like.




Yelling

I found that with my son, I've only ever yelled at him during homework time when he was younger. I'd yell, and hard. It was frustrating for me because I knew he was this really smart boy and could easily do what was taught, but he couldn't focus.


He was just a young boy trying to learn, but I let my anger get the better of me. During these sessions, he'd become afraid of me, and it was not what I wanted him to feel. I'd see his emotions build up in him but I'd refuse to back down. I'd apologise after and tell him I'd do better the next time but the damage was done. I didn't do better the next time.


We both came away from it with broken hearts.


I wouldn't be able to sleep thinking of all the yelling I had done and how it affected him. I'd feel bad and I still do.


Now when I talk to him about it, he agrees that it was bad but he does tell me that he did do better in school during those times. But it still doesn't give me any comfort.


I still stay up at night reliving those memories of how I hurt him for something that seems so insignificant now.




The rise of parenting content

Parenting content on the internet wasn't really as abundant as it is now 19 years ago, let alone social media. I still read a lot of parenting content, and I probably shouldn't because it just affirms some of the things I did wrong.


But on the other hand, I'm happy that new moms have so much information to help them with. Not just about the typical tantrums, but also about understanding children on a deeper level. Why they do what they do. It's really important in helping you be a better mom, parent.


I envy new mothers because they get to be better mothers because of all the information readily available to them.


Nevertheless, all this information serves as a constant reminder that I was not perfect and that I should've done better. I should've known better.


Honestly, with all of my being, if I could do it all over again I would, especially with what I know now.





Learning from mom guilt

Most of my mom guilt experiences are when my son was younger.


But from then on, I have been able to better myself as a mom. I've learnt to be more patient, have a better understanding of my son and be more compassionate.


I realise my son is in his late teens now and he doesn't need me so much anymore but because I'm still his mom and always will be, I will strive every day to be the best mother to him regardless of how old he is.


I'm grateful that regardless of all the guilt I feel for what happened all those years ago, me and him have a really strong bond. A bond that is envious to many and I am so very lucky to have him in my life.




So, does mom guilt ever fade away?

Personally, regardless of all the advice out there, I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive myself. Memories have been made and my heart hurts just as much now as it did.


But I am thankful for the lessons that it has taught me and I am a better mom because of it. I just wish hearts didn't have to be hurt in the process.


To my son, I'm sorry and I always will be.





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