It took weeks for me to stop crying every time I waved goodbye to her. My baby was two months old when I had to go back to work. I couldn’t help feeling like a bad mom despite the fact that I knew, deep down, I wasn’t.
I would spend my pumping breaks at work reading mommy blogs, and looking at the dozens of adorable photos I had taken of my baby the day before. But I would always be plagued with the knowledge that, if only I could be home with my child, I could be a better mom.
Thus we arrive at that common yet horrible phrase that every mom tells herself: “If only I could [blank], I could be a better mom.”
The problem is, there is no magical formula that details how to be a “good mom.” Every child has unique needs, every mother has varying methods of parenting, and every family has a different dynamic structure. So if every situation is so unique, why is there such a need to be so hard on ourselves as mothers? What does this spectrum of good vs. bad mothers look like? Is it possible to theoretically take every mother on earth and rank them from best to worst on a linear scale? Probably not but the questions persist.
“If only I could do the dishes everyday before my child wakes up, I could be a better mother.”
“If only I could have a healthier meal prepared each night, I could be a better mother.”
And the list goes on.
My life became a long list of checks and balances to determine what my real priorities should be. Is it wrong to sit my child in front of the television for 30 minutes every couple of days so that I can unload the dishwasher and sweep the kitchen floor? Is it wrong to encourage “independent play time” in her room so that I can vacuum the living room without terrifying her (yes, she’s scared of the vacuum)? I really don’t have the answers to these questions, and I don’t think anyone does.
So get rid of that “If only…” statement!
Instead, ask yourself three important questions. Whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, a breast feeder or formula feeder, a vegan health nut or take-out lover four nights a week, asking yourself these questions each day can help you to stifle those feelings of guilt as you glance at the toys scattered across the living room floor and the pile of laundry in the utility room that is slowly starting to tip like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Did you have realistic expectations for the day?
Did you give yourself credit for what you did do today?
Did you laugh with your child today?
And as far as that “If only…” statement? The only one I tell myself now is: “If only I can keep avoiding the mommy guilt, I can be a better mom.”