Mom guilt. It’s a unique form of mental self-flagellation that you’re guaranteed to get as soon as “mother” becomes your moniker.
Being the mom of an almost-two-year-old, I am well-acquainted with the shame game. If I don’t feed Jacob enough vegetables, let him watch more than one episode of Curious George or don’t take him outside to play a couple of times a day, I feel that my “good mother” title is seriously at risk.
(By the way, there’s a reason why it’s called “mom guilt” and not “parent guilt.” I’m certain men don’t get it. Tom could feed Jacob veggies straws all day while sitting on the couch watching a Curious George marathon, and I’m sure they’d both agree it was the best day ever.)
If you’re expecting, you probably already know that you don’t have to wait until a tiny human being takes up residence in your house to play the shame game. As soon as you hang the “occupied” sign on your belly, your brain is up for grabs.
Maybe you had a glass of wine or used a hot tub before you found out you were expecting: mom guilt. Maybe you couldn’t bring yourself to take your pre-natals due to morning sickness: mom guilt. Maybe you couldn’t quit the caffeine habit: mom guilt.
When you’re pregnant, everything you do gets filtered through the thought of “How is this going to affect the little person growing inside my body?” Finding a balance between protecting your little one and keeping your sanity isn’t always easy, as I found out this past week.
Last Monday, I came down with a flu bug and realized that every cold medication in our house had some form of non-baby approved drug. Feeling too crummy to go to the drugstore to buy something on midwife’s “okay-drug list” and feeling guilty at even the thought of taking something we already had, I suffered through the stuffy head and congestion and body aches for days.
Then, in a moment of desperation, I caved. I could blame the mental fog that comes at 1 a.m. after not sleeping for two days, but, really, my mind felt as clear as could be: It was telling me my body wanted to feel better. Pronto. I sniffed down the 12-hour Afrin and popped in some phenylephrine.
Instantly, the mom guilt hit and the mental battle began.
I reasoned that surely one dose wouldn’t hurt. I reassured myself that at least I wasn’t in that crucial first trimester. I tried to put my mind to rest with the thought that it was better for Vivian Jayne if I was well-rested, regardless of how I got there. As I laid in bed thinking over whether I made the right decision, it finally dawned on me that I had been playing into the mom guilt game for too long.
So, I did what I should have done a couple of years ago. I finally made peace with the fact that it’s okay to give myself a break sometimes. Just because I often feel guilty about this and that or the other thing, doesn’t mean I am guilty. I’m not a perfect person, and I’m not a perfect mom, and that’s okay.
Within a few minutes I was sleeping like a, well, baby for the first time in days, and the next day, I even let Jacob watch two episodes of Curious George.