As I was locking the front door to walk my little one to the car so I could drive him to school, I was admittedly in a rush.
I was carrying a lunch box, a yoga mat, a handful of Legos for my son to play with in the car, and trying to remember what street I parked said car on. Living in a city makes parking a motorized version of the Hunger Games, with tow trucks, parking tickets, and street sweepers to avoid. I was hoping that I was not blocked in, as usual.
I was also trying to hold my own coffee in my reusable mug, which I brought along to prevent spending extra money at Starbucks. It was naturally dripping out of the cup and scalding my hand—because no good deed goes unpunished.
My boy was still eating an English muffin that he’d chosen to bring along on the ride to school (and grace the car seat with even more crumbs).
In the sweetest voice, he asked me, mouth slightly full, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right mama?”
In that moment, my heart melted. His innocence, and his gratitude for the simplest of breakfasts, shone through. My immediate feelings of mom-guilt and inadequacy dissipated. I know some moms make eggs, pancakes, and smoothies for breakfast, and my son was eating a prepackaged English muffin. (And it wasn’t even whole wheat! The horror!) His blue eyes looked up into my green ones, searching for affirmation of his dietary knowledge.
“It is!” I said, smiling at him.
The mom-guilt starts at conception.
As you eliminate red wine, coffee, sushi, and many of life’s other small dietary luxuries, you begin to worry about what you’re doing wrong and what more you could be doing right. As soon as you pee on that stick, suddenly everything becomes a bit more serious, and there are more repercussions to think about than ever before.
Whether our babies are not sleeping through the night (Surprise! It is not biologically normal for babies to do so!), or we experience a mega temper tantrum in Target, we can be so hard on ourselves about these things. We’re quick to internalize our children’s completely typical and normal actions as negative judgments toward ourselves.
But our children will teach us how to forgive ourselves—daily, minute by minute. They’ll be our spiritual teachers who teach us about unconditional love, if we let them. And we can treat these moments of mom-guilt as little chances to come back to love, and back to the reasons we became mamas to begin with. Love is why we are here, and what we are here to learn. It is what our children will teach us, and what we will teach them in return.
I realize that it is totally nuts to feel guilty about feeding my son an English muffin in the car. But in the moment, whether we’re at the dentist office and it’s clear we have not been flossing our kiddo’s teeth, or our child is doing the limp noodle/flop as we try to leave the grocery store…it feels real. It feels awful. We feel like failures.
It is not our “true” selves that create all the mom-guilt nonsense in these moments. Rather, our egos run wild with comparison, and our monkey minds chase and cling to these nutty and unproductive thoughts. This is where a kind, compassionate mantra can shift our focus back to love, and to our best mama selves.
Below are a few of the mantras that I use when my critical inner voice takes over, and I hope they can help you, too:
I am the perfect mama for my baby.
He/She chose me.
We learn from each other, to serve both of our highest good.
I am doing the best I can, and the best is enough.
I love myself and my child unconditionally.
We are both beings of light and love.
I am enough.
Remember mamas, your babies just want you. Your love, your hugs, and your laughter. To be snuggled in the middle of the night when they wake. Your hand to hold. Your crappy store-bought English muffins. They don’t need a superhero, even though you probably are one! You are so gloriously enough.
Author: Logan Kinney
Image: Julie, Dave & Family/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Emily Bartran