Laughing off mama guilt. Can it be done?
I have a hard time laughing off my parenting fails. When I shared a genuine parenting fail with a friend, she laughed. She laughed!
I knew my heart was safe with her, because she didn’t see my parenting fail like I did. I knew her well enough that she would agree I really didn’t approach my child the right way.
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 because it didn’t strike her that I would approach my child like THAT. (Even I surprised MYSELF. Welcome to parenting.)
Her laugh spoke to me: “Relax, you made a mistake. Oh well! Your ineffective parenting strategy was not a sign that you should self-condemn, heaping tons of mama guilt onto yourself.”
Being honest in moments of parental indiscretion keeps me humble (and also 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 (my first name), but I’ll never live up to the perception of that icon.
So when a different mama shares her guilty feelings that she’s not measuring up (a gentle mom who stops to chat with her child whenever her child enters the room, answers questions with patience, doesn’t seem to get annoyed by the noise of children playing loudly, suggests she’s probably not spending enough time playing games with her kids), I quickly tell her not to buy into mama guilt.
Guilt doesn’t propel us to make useful choices. In fact, we’re more likely to hide when we allow ourselves to be consumed by guilt. We’re less likely to make intentional choices and shift in a healthier direction. And that’s actually what we NEED to do when we’re making a parenting choice that makes us feel guilty.
Yes, we all have reasons to feel mama guilt.
Sometimes we feel guilt because it is earned — our parenting choice really wasn’t the wisest one.
Sometimes we feel guilt because we are attempting to appease our (or others’) unrealistic expectations. Sometimes it’s a mix of both.
Mama guilt will do nothing to propel us to learn what we need to be the mamas we need to be.