Yes, THAT Mom. The one who is formula feeding her newborn or whose car seat strap got tangled because she’s short on sleep and now wouldn’t pass inspection, or the one whose kid’s butt is touching 4,000 carcinogens right now because she picked disposables instead of cloth diapers. The mom whose kid is melting down in the store, who is trying to decide what the best course of action is… because it feels like it might be to just leave the kid there and head to the liquor aisle. The mom who’s wearing her baby in a front-facing carrier, and it will probably be wheelchair ridden for most of its life now because she didn’t read all the articles on the dangers of crotch-dangling. Leave. Those. Moms. Alone.
As a culture, Mommy Guilt is a really, really real thing. The first time I experienced Mommy Guilt, I wasn’t a Mommy. I was actually the kid. The poor, abused child, being saved by someone who knew better. My mom and I were at 7th grade registration, and after begging her since I was basically born, I was allowed to wear make-up! Make-up is generous. I was allowed to wear clear mascara, lip gloss, and a little bit of eyeshadow. Seventh grade was what my mom agreed to, and I was looking good! We went into the gym to register and as we stepped up to the table, a mom with kids my age was volunteering. Before any kind of greeting, she hissed questioningly, “Are you wearing make-up?”
“I am!” I said proudly.
“Oh, gosh. Isn’t 7th grade kind of young?” She said, now addressing my mom instead of me. Before waiting for a response she continued, “I mean, it looks fine, but I just wouldn’t want my daughter wearing make-up in 7th grade.”
I don’t really remember the rest of what happened, but I do know that if you ask my saint of a mother about that woman, she still shudders a bit. Shockingly I didn’t end up a street walker after being introduced to make-up at such a young age.
I really feel like as parents, we realize that we’re pretty much all failing in some way, right? We're guilty because our kids don't eat organic, or they watch too much TV, or they spend time with a baby-sitter regularly. And that’s because we’re all imperfect people doing the best we can. But to compensate for the areas that we feel our Mommy Guilt, we all say, “At least I haven’t done THAT.” You may have one “that” or one hundred “thats” that you consider woefully poor parenting, but at the end, it’s all a game to make us feel better that our own failures “aren’t as bad” as what others are doing. And that’s sad.
It’s sad because
- We are cheating ourselves. We are essentially lowering the bar for ourselves when we fixate on what other moms are doing “wrong.”
- We are perpetuating a practice that loads on the Mommy Guilt, and tears people down, rather than building them up. No one is a better Mom because someone said, “You should be a better mom!”
- We are putting a façade of “being helpful” around something that is anything but. If you are genuinely concerned about how someone you know is parenting, privately offer them help one on one. Don’t blow up their Facebook with 400 articles citing how they’re screwing up their kid for years to come. (I've legitimately seen this)
Maybe I’m fired up about this because being a mom (other than being a Christian) is one of the first things that I constantly feel woefully inadequate at. Maybe I’m fired up about it because I’ve seen so many Moms totally torn down by what others moms have said to them. I’m pledging today to stop perpetuating Mommy Guilt – for others and for myself. Will you join me?