A moment where I was most encouraged in my parenting path was when a friend laughed at me after I shared a parenting mistake.
She laughed at me! After I shared a story that clearly revealed parental failure!
I shared the details of that story, knowing that my heart was safe with her, but still that she would surely agree with me: I really shouldn’t have done what I did.
My friend’s laugh wasn’t a laugh of mockery. What I heard in her laugh, and what I learned afterward, was that I surprised her with my choice. But I could relax. I made a mistake. Oh well! My ineffective parenting strategy was not a sign that I should self-condemn, heaping tons of mama guilt onto myself.
Being honest in moments of parental indiscretion keeps me humble, keeps me from judging other parents, because I know I’m in no special league. I won’t write the authoritative parenting book. I might be Mother Teresa, but I’ll never live up to the perception of that icon.
So when another mom, a very gentle mom who stops to chat with her child whenever she enters the room, or answers questions with patience, or doesn’t seem to get annoyed by the noise of our collective nine children playing loudly, suggests she’s probably not spending enough time playing games with her kids, I quickly tell her not to buy into the mama guilt.
Yes, we all have reasons, true or not, to feel mama guilt. Sometimes we feel guilt because it is earned. Sometimes it’s because we are attempting to live up to unrealistic expectations, and not surprisingly, also not meeting them. Sometimes it’s a mix of both. But mama guilt will do nothing to propel us on to learning what we need to learn to be the mamas we need to be.
Instead we could not take ourselves too seriously, maybe even laugh it off.