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Mom Guilt: Time to Stop Pushing the "Bad Mom" Button

Posted by Elisabeth Wilkins

On the last day of spring break, I finally managed to pull an activity together for my son. For the whole rest of last week, he sat watching T.V., playing video games and listening to books on tape.

(Bad mom.)

At dinner at a neighbor’s house recently, our son (who is 8) put his face in the plate and ate pasta from it like a Golden Retriever. Guess we’ve been lax in the manners department. (Bad mom again.)

Playing Yahtzee with relatives last month, our son held an “L” up to his forehead, and shouted “LOSERS!!”  to everyone in the room when he won. Not cute. (Bad mom, again. Guilt and shame buttons duly pushed.)

So what is it with mothers and guilt? It seems inescapable. As a working mom, I feel guilty that I’m not spending enough time with my son. When I stayed at home with Alex when he was younger, I felt guilty about not contributing more to the family finances, and about the stress my husband was under. I worried that I wasn’t doing enough to educate our child or teach him the right things.

“Damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” as my mom always says.

So here is my question to all moms out there who feel this way. (And I know I’m not alone!)

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we feel guilt or shame for not being perfect — when, as we all know, the pursuit of perfection is an impossible, soul-killing task. I’m not saying that I couldn’t be a better mom — I could, I know that all too well — but what I am saying is that maybe, just maybe, we can give ourselves a break from all that hot messy guilt this Mother’s Day.

I always think of what James Lehman said: “Be a good enough parent.”

So this Mother’s Day, take some time to push some of those “Good Mom” buttons. In fact, maybe it’s time to start listing the things you’ve done right for your kids, the areas where you shine.

The list doesn’t have to be elaborate. The only rule is that you include things that are positive. It could be simple, at first:

  • “I sat with my son and watched Phineas & Ferb together, and we had a good laugh.”
  • “I listened to my thirteen-year-old daughter talk about how she’s worried that she doesn’t fit in at school.”
  • “My kids and I made dinner together tonight.”
  • “My son and I had a good day; we got to bed without a fight.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all the good (and good enough) moms out there.


About Elisabeth Wilkins

Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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