Real Simple Mama

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The Double-Edged Sword of Mom Guilt

Unwinding in a fragrant, steaming hot bubble bath. Eating a delicious hot meal slowly and deliberately, savoring every bite and enjoying meaningful conversation. Getting a spa pedicure. Peeing alone.

Apparently as a mom, I’m not supposed to want those things. Because if I do it means that I don’t love my kids.

I don’t have anyone to blame for this mentality more than myself. Sure society can be a bit of a jackass sometimes, and make me feel like I should always be overjoyed to be trapped in my home 24/7 with my offspring. I don’t earn an income per se (though let’s not get started on the outrageous daycare savings) and I don’t have a “real job.” I mean, all I do is sit around and watch TV in yoga pants, right?

Cue hysterical laugh.

And here’s the insane thing, the crazy irony… when I do get a chance to do something which is just for me, I either decline altogether, or I worry about my kids. I miss them. I check on them constantly.

The Double-Edged Sword of Mom Guilt - RealSimpleMama

I feel like my dilemma is common to all parents, but uniquely exacerbated because of how I parent. I’m extremely involved with my kids (aged 3.5 and 1), I am still breastfeeding, and I’m AP. That means that I’m “hands on”, always teaching and encouraging and discussing things with them. I know my kids so damn well.

And I take great pride in my children, how I treat them and how they’re thriving. I know that it has to do with their character and how I am raising them. So no harm done there. I think I just worry that no one else can understand my preschooler like I can, or that my one year old will get tired and want to comfort nurse. No one knows them like their Mama.

So then I feel like I must cling to them while I can, while they’re little, while they still need me. Which is great, except then it causes Mom Burnout.

Us stay-at-home parents probably know that feeling: we get irritable, don’t talk much, and feel like firebombing the house if one more dirty dish ends up in the sink. We don’t speak kind things nor do we think kind things. When that happens, we’ve gotta step back for a minute. And find ourselves again.

A while back I wrote about taking five minutes for myself, and how it helps me “reset.” And I still feel that the concept rings true. But I think I’m so behind on cashing in my “five minutes” that now I’d like an afternoon off. Or a day.

Realistically it’s probably not going to happen, not with my anxiety and my nursing little girl. And that’s ok. But I’ve been teetering back and forth on this balance beam between “take care of yourself” and “take care of the kids.” I just never know where I’m going to fall. And I don’t really know what to do.

damned if you do, damned if you don't. The double edged sword of mom guilt - Real Simple Mama

So what’s a girl to do? How do I put up a fight against that double-edged sword?

Do I… hand off my children to my husband or to family for a few hours so that I can get away? – get out of the house, get away from the laundry and the Lego-ridden floor and the house where I spend all of my time? Where would I go? How do I shut my mind off? Will my babies be ok without me? (And oh God, what if they ARE ok without me? What if they don’t even notice that I was gone?)

Or, do I… suck it up, eat another leftover Halloween chocolate in the kitchen, take a deep breath, and glow in the fact that I get to actually stay at home with my kids!? A blessing I thought I’d never receive, much less getting two healthy beautiful children who are pretty damn awesome.

On the one hand, I feel overwhelming guilt because I need to get away

and do something just for me.

On the other hand, I feel overwhelming guilt that I want to get away

and do something just for me.

I know I need to take better care of myself. I want to work out, I want to read something not written by Dr. Seuss, I want to watch big-girl TV. And I think (maybe?) I’ll be more relaxed and pleasant if I do get this chance.

And I love what my brilliant friend Marie had to say about this in her article, “I’m a Mother, Not a Martyr“: that moms should do things for themselves because they are their own person, not because they need to tie everything into “how this will benefit the kids.” We deserve time and energy just for us, too.

But then my anxiety, oh that damn anxiety, taps me on the shoulder with a shit-eating grin. And I know that my kids are still so young, and there’s so much work I need to do. So what usually happens (don’t hate me) is that I do get my husband to hang out with the kids for a while… so that I can catch up on chores.

I just barely dodge that double-edged blade. But I know that the feeling hasn’t gone away for good. I’ve only postponed it.

Please tell me that I’m not the only one battling this double-edged sword. And tell me that you’ve found something which recharges you and helps you to be just “you” again without the burden of guilt.


  1. Thanks for share this…

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