I started the summer with a pretty stellar plan. I’d get up at 5:30 every morning, log a few hours of work, and let the kids have some relaxed TV time while practicing their budding independence by cooking themselves breakfast.
Then, by 10:30, I’d log off the computer, they’d turn off the television, and we’d enjoy the rest of the day out in the sunny Seattle weather. We’d go biking, hiking, swimming…you know. Typical summer stuff.
Like I said. It was a good plan.
Just one week into summer break, plans collided with reality as our packed calendar left little room for down time. Back-to-back-to-back long weekend adventures left teeny slivers of time at home in which I had to scramble to fit in 20+ hours of work in order to pack and prepare for our next outing.
There was no “logging off” at 10:30, unless it was 10:30 pm.
So there I was, on one of my marathon work days, the sun shining in my window, and my kids fighting over Legos in the playroom. I started to feel like a terrible summer mom. My kids should have been outside playing and making memories, not stuck inside, forced to entertain themselves, with their mother glued to the computer.
In that moment the mom guilt was strong. But in that moment the mom guilt was also wrong.
I stepped back a bit.
The reason I’d been working for two days straight was that we’d gone on a four-day camping trip and played in a lake, returning home for two days to recover (and get my work done) before heading out on another four-day camping trip. In reality, my kids weren’t missing out on summer fun. They were having plenty of it – punctuated by downtime at home which nobody would argue is a poor choice anyway.
So many people tell you to get rid of the mom guilt. They say that you “shouldn’t feel guilty.”
But mama, don’t let anyone tell you how to feel. It’s not that simple. And I believe that mom guilt can serve an important purpose if we embrace it.
When you feel that mom guilt creep up, don’t automatically take it as a signal that you’re doing something wrong. Similarly, don’t immediately suppress it.
Instead, use it as an opportunity to check in.
Yes, you feel guilty in that moment. But when you survey the bigger picture, do you really need to make a change? Or is that guilt whispering lies in your ear?
And sometimes, you might realize that guilt is valid. That there’s room for improvement. That it’s time to do better and make a change.
The mom guilt was wrong when it told me I was a bad summer mom. My kids have been camping at least three times, flown on airplanes, met more friends at the beach or park than we can count, and have been to the water park about once a week. They are missing nothing.
But the mom guilt was right when it told me I’d been pretty irritable with my kids while parked at my keyboard. That needed to change.
So moms, embrace the guilt. And then you can either ignore it or acknowledge it.
But either way, you’re gonna have it. Just accept it. And make it work for you.