Some of the scariest words you can hear while your 4-year-old sits on your lap are, “mommy, you’re getting all wet!” That’s right. Hudson had decided to skip a trip to the bathroom. Peeing in mommy’s lap would work just as well! As I removed the foul-smelling, pee-soaked, 30-pound urchin from my now-defiled legs, I was shocked by the emotion I felt. Was it anger? Rage? A need to retaliate? No. It was Mom Guilt– that dreaded foe who often pays me an un-welcomed visit—like a neighbor who somehow found a key to my house and makes unannounced visits to my living-room, bringing cyanide-laced coffee, and rat-poison cookies for me to “enjoy.”
Why is Hudson still wetting himself? He’s 4 years old for goodness’ sakes. Clearly, I’m not doing something right or else he’d have gotten the whole potty thing down by now. (cringing) I’ll bet it’s because I just recently had twins, and was on bed-rest for 6 months before that. He’s most definitely feeling unloved…and rejected. Oh man, this is all my fault! He’s never going to get over the grief that my having twins has caused him! He’ll wet himself forever!
Sound familiar? Another attack of Mom Guilt—that sneaky little voice that first tells you how badly you’ve messed up and then assures you that your kids are destined to be screwed up because of it.
I’ve entertained many visits from Mom Guilt over the past 4 years.
It started when I had a c-section with Hudson, my first-born. Living in Northern California, a natural-birth is the much more respected form of childbirth. But, after 36 hours of horrific back labor, 9-lb Hudson actually traveled back up the birth canal. A sonogram confirmed that he was having too much trouble descending into the birth canal because he was positioned backwards and sideways, so a c-section was the only wise thing to do. Later, well-meaning friends couldn’t understand why I would let the doctors talk me into such a thing. “I was just trying to save my baby’s life,” I thought. And yet I heard Mom Guilt screaming, “You didn’t do enough. Women are created to give birth naturally. You just weren’t cut out for this.”
A few months later, I realized that Hudson seemed to march to the beat of a different drum, developmentally. He didn’t like to be held. He had a very hard time nursing. He was slow to make eye-contact, and try as I may, I could not figure out how to play with him. He was waking up 10 times or more each night, though I was following “Baby Wise’s” directives to the letter. He didn’t say a word, not even “mama,” until he was 2 years old. Enter Mom Guilt, with her shifty smile and shame-inducing voice shouting, “See. I guess you aren’t cut out for this mom thing after all.”
There were so many things to feel guilty about. Hudson wouldn’t eat a single fruit or veggie. I tried. And I tried again. I begged. I bribed! I sneaked them into smoothies, pastas, burgers, everything. I bought books on the subject. I enrolled him in several therapies. And yet, he refused to eat anything except a hand-full of non-nutritious foods. Before I had kids, I snubbed my nose at friends who allowed their kids to eat sugar, but I found myself begging Hudson to eat anything—ice cream, candy, sugar-coated cereal—I just wanted him to eat something! (By the way, Hudson is doing great now.)
There are so many things I have felt guilty about. My water broke 8 weeks early with Cooper, my now 2-year-old. Must’ve been something I did. I lived in the hospital for a while. Then, he was in the NICU. Will he feel loved by me because strangers are taking care of him and not his own mom? How do I not ignore Hudson while I’m at the hospital every day? Cooper caught RSV at 2 months old because I didn’t feel right about giving him the vaccine. Guilt guilt guilt. His lungs might be damaged for years, said the doctor. Later, we discovered that both of our boys had hearing loss, and all indications were that it was hereditary. What was wrong with me? With Hudson’s developmental challenges and now this hearing loss, I thought, “I should never have had kids with genes like mine.” Now I’ve had twins and have 4 kids under the age of 4. What kind of mother does such a thing to her kids? I will never be able to give them the attention that they deserve.
I don’t read. I don’t sew. I don’t clip coupons. I don’t cook. I don’t make the cute crafts that I see on Pinterest. My house is a mess. My kids disobey. I give them fast-food. But I change diapers. I go to doctors’ appointments. I nurse twins. I kiss boo-boos. I survive.
“You survive?” Taunts Mom Guilt. “Is that really good enough? You need to be more. Your kids will suffer. You are definitely not cut out to have 4 kids under the age of 4.”
Who knows how many times I’ve believed Mom Guilt’s opinion of me over the past 4 years. I feel guilty just thinking about how often I’ve felt guilty! But here’s the real question—has Mom Guilt ever encouraged me to clean up my mess, or does she just rub my face in it? Has she ever helped me be a better mom in any form or fashion? When I feel guilty, I disconnect myself from my kids, which makes me feel guilty about my lack of connection, and then I shut down. What a devious little scheme she plays. She’s ripped me off from one of the most priceless things I’ve been given–time with my kids.
Could it be that Mom Guilt is the daughter of the father of lies?
This year, I am resolved to tell Mom Guilt that she can take her rat-poison cookies and shove it! I’m calling her bluff. In fact, I am going to shout the word “lie” every time I hear her sneaky little voice whisper into my ear.
“You aren’t a good mother.” LIE!
“You weren’t cut out for motherhood.” LIE!
“You need to be more. Do more. Give more.” LIE, LIE, LIE!
And furthermore, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” so even if I do need to change the way I parent, God can help me. Mom Guilt cannot. Mom Guilt brings death. God, the Father, brings life.
So, the next time Hudson pees (or worse….poops) on my lap, I think I’ll look Mom Guilt square in the eye, steal my house key back from her, and expose her for the liar and un-welcomed guest that she really is.