Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mommy Guilt

I am conducting a survey.

Do you mommies feel a sense of mommy guilt? Why do you think this is and what is the cure?
I shall explain:

When I was expecting Eden, I was completely happy about the idea of having another baby... especially another girl. Along with just adding to our family and life, I was happy for Maddie to be having a close in age sibling, and a sister to boot. I felt that it was in her best interest that she not remain an only child for long (not saying it would be wrong... just my opinion as I noticed her attitude of "It's all about ME!", which just about every toddler develops, right?). There were many things I did not anticipate that happened when Eden arrived and the biggest surprise to me to the strong feeling of guilt that I had. It's difficult to explain, but I will try.
I felt overwhelmed at the idea that now three people (my two children and my husband) were relying on me so heavily. Each of them wanted ALL of me. I felt like I was being stretched farther than possible. I could not give myself totally to each of them all at the same time. Failing one, if not all of them seemed inevitable. I wanted to be teaching and training Maddie to obey better and just spend time playing with her and engaging her. I wanted to give Eden all the loving and cuddling that a newborn should have, plus nurse her as long as possible. And maybe the hardest of all was trying to give Seth all the attention and priority a husband should have and trying to be careful to not let babies consume our marriage. Further complicating my situation is the fact that Eden was born in May. Why is that significant? I'm a youth pastor's wife. The late spring and summer is a very very busy time for us. Tiny little Eden came along to youth conferences and outings, and was just fine. If you've ever nursed a baby while standing up in a bathroom stall on the thru way rest stop, you MIGHT be a youth pastor's wife! ; ) Honestly though, it all felt like trying to divide up a raisin into three servings that would fill each person. I knew in my head that this feeling of guilt and not being able to satisfy every need presented to me was illogical and unnecessary but I could not shake the guilty feeling, which I have dubbed "Mommy Guilt". It plagued me strongly for about 3 months, during which time I muddled through and did my best to be everything each of these three special people needed of me. The guilt subsided a great deal as Eden got older and I felt that we were adjusted to our new family size. I was back to giving Maddie one on one time, and was able to lavish more attention on Seth. I still did have some guilt about not having the time to cuddle and snuggle with Eden as much as did with Maddie. The guilt is not overwhelming any more but it still does arise periodically.

This subject has been on my mind recently because in conversation with other moms, I have gotten the impression that they too feel Mommy Guilt, especially as new members are added to their family. It makes me wonder if mommies of large families feel this way when bringing in their 8th, 9th and so on child. I hope to have a big family as well and I wonder if I will feel this way when I have our 3rd, 4th and more, Lord willing. If I felt so guilt ridden with just two kiddos, I certinaly hope not!

While in the hospital waiting room yesterday as I tried to sneak at peek at my brand new nephew, I had a conversation about Mommy Guilt with my father in law, who is also my pastor. He knew exactly to what I was referring because my sister in law had just been in tears about how she would be able to care for her three older boys, one of whom is still a baby, and her newborn. My father in law is old school in every way.... common sense practicality oozes out of him, and sometimes that is just foreign to my female, "touchy feely" brain! ; ) He told me that he is baffled by the young mothers today who seem to all struggle with this nagging guilt. When my in laws were bringing up their house full of children, guilt had never occurred to him, and not to his wife either because they've discussed this trend as they observed it in young moms. They just hunkered down and did right by them. Period. What's to feel guilty about?

Sitting in that maternity ward as we talked on this subject and others concerning family life, I thought "I do not believe this man has an ounce of estrogen in him." *sigh*

This evening I brought it up to my husband and... well. He doesn't get it either. It's not his fault. Again, serious void of estrogen.

Do you think estrogen promotes guilt like it promotes breast cancer? Hmmm. Someone should do a clinical study on that!

So please, give me your in-put. Is this a generational thing? Is it a wrong philosophy thing? Is hormone therapy the only cure? Maybe you do not experience the guilt that I'm referring to? Why do you think that is?


Amy ♥ DailyPleasures said...

We as women are definitely our own worst enemies. I find that 99.9%, o.k., maybe more like 100% of my Mommy Guilt is self-induced through my own expectations. I imagine I should be everything and do everything and be the perfect mother with everyone else's talents and character combined, so obviously, I fall short.

As our children grow older and their faults are simply mirrors of my own faults, that guilt deepens. Guilt is a sin. If we could only learn not to "compare ourselves among ourselves."

My guess is that is the reason why we are so much more guilt-ridden today. Because every day, all day long, we can stop and "visit" someone else's life and see all of the good they have accomplished (yes, I am talking about blogging). We are continually comparing ourselves to someone else in a less than real way and therefore, coming up short. I remember the days when it was just me and all of my little babies at home alone all day. The only one I talked to on the phone was my sister, who listened to my frustrations and failures with sympathy and understanding, then encouraged me in the Lord. I may have felt frustration in those days over the lack of time and the fact that sometimes I gave until I felt I had no more strength left to give, but I don't remember the guilt. Instead I remember five little children who were worth all the effort and a Daddy who came home at night and spent time loving on them with me. No TV, no computer, no comparisons.

Jodi said...

This is the 3rd time I've tried to post, maybe I should quit and call it a day. Not sure if it's God or Satan trying to stop me from posting, so I'll try once more!

I believe what you're describing is perfectionism- "A propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards." The standard you're describing is giving of yourself equally or fully to each person in your family. Not only is that impossible, it's wrong and unhealthy. God gave you Seth, who you have to share with God (and a few other people.) And then you had children. You were not destined to be childless, so you haven't taken anything away from Seth in terms of attention. (From my chair you seem to keep him in correct priority, above the kids.) And so on for the girls.

My answer is "no, I never felt that guilt."

I'm interested to see this discussion.

Mrs. Reverend Doctor said...

I do feel like Matthew gets the majority of me because he can ASK for me to do things, and is so upset if I don't take him when I leave the house, the other night DH, Lillian and I went out to eat, (Matthew was asleep at home sick with Grammie) and I realized I think it was the only time Lilli had been out with us and no big brother.

jennstar said...

Oh, I struggle with this! I agree with Amy, it is mostly my own expectations (perfectionism) that starts guilt.
Even this week, I am butchering 500lbs of beef - and I am feeling guilty about not getting our family letter out. It just dawned on me today that only ME is putting pressure on me. So, I just changed our Christmas letter to a "New Year Letter". Wow, no guilt, because I just moved my expectations. Unfortunately, not everything is that easy, but it is a reminder to me to check my own expectations of myself when I feel guilt/panic.

Joyful Blessings said...

I do not think that "mommy guilt" as you call it ever goes away. When Holly came home from Bible College she had been gone for 3 years across the country and now I wanted to help her through this next stage of her life until she married a good man and was on her own. I was going to be the best support I could be. At the same time I missed my son terribly, but knew that he was learning to grow up to be a man and take a wife and have a child someday. I told myself when Holly is safely married and on her own then I will have time to give to Brent. My priority though is her right now. The day Holly married and left for Washington, we packed up the house and rented it out, came and spent the time needed here with Brent and his family. It will be time to go home soon for awhile and then next year it will be divided up again between the two of them and their families, Lord willing. In between these long family visits, it will be just Tradd and I because we live a couple of states away, we will at those times focus on our marriage as a couple and do things much differently than when we are with the kids, both financially and emotionally. During these times alone we will be able to reach out to strangers more and be more generous to them.

The Lockwood Family said...

I very much agree with Amy. For me, guilt comes when I have put expectations on myself that are not from the Lord.
Often times, these thoughts of what we should or should not be doing come from either ourselves (things we've seen, read, or just think to be true) or from others (something someone has said to us).
I think your father in law is right when he says that back then, people just did not feel guilty like they do now. Of course, there is so much pressure now days, even from Christians, to limit the size of your family and so many other worldly philosophys have made there way into the church today that the poor minds today can get muddled not knowing the truth.
I often have to ask myself, "What does the Lord want from me today?" The answer is usually quite simple and when I take His yoke and burden upon me rather than my own or others, I find it truly is easy and light.
Modern day psychology has tainted our minds so much. How much we need to know the Lord and His Word and constantly think of what is true and right!
People may say that a good mother:
Rises early; has her children's clothes mended, ironed and matching, has very clean and hair combed children, has 3 healthy, natural, homemade meals on the table each day, keeps a clean house, has her children well versed in all acedemics, music and art, keeps well journaled baby books and photo albums, saves for her children's college, takes them to the dentist twice a year, takes them to all their well baby checks and vaccinations on time etc...
The list goes on and on.
But what does the Lord want? I know He wants me to love my husband and children, follow, obey and submit sweetly with a meek and quiet spirit to my husband's leadership in our home, take care of my home, and teach my children all day long through word and deed to know and love our Savior.
Yes, we women do worry and fret so. While I love being a "girl" and would never want to be a man, I am very thankful for them too as sometimes their cut and dry "simple" approach to things is so right and really helps me get back on track. There is a reason God made them to lead. :)
So yes, I have felt very much as you have before and am so thankful for a loving, gracious Lord who gives us His Word to lead our hearts.

Mrs. Julie Fink said...

Hi Kayte, I never did experience this, but I wasn't a youth pastor's wife either :). When I had my girls, my husband and I fought over spending time with them and for some reason we all just morphed into one big family enjoying everything at the same time. I do think the feeling of guilt is quite natural when there are so many "differing" demands put on you (to be here, to be doing that, etc.). You are a good Mom and Wife, your family is very fortunate to have you ♥.