Being a parent is tough. Being a single mom to three boys is tougher. Now, being a single mom to three boys as a disabled chronically ill parent is extremely tough. Throw in a global pandemic and I have an extreme case of mom guilt. You know that feeling. We all as parents struggle with it at one point in our parenting journey.
Mom guilt simply means that inescapable feeling of not doing enough as a parent, not doing things right, or making decisions that you think may “mess up” your kids in the long run. By definition though, mom guilt doesn’t exist. It’s not even in any dictionary, but why is this such a common feeling?
Mom (or Dad) guilt feels like a dread or a weight on your shoulders (or chest, soul, etc.), and some of us might feel panicky — like we need to fix the problem right now. Mom guilt appears to us as the shoulds, the supposed to’s, and the other moms are… taking up space rent free in your head as you try to make it through the day.
Mom guilt stems from multiple sources, ranging from personal insecurities to outside pressures from family, friends, social media, and other sources.
It doesn’t help that a quick scroll through Instagram will show hundreds of posts of what other moms seem to be doing so well, from educational activities to perfectly groomed toddlers posing sweetly. Unknowingly to us viewers though is the chaos that really goes on in everyone’s house. So we go on punishing ourselves further thinking we are the only ones who don’t have this parenting game down.
When I became a mom social media was non existent so my mom guilt came from comparison and my family.
I was a young mom, only 20 years old when I gave birth to my first son, so I was so self conscious of everything I did as a parent. I heard a lot of unsolicited advice on how I should raise my kids.
By the time I had my third son at age 30, my lupus began rearing it’s ugly head and I was experiencing flare up after flare up. I was constantly in the hospital or unable to do things with my kids like I used to. Family or people who did not know my lupus struggle began with the condescending stares or accusations of being lazy or not trying to be a parent.
I suffered from depression, and the so called “mom guilt” turned into ugly imaginary voices whispering to me I wasn’t a good enough mom.
The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means that you already are one.-Jodi Picoult
Truth was I was fighting daily just to function. My kids were taken care, in no way did they experience neglect. I felt bad I wasn’t able to have our usual zoo or beach days like we used. Or when we did get out, I would start feeling sick and have to cut a trip short.
Sadly, our Western culture has cultivated an idealized expectation that all parents should be caring, nurturing, patient and above all else, ever-present. When you have a chronic illness, you can’t depend on next week you’ll feel better enough to do more. This usually results in a parental guilt that we aren’t meeting society’s standards.
As parents, we need to realize that children don’t need us to be perfect. They need us to model for them how to thrive in the real world.
Acknowledging that we are all doing our best given our health circumstances is probably the most liberating thing we can do. That we are are all works in progress as parents. Maybe we could stop focusing on what we should be doing, and focus instead on what we are doing: adapting and growing. Kids are impressionable and watching our very move.
And let’s be honest, we all fail. Over and over. But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. And no matter what the Internet says, you are all doing great.
Rosadela Durruthy is founder of She’s Got Lupus, a non profit organization aimed to improve the lives of those living with chronic illnesses by advocating for mental health, healthy living and raising awareness.