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So there I stood, staring at the last piece of chocolate cake sitting in the fridge. MY chocolate cake. The birthday cake that my Nona makes me every year. My favorite cake in the whole wide world…. Which also happens to be my sons favorite cake in the whole wide world. In the days following my birthday, my son and I had spent our late mornings sharing a piece a day while a drank my coffee and he drank his milk. But now, staring at the last piece, I simply did NOT want to share. So I stood there… Fridge open, leaking out all of the cold air, thinking to myself “why do I feel guilty for wanting to finish my own birthday cake by myself?”. The answer? Because I’m a mom, and that’s what we do. We share and we give and we sacrifice, and we feel guilty in the moments that we have the opportunity to have the simplest of things to ourselves. Whether it be a piece of double chocolate cake, a couple hours away at a movie, or simply closing the bathroom door while we pee, we naturally feel guilty for any moment in which we are not putting our children first. But a happy baby is achieved through a happy mommy, and if mommy isn’t taking the occasional guilt free moment to herself, baby (and probably everyone remotely close to mommy) are eventually going to feel the consequences. So be free mamas, because there are a few simple things that we all should JUST NOT feel guilty about:
- Don’t feel guilty for going out. Whether it be just 60 minutes to go get your nails done, or 4 hours to go to a friends birthday party, get out of the house and don’t spend the entire time feeling bad about it! On multiple occasions, I have left the house to go to my nail salon (which is not even a mile away). I spend the entire time feeling bad about leaving my son and imagining the ginormous crocodile tears that he MUST be crying in my absence. I return home only to find my husband chasing him around the house while both of them roar with laughter, oblivious to the fact that I even walked in the door. And all I can think in that moment is that I just spent my precious 60 minutes of alone time worrying about a situation that I shouldn’t have been worrying about to begin with. You time is just that… YOU time. It is not ‘sit around worrying and feeling guilty time’. Take advantage of any adult time you can get, and don’t feel bad about it.
- Don’t feel guilty for having lazy days. You can’t be super mom every second of every day all 365 days of the year, no matter how much coffee you consume. I’ll be the first to admit that after a weekend full of activities and events and errands and chores, I like to use Monday as an opportunity to relax as I head into another week of being a mom/wife. Don’t feel bad for heating up the weekends leftovers, turning on PBS (or real housewives during nap time of course), saving the growing pile of dishes for tomorrow, and going to bed early. The occasional lazy day is honestly the only way I remain in touch with my sanity and we all deserve a good ol’ guilt free lazy day from time to time.
- Don’t feel guilty for leaving events early. We’ve all had those days: pool party to attend in the afternoon. Toddler has been up since 5 am and decided that today would be an excellent day to protest nap time. You’ve got to prepare the macaroni salad that you promised to bring, but of course you forgot the key ingredient at the grocery store and have to run back for the second time today. You finally get to the party, only to watch your child throw a ginormous fit because the ball he/she wanted to play with is already in another child’s possession. An hour in you are exhausted and miserable… So just leave! Go home. Don’t feel guilty about it. Everyone has been there, they all feel your frustration. Nobody is going to judge you for removing yourself from a situation that is only causing you stress. Politely excuse yourself from the event and take your little one home for an early bed time… But maybe pick up a much needed and well deserved bottle of sanity (wine) on your way home.
- Don’t feel guilty for not returning phone calls/texts right away. I’m not suggesting you ignore your mother in law for weeks on end, but don’t feel pressure to respond the moment a text is received. All too often, I receive a text, open it, and before I have a moment to respond, my son is trying to eat cat food or break into the not so child proof cabinet locks. By the time I’m finished with that situation, the dryer goes off and the laundry needs folding or lunch needs to be made or a block tower ‘needs’ to be built. There are also the times (this is no secret to my friends), that I will receive a call during a moment when I’m actually free to answer it, I stare at my phone ringing, think about answering it, and then I just… Don’t. Because sometimes when you’ve had a long day full of “mama, mama” every two seconds and running up and down the stairs a billion times and mid store tantrums, that moment that you finally have to yourself to simply sit there and regain your sanity, is not the moment that you wish to be answering the phone. It’s not that you don’t want to talk.. You just don’t want to talk right this very second. And that is OK. Call them later.. They’ll be fine, I promise.
- Don’t feel guilty for making your own parenting decisions. From the time you get pregnant to the time you are delivering to the time you are learning to breast feed and spoon feed and so on, people will constantly give you parenting advice. Some of it will be solicited, some of it won’t be. Some of it will be from parents and grandparents and some of it will be from strangers at social gatherings. Whatever it is and whoever it’s from, don’t feel like you HAVE to listen to it. As a first time mom, I often would ask around for advice and mommy tips– Anything to point me in the general vicinity of heading in the right direction. But the truth is, the only ‘right direction’ is the one that you choose for yourself. Pick and choose the advice that you follow. Pull pieces you like and put together your own method without feeling guilty for not following every little piece of advice down to the letter. Even if the advice came from your sister or mom or best friend, don’t feel obligated to follow it all and don’t feel bad if it’s not something you think is best suited for your child or your family. Only you can make those decisions, and you should never feel bad about that.
All of these are easier said than done, trust me, I know. I am guilty of feeling guilty for all of these things at least a handful of times as I frolic through this journey called motherhood. But the more experience I gain, the truer all of these become. Motherhood presents so many challenges of its own, don’t let overcoming guilt for things you shouldn’t feel guilty for become one of those challenges. Take care of yourself, follow your heart, trust your instincts, and most importantly: go get yourself that much needed pedi… And leave the guilt at the door while you do it.