I had an “ah-ha” motherhood moment the other day. It came to me as I was driving down the highway with tears rolling down my cheeks. I had been looking forward to these few days to myself for a month, and was doing a silent countdown in my head every time I had a challenging parenting moment, which occur at least a few times daily raising my two vibrant, loving little men.
My parents offered to take our boys for a few days so my husband and I could work and have a little break. So Sunday rolled around, I had their bags packed and they were too busy having fun to pay much mind to me leaving. How wonderful that they are so loved by their grandparents and extended family to not notice me leaving, right? Then why did I feel like I did as I drove away? I tried to find the answer to this question as the kilometres passed. I wanted this break, it had been on my mind for the past week, so why did I feel so broken? This feeling wasn’t new to me. I became familiar with it soon after my first son and felt it every time I tried to do something for myself. Half-way back to the city I found words to describe this feeling. My boys own a huge space in my heart, and I couldn’t help to feel a bit empty, like something was missing when I drove away. I deserved this time, it’s mine and I shouldn’t ruin these moments with acknowledging this empty space by feeling guilty. I needed to find a way to pay mind to this space in my heart, to carry it without letting it overcome me and to enjoy and thrive in these moments to myself.
I feel like this is every mother’s challenge. We all feel this way over different things. For some, it’s leaving them everyday for work, or taking an hour to yourself for exercise, or even putting them to bed early cause you’re fried. It’s during these moments we teeter on the edge of two things. Guilt, which ultimately can ruin those moments for you and wear you down, or embracement and acknowledgement of this feeling, and the conscious decision to decide you are worthy of this moment to yourself.
We are mothers not martyrs. Society and social media often puts pressure on women to be it all and in order to be a “good mom” we must never leave our children. Well, I am not that mom. I love my boys like nothing else, and man have I struggled with guilt over doing anything for myself. I can count endless shifts at work, yoga classes, dinners out with my husband, and even mini getaways that had overtones of guilt which I carried on my shoulders and came back to my boys not feeling recharged and ready to parent and give them the 100% I desperately wanted to give. Looking back on this, I realised what a mistake I was making, and driving home the other day I decided to look that guilt straight in the eye and say “not happening”. I don’t love them any less for leaving them, in fact it’s necessary for me to keep sight on who I am as a person. I decided to devote my time away to my work (which I love) and to take care of myself. And it felt so good! When that niggling feeling of guilt creeped in (which it does), I told myself that taking care of me is important too and necessary for me to be the parent I want to be.
It doesn’t matter how many times you read this or are told by others, you need to start believing this for yourself. Take a moment and think about who you are and what you enjoy without your mom badge on. And believe that you are worthy of this. This isn’t a skill that you master, it is an ongoing effort on your part to keep a piece of yourself. Trust me when I say it’s worth the effort. Guilt is toxic, and the alternative is feeling good about who you are and coming back to your babes ready to love and they’ll feel this positivity too. Make a commitment to yourself to try, and see the positive effects it will have on you and your relationship with your kids.
Carrie Bruno RN, IBCLC