I know I’m not the only mother who has been inflicted with the Bad Mommy Syndrome from time to time.
It usually flares up on days that I’m tired or overwhelmed by children who need more attention than I can possibly give them. It is not bad for kids to not receive all the attention they want, and I firmly believe that kids need to learn how to play by themselves.
But there are days that I feel like I should be doing more, and of course there are days when my children are not behaving, to say the least. Whatever might be going on, I can’t help but sometimes feel like the worst mommy in the world.
It’s funny how feeling bad about one thing can make you feel bad about everything. Maybe it starts with how I can’t get my three-year-old to eat any vegetables, and the irrational part of my brain is telling me I’ve ruined my child’s eating habits for life. Then I start thinking about how he watches too much T.V., and I feel guilty because I’m not always good at engaging him in play for more than ten minutes – my back cannot take sitting on that hard living room floor for any longer than that. After that I berate myself for not doing enough crafts with him or not taking him on enough play dates, and that leads to my second-guessing my decision to homeschool. Finally, I stop myself.
I don’t think it takes being a mother to think such absurd thoughts about your life, but it sure can exacerbate it. If I think logically, I usually realize that I am exhausted, I have a needy baby and a three-year-old, and this is just a period of time in which it’s impossible to get much done. Mothers need weekends, but we don’t get them. Not having a day here and there to just veg out in front of the T.V., clean my house and put my ducks in a row can make me feel out of sorts and this leads to burn out and feelings of uncertainty.
I think mothers put a lot of pressure on themselves these days because we know now more than ever how important these first years of development are. As Sesame Street taught us years ago, children can learn faster and much earlier than we once thought. We also know how important it is that our children develop good habits early – from brushing their teeth to saying “please.” On top of all of this, our children need our undying love and support.
Much of this is easy to give children because they do have our undying love and support. The rest of it, however, does not need to happen all in one day. I may not do many crafts with my child, but I take him outside to explore nature whenever we get the chance. During these cold winter months, I sometimes forget that. He may eat nothing but bread and cheese one day, but the next day, he surprises me by eating salad. I must remind myself that my children’s childhoods are spread out over many years. There is plenty of time for them to learn, to socialize, to play and get my attention. Finally, though I know I will probably do some things wrong over the course of their lives, it is not all riding on what I did – or didn’t do – today.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.