How to Make Your Mom Guilt Work For You

It is possible to find a way to use those feelings of guilt and to propel ourselves into something better.

We live in strange times, living much of our life online. Social media affects who we are and how we feel about everything, including motherhood.
Through the filter of Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram, the guilt which seems to be an integral part of motherhood gets amplified. It can make best of us feel like it’s impossible to measure up.
No one likes to feel guilty. It’s not much fun. We can expend a lot of energy trying not to feel the guilt which lurks in us all. A new mother seems to have two choices. Work your butt off to achieve Pinterest-ready perfection. Or throw in the towel.
You can co-sleep yourself into a sleep deprived neurosis. Declutter, spring clean, systemize, organize and plan your home into an impossible level of perfection. Eliminate anything processed, sugar laden or practical from your family’s diet. Or whatever your definition of what good motherhood is meant to look like. It might even work. You’ll banish your guilt. But you’ll be in danger of becoming a burnt out shell of a human being.
 
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If you admit defeat before you even get started, you risk becoming defensive and bitter. Perhaps you’ll write articles defending the amount of time your kids spends watching TV, or your addiction to your iPhone (maybe that was just me).
Bury your guilt down as far as it will go and maintain an anything goes approach to your kid’s life. Junk food, screen time, whatever else you know is bad for them. Best not to think about it. We all know you’re tired, who can blame you? You’ll find plenty of other moms willing to join you on this route.
But neither approach works. The guilt is always there bubbling below the surface. You’re constantly using up emotional or physical energy to avoid the feeling. And anyone who says they don’t feel mom guilt is probably trying to sell you their fail proof and proven method to becoming Super Mom. Who needs that?
What if there’s a third way? A way to acknowledge you feel guilty sometimes, but which empowers you to make your guilt work for you. You don’t have to aim for perfection or end up feeling stuck and defensive when your choices are less than satisfactory.
What would happen if we learned to listen to our mom guilt? Is it possible to find a way to use that feeling to propel us into something better? Rather than becoming bitter or burnt out we can keep moving forward.

What is guilt?

Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to define our terms. We often use the words shame and guilt interchangeably. However, there is a significant difference in meaning. Brene Brown has some useful thing to say about this.
She says that shame tells you ‘I am bad.’ Fundamentally as a human and as a mom. No matter how hard you try you will never measure up, you will always be a bad mom. That’s who you are.
Guilt, on the other hand, opens the possibility for change and improvement. It says ‘I did something bad.’ Making mistakes is part of being human, but mistakes have a solution.
We need to remember the term is mom guilt, not mom shame. In other words, you are not a bad mom. You are a good mom who has bad days, and it is within your power to chose how to respond to that.

Why do we feel guilty?

In her book “Emotional Agility” Susan David points out that among the seven basic human emotions the majority of them are negative and difficult to feel. She argues that there must be a reason for this, evolutionarily speaking.
All of our emotions must have a purpose. Our guilt might be trying to tell us something. If we can find a way to slow down and get curious about what we are feeling and why, maybe we will learn some valuable information.
David says that she feels guilty for having to be away from her children for work, but points out that: “My guilt is a flashing arrow pointing toward the people I love and the life I want to lead.”
In other words, your guilt might be trying to tell you what matters to you. Some reasons for mom guilt might be universal, but others may be specific to your personal circumstances.
I tend to feel guilty when I’ve been feeding my son too much processed food. This tells me I value healthy, home cooked meals. I care about nutrition, and I know it’s important for growing minds and bodies.
I feel less guilty about the amount of time he watches TV. We have limits on TV time (he’s about to turn three for reference), although some days those limits are ignored. But, as we live overseas, I weigh the benefit of English language input through Netflix against whatever some expert or fellow mom has to say about dangers of too much screen time.

What to do with our guilt once we’ve heard what it’s telling us?

First I ask why I’m feeling guilty, then I start to wonder why I’m making particular choices. Why, if I value home cooked meals, am I not making sure I provide them right now? Are there some changes I need to make?
Do I need to get on top of meal planning? Maybe I can spend a few minutes on Pinterest and find a printable meal planner. Or perhaps the issue is that there is not enough time to shop and cook? So I might need to look into grocery delivery service or stock the freezer in bulk, so I don’t have to think about it.
Or maybe I just need to go easy on myself for a change. Am I my own worst critic? Maybe a week of crappy food, when I was extra busy and tired, isn’t the end of the world. I live don’t have a lot of outside help. Trying to be Wonder Woman or comparing myself to someone else is super unhelpful.
Maybe your guilt is telling you where you need to make some changes. Or maybe what you need is to learn to practice a little self-compassion.
If your friend came to you saying how she was such a terrible mom for letting this one ball drop would you join her to pile on the blame? Or would you tell her she’s doing a fantastic job and the kids are totally fine? Why are we so hard on ourselves?
Maybe I need to stay away from Pinterest and Facebook for a while. I don’t need to see anyone else boasting about how their kids eat kale and homemade sauerkraut. Or whatever. Maybe we all need time offline sometimes.
Maybe what our kids need isn’t a mom who is always trying so hard, but one who is learning to love herself more fully instead.

Knowing When Friendship Has Run its Course

I’ve always gone with my gut feeling and my gut was definitely telling me to let go.

To be honest, I’m not a #bestiesforever kind of person. I’ve always ranked that hashtag up there with people who post pictures of themselves on social media, looking absolutely screwed, with the caption, “this little angel has kept me awake for a week straight, but I’m so #blessed.”
I’ve been known to unfriend anyone who uses the #blessed hashtag because, ultimately, I know that we can’t really be friends. I love Instagram, but some of the hashtags I use to whore myself out for likes are similar to #blessed, and I’ve had to stop using them because it feels like I’m selling out. It got to the point where #bestiesforever brought me that same kind of cringe, and it took me a while to work out why.
I do love a good celebration of friendship, whether it’s on social media or just sending someone a message to tell them they’ve been an awesome friend or that you miss them. When children are involved, it’s often searching your diary for months on end, finding out that nobody has the same free date for the next 18 months, but looking forward to that date like your life depends on it. You know that after one sip of prosecco, it’ll feel like you’ve never been apart. But what happens when you slowly realize that your best friends aren’t your best friends anymore?
 
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I think it’s safe to say that when you have a child, you will, whether it’s intentional or not, totally overhaul your life. You chuck out old clothes that will never fit you again. You sweep the house for anything that might hurt your child and promptly get rid of it or put it out of reach. You also have no time for friendships that have become hard work, and overhaul these with everything else. What you’re going through is hard enough without the added stress of trying to maintain something that will just never work.
I started to feel like this about a lot of my friendships early on in my pregnancy and, once my first baby arrived, it became clear that maintaining certain friendships was going to be harder than climbing Kilimanjaro in heels. But it was a struggle of emotions. These were friendships I’d had for 20 years – I’d been friends with these people for longer than I hadn’t been. I felt I should keep trying. Eventually, the hurt I felt every time I saw a #bestiesforever picture without me in it outweighed the need to try and remain friends.
They also did some pretty crappy things, using the fact that I had a baby as an excuse for ignorance. One day, I went through my phone and deleted all the numbers of people that I no longer felt were my friends and blocked them from all social media. I was cackling like a deranged witch when I did it, gleefully muttering “so long, knobheads!” I practically danced around the house, free from the weight of them, and relieved I finally had some closure on the situation.
But out of the blue, I was out one day, saw something hilarious, and retrieved my phone to take a picture, thinking “H would love this!” Then I realized, H and I aren’t friends anymore. I had cut H out of my life. It hit me, I would never actually see H again, and that had been my decision.
The full force of cutting these people from my life hit me and, for a while, I actually felt bereft. Before now, I’d felt nothing but relief and cackling delight, but to feel bereft totally knocked me for a loop. It was almost like I was experiencing the stages of bereavement for the friendships I had lost: denial that they were no longer viable friendships, anger (the bit that made me delete their numbers faster than a secretary on speed), bargaining with myself over whether the decision had been the right one, and feeling depressed about it. I have, of course, now given the whole situation way too much thought and come up with the following:
I hated #bestiesforever because I was jealous. I wanted to be included and I got rid of my friends because of jealousy, not because the hashtag made me want to throw up a little in my mouth, which is what I told myself.
My friends genuinely never invited me anywhere anymore because I had children, and they automatically assumed that meant I could never go anywhere or do anything ever again.
They filed me under B for Boring and planned to be better friends once they thought I was less boring.
Maybe they actually wanted to get rid of me. Maybe they were actually doing the dance of delight that they’d pushed me out enough to make me get rid of them, thus alleviating their own guilt at finding me to be a total non-entity and no longer wanting me in their lives.
I’m actually overthinking the whole f***ing thing and my initial assessment that they were, in fact, shitty friends was correct, and I’ve done the best thing for everyone by cutting ties.
It’s just so flipping hard to know what is the right thing to do. I’ve always gone with my gut feeling and my gut was definitely telling me to let go. But then it changed its mind and left me with a nagging feeling that I’d messed up.
Maybe a part of me thought that once they had children of their own, they’d realize that they hadn’t been the greatest of friends and want to make amends. (I will say that I wasn’t the most understanding towards people with children when I didn’t have any of my own.) But then, despite being blocked, a picture of one of them with a new baby managed to make its way onto my Facebook timeline and it was captioned #blessed. Maybe that’s just enough said and should be my final stage in the process: closure.

I'm Not the Mother I Want to Be, But That's Okay

I am not the sort of mother I thought I would be. I can hear the cry of “Haha! Nobody is,” careening at me.

I am not the sort of mother I thought I would be. I can hear the cry of “Haha! Nobody is,” careening at me. Yes, it’s an absolute motherhood rite of passage to laugh at yourself and denounce all of the things you were 100 percent never going to do as a mother. You tutted at those eating a quiet lunch while their children watched random people opening Kinder Eggs on Youtube, and felt sorry for the children of the mum who was begging them in a deranged hiss to “Please just stop bloody fighting” and offering them a lifetime’s supply of Haribo if they did so. Yes, I’ve been there and done that with the rest of you – nothing new there.

What I’m talking about runs a lot deeper than that. I’d gotten to the point where the only days I enjoyed were the days my children were at nursery school. On those days, I’d feel a prickle of dread when I had to go and collect them at the end of the day. I’d scramble around on the days in-between, desperately trying to get my mum, my brother, my dad, anyone, to come over so that I didn’t have to be alone with them. I’d feel a white hot fury if my mum took them to the park for “a couple of hours,” and came back after one.

I wondered how I’d gotten to the point where I woke up dreading each day. I wasn’t sure how I would get through it. I questioned how I’d so fantastically failed in the one job in life I was sure I’d succeed at. Did my children start every day moaning, screaming, and being difficult (and manage to keep this up for an entire day) because I’d done something so very badly wrong? I even started to wonder if I was actually innately evil, and this had somehow been missed throughout my previous life, manifesting only now in motherhood, because absolutely nobody should feel like that about their children. Should they?

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A lot of my questions were answered when both of the children had health scares. After a series of doctor visits, the littlest was eventually referred to the children’s hospital. Nobody was really sure what was wrong with him. On the days leading up to the appointment, I couldn’t sleep, of course, going through every worst-case scenario in my head. I felt sick as he skipped down the hospital corridors, no care in the world, with no clue as to why he was there.

It turns out the consultant put her finger on what was wrong with him immediately, and it was nothing that a short course of medication wouldn’t fix. I cried with relief. No sooner did we have that out of the way then, at a friend’s birthday party, my husband thrust the eldest in my face, telling me to do something. My child was gray and waxy, and his lips a strange shade of cyanosed. The horrified gasps of the people around us were audible and, as the ex-nurse present, everyone was looking right at me. I just stood there. At that point all I could think was that I wasn’t sure if I remembered how to do pediatric life support. I wasn’t really aware that the fact I was thinking this meant that my child, right there in front of me, might actually need it.

Again, a simple explanation was offered to us as to why this had happened. Nothing to do with the cardiac dysfunction I’d talked myself into believing was the diagnosis. In the days afterwards, I checked him hourly overnight, sleeping fitfully in-between. I wondered if, five minutes after I’d checked him, he might have another episode, and how could I contemplate existing if anything should happen to him.

It was in that moment that I realized that I wasn’t the terrible, evil person I’d convinced myself I was. I’m not the mother I thought I’d be, but raising children is also nothing like I thought it would be. Sometimes (99 percent of the time for us at the moment) children will be assholes. Sometimes no amount of expert advice or raiding the internet and your local “what’s on for kids” directory for new ideas will change that. Sometimes, you will wish that your children could go to boarding school and you could have an extended break from them. When they’re in bed, you might announce, “those f***ers hate me” to your husband (by you, I mean me, but it might be you too). But I’m also the mother who barely slept for checking on my children. Although sometimes I wake up wondering how I’ll get through the day, I still go out of my way to make the day fun and entertaining, even through the screaming.

I am the mother who gets a prickle of dread when going to collect the children from nursery school, knowing that the coming bedtime debacle might give me a nervous breakdown. I may have nicknamed the days they aren’t at nursery school Twatface Tuesdays, Wank Wednesdays, and Thank F**k It’s Nursery Again Tomorrow Thursdays, but I’ll still hug and squeeze their faces when I collect them like I’ve missed them with every inch of my being.

The fact that I care about why the children’s behavior is so bad at the moment and about the pain that I sometimes feel when I don’t want to spend time with them, defines the whole situation. Because if I didn’t care, I’d just stick my feet up, turn on “The Walking Dead,” tell my children Negan is coming to get them, and let them fight to the death. I care about changing things. I realized that sometimes everything being bollocks doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t die for my children. They don’t need the mother I thought I’d be. I’m sure they’re more than happy with the one they’ve got.     

It's Not Always the Score of the Game That Makes it a Winner

He might actually remember this experience, which turned an otherwise forgettable game into a lesson that he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life.

I’d coached high school-aged baseball players for years before I started coaching for Koa Sports, a youth sports organization based in Bethesda, Maryland. At thirty years old, I coached a group of rambunctious ten-year-old boys, and ended up spending several seasons with them. I coached them through a lot of fun and a lot of learning. Above all, I coached them with the mentality that the lessons you learn are what matter most. Even more than winning.

At the start of my third straight season with the same group, I quickly found out that they were no longer tiny ten-year-olds. Now, they were “about to grow up” twelve-year-olds, which apparently is the age they start to express frustration by throwing equipment.

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That very first weekend of games, several players chucked whatever they could find. Bats. Helmets. Gloves. I let this slide and went home that day without mentioning much to the team. I needed time to consider my approach, something I rarely do. By the time the next practice rolled around, I laid out one of my only hard rules. “If you throw equipment,” I told them, “two things will happen. One, you’ll be taken out of the game. Two, since we bat the whole team, we’ll have to take an automatic out every time your vacated spot comes around in the lineup.”

Nobody threw equipment the next weekend. Or the weekend after that. Or after that. At first, I thought silently, Holy shit, they’re actually following my rule. More than halfway through the season, I shared this sentiment with them. “Even though it’s a real rule, I still can’t believe everyone’s followed it,” I told them before practice one day.

Then came our final weekend of games.

We were down 10-4 in the game when our number three hitter came to bat. A skinny kid with a mop of blond hair, Justin watched what he believed was ball four go by on a 3-1 count. Justin wasn’t wrong – the ball came in above his shoulders. Unfortunately for him, it was called a strike. Now faced with a full count, Justin swung at the next pitch – which really was a strike – and grounded out.

He returned to the dugout and slammed down his helmet. Then he started chucking other things, picking up a water bottle and catcher’s gear in order to throw them. I went in after the inning was over and told Justin that he’d be sitting for the rest of the game.

He started bawling right there on the bench, his bony body heaving up and down. All I could do was sit next to him and try to comfort him. I didn’t want to take him out of the game, but I couldn’t let this slide. Not even a little.

“Can you just let me bat?” he asked.

But I couldn’t. That was the rule. It didn’t matter that he was the third hitter in our lineup.

By the last inning, we were down 14-4. If we got some runners on base, it was possible for Justin’s turn to come up, but ten runs down, the game was basically over. I informed the umpire and the other team’s coach that if Justin’s at-bat came around, we’d be taking an out for it.

Then our players started getting on base. The score became 14-5. Then 14-6. Then 14-7. 14-8. All I could think was, oh shit. Because I could see where this was heading: straight into a meaningful at-bat. As much as I wanted Justin to learn a lesson, I didn’t want him to learn it this much.

When his at-bat came around, the score was 14-9 with the bases loaded and no outs. I called to the umpire that we’d be taking the automatic out, and the umpire signaled and shouted “One out!” Meanwhile, Justin was sobbing on the bench.

Our cleanup hitter then roped a line drive to make it 14-10. But that’s as close as we got. Our next two hitters got out, and we lost the game by four runs with the bases loaded. This left the very obvious question: what would’ve happened had Justin been allowed to bat?

I took my players into left field for our post-game talk and, while I addressed them, Justin sat behind me, sobbing. I talked about how enforcing a rule like that wasn’t something I wanted to do but was something I had to do because if I didn’t, then it wasn’t a real rule. After I was done, the players dispersed, and I plopped down on the grass beside Justin.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Do you just want to get it all out?”

He nodded his head.

By this time in my coaching life, I’d realized that it was okay to give players time until they were ready. Justin’s sobs started to break up as he tried to gather air.

Sob.

Sob.

“I…”

Sob.

“I’m…I’m such an asshole.”

I almost lost it. In all my years as a coach, this was by far the funniest thing that I’d ever heard a kid say. The kid called himself an asshole. To his coach.

He was right, that’s exactly what he was for letting the team down. More importantly, it was impressive to see him take full ownership. So I refused to coddle him in that moment since doing so would undermine the amount of courage he was showing.

I spoke to him about how he needed to understand the difference between the teammate who throws his helmet and one who encourages his teammates to pick him up by getting a hit. I also told Justin about a game I’d played in a couple years ago when our best player got ejected. We ended up losing in extra innings, and he felt like an asshole when I told him the next day that we would’ve won had he played the whole game. Justin nodded. He understood.

But what truly made this a special experience was, well, let me ask you – do you remember any games you played in when you were twelve? I played in tons of baseball games, yet I can’t remember much except for a few snapshots. That game would be just like that for the kids I coached. None of them were going to remember much of it.

Except for Justin. He might actually remember the game in which he was benched for throwing his equipment. He might actually remember that because of his behavior, he wasn’t allowed to bat at a crucial time in the game. He might actually remember that the automatic out we took cost his team the chance of achieving an improbable comeback.

He might actually remember this experience, which turned an otherwise forgettable game into a lesson that he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life. That’s not a part of the game you can keep score of because it’s the part that’s more important than winning.

Choosing Between Art and Family: A Mother’s Dilemma

Who do you think you are? What kind of mother picks her pie-in-the-sky hobby over her children? A good one who considers her needs, that’s who.

“You’re coming with us, aren’t you, Mama?”
I’d been avoiding this question for weeks, but now my daughter had me cornered at the dinner table. She’s a master of the non-sequitur, so I was unprepared for the swerve from the hijinks in her second-grade music class to the direct question of whether I was joining her, her younger brother, and my husband for the Memorial Day trip.
I looked to my husband for support. His face broadcasted both empathy and pity, but he said nothing. This was my question to answer because it was my decision to make.
 
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At the end of last summer, I was invited to Portland for a writer’s retreat over Memorial Day.  My children were with me when I opened the invitation. We all jigged around the kitchen in celebration, singing, “Mommy’s going to Portland.” I signed on and paid in full more than half a year in advance.
This plan had been uncomplicated for months. I was free to dream about the long weekend in the Pacific Northwest, where I would be secluded in an old house with writers I respect and learning from my favorite living author.
I imagined that back home in Chicago, my husband and kids would have local adventures – bike rides along the lake, bowling or bar-b-que with friends, home improvement projects. They would miss me, and I would miss them, but we’d all meet up again after three days and resume our normal lives.
In early January, however, the plan met a wrench when my husband’s college friends invited our family to Sedona over Memorial Day weekend. “We’re all bringing our kids – please come,” the email read. The Sedona crew would be comprised of my husband’s six closest college friends and their children, a raucous multi-age group spanning ages eight months to seven-years-old.
Of course, I encouraged my husband to go. He shouldn’t miss the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, nor should my kids miss the chance to make new ones, while leaping through scraggly sagebrush in the shadow of red rocks.
We aren’t jet-setters. Taking a long weekend to fly across the country is not something we regularly do. The novelty of these trip options adds to the feeling that it’s a big deal in the way that anything new a family undertakes feels like a milestone to them.
So where am I going over Memorial Day weekend?
Back in January, it was too soon for me to decide. I lay next to my husband in bed as he talked to the Southwest Airlines ticketing agent, sorting out which kid was going on miles, which as the companion fare. I heard the agent say, “You’re all set, sir. Three flights from Phoenix to Chicago. Is there anything else?” I held my breath, trying not to cry at the thought of them going without me.
My husband said he supported whatever I wanted to do, though he suspected that Portland was the right choice. With the decision squarely on me, an endless debate ran through my head. The strongest pro-Portland argument was that the opportunity to do this workshop with this teacher amounted to a privilege I would regret forgoing. Plus, I wanted to go. Writing is my passion. My heart had packed my bags the minute I got the invitation last summer.
The con argument was actually a shaming internal monologue about what I do and do not deserve. Mainly, I told myself I didn’t deserve to go to Portland for the writing weekend because writing isn’t my day job, so it’s not like this is a bona fide business trip. And because it’s not a business trip tied to my salary and benefits, what right did I have to abandon my family while I did my little arty thing in Portland.
The rest of the arguments against Portland showed up as rhetorical questions: Who do you think you are? What kind of mother picks her pie-in-the-sky hobby over her children? How are you going to feel at the airport that May morning when you head to your gate and they head to theirs?
Shame is pretty persuasive and has worked on me most of my life, but this time, passion held its own. The battle raged on.
At the dinner table, my daughter waited for a response. She deserved a clear, direct answer. As a kid, I hated those muddled maybes and we’ll sees and it depends. I want clarity for her; I want it for myself.
But I wasn’t ready. I twirled strands of spaghetti on my fork and told her that I hadn’t decided. “My favorite writer is going to be in Portland, but I hate the thought of missing a trip with you.”
My daughter shook her head. “No, Mama, I’m your favorite writer. You loved my story about the little girl in the talent show. You should come with us.”
It’s so simple for her, and here, I’ve made it so hard.
I assured her that as soon as I decided, she would be one of the first to know.
So I have to tell her that I’m going to Portland, even though I will miss her, even though I want to be there when she hikes a trail in the Southwest for the first time, even though I’m just a lawyer who dreams of being a writer, even though my family has never flown anywhere without all four of us in tow.
I’m going to Portland and pushing against that shaming con list that tries to tell me a hundred different ways that I don’t deserve it. I’m fighting against the current that says only real writers get to break away from their families for a weekend workshop. I’m turning my back on the notion that passion and art are at odds with motherhood and embracing the notion that it might actually be good for all of us if I follow this heart string to Portland and entrust my family to the great American southwest.
Maybe good mothers do exactly what I’m doing – struggle with decisions and then do the best they can. Sometimes good mothers pick Portland over Sedona.

Staying at Home Versus The Virtue of Busyness

I might work hard, but I’m simply not as busy as I would be if I worked outside the home. Admitting I’d prefer not to be busy comes with a dose of humility.

I’ve never worked as hard as when I’ve been a stay-at-home mom.
I need to start with that because I’m about to tell you one of the main reasons I stay-at-home: I might work hard, but I’m simply not as busy as I would be if I worked outside of the home. Admitting that I would prefer not to be busy comes with a dose of humility.
Researchers from the Columbia Business School have put out at a paper claiming that the new status symbol isn’t how much money we are spending – it’s how we are spending our time. And the busier, the better.
The researchers showed participants in the study pictures of a woman wearing a Bluetooth headset (symbolic of a busy lifestyle) and another wearing headphone (representing a more leisurely lifestyle). The participants who saw a picture of a woman wearing Bluetooth rated her as higher in social status, financial wealth, and income. Likewise, researcher participants rated Peapod, an online shopping service, as having a higher social status than shopping somewhere like Trader Joe’s.
It’s no surprise that working mothers, who still tend to pick up a greater share of the housework than working fathers, are also more likely to say they constantly feel rushed. Four in 10 working moms report always feeling rushed, compared to just one-in-four stay-at-home moms and working dads.
While the constant rush doesn’t translate into a lack of happiness for working moms, it’s not the lifestyle I wanted for my family. I didn’t arrive at this decision directly. It took me a few years of staying at home to come to that conclusion.
 
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I quit my job after my second child was born. My older child had just been diagnosed with multiple food allergies, and my second was born a month premature and was in physical therapy. At the time, I was working three days a week, but paying for full-time care. We had been on the waitlist at the only daycare that had part-time slots since before I found out I was pregnant with the second. Paying for full-time care for two children meant the vast majority of my salary would go to childcare.
So I made the difficult decision to quit my job, which I loved. I worked from home for a few more months, bouncing the baby in his seat while I typed. Eventually, we turned my office into his nursery, and I joined the ranks of stay-at-home moms.
When I worked, I found plenty of articles supporting my conviction that working outside of the home was not only not harmful to my family – it was actually beneficial. The daughters of working moms are more likely to work outside of the home and earn higher wages. The sons are more likely to partake in household chores.
I read how stay-at-home moms who take five years off to care for a child can lose over $700,000 over their lifetimes through lost wages, wage growth, and retirement savings. I knew the quality of time spent with children, not the quantity, mattered most. I felt confident in my decision to be a working mom. When my circumstances changed, I didn’t know what to think.
While society has long pressured women to keep the home fires burning, the reasons given were never that convincing to me. “You can see each precious first!” (My husband was home for both of the kids’ first steps.) “You can be there to kiss every boo-boo!” (I never minded if someone else kissed their boo-boos.) “There’s no one like mom!” (Tell that to my kids, who are perfectly content with Dad, Grandma, etc.)
I knew, in my heart, my children would turn out fine if I stayed-at-home or if I sent them to daycare. But after a year of being at home with them, I knew I wanted to keep up this arrangement, at least for the time being. While moments of peace and quiet were rare in a house of toddler boys, we could at least forego the rush.
There was no bustling to and from daycare. There was no coordinating our vacation days, or negotiating which parent had more important meetings on a day one of us needed to be home to take care of a sick child. There was no trying to figure out something quick to make for dinner at 6 p.m. (Okay fine, there was less trying to figure out something quick to make for dinner at 6 p.m.) Adding a second child to the mix sped up the pace of our life, but staying at home allowed me to slow it back down a bit.
With multiple food allergies in our family, I spend a good amount of my time in the kitchen accommodating our needs. This means we often have hot bread cooling or fresh yogurt brewing on the counter. The boys and I spend hours outside nearly every day, exploring the hiking trails in our community. I can take my children to visit grandparents without having to clear vacation time with anyone. On weekends, we can go fishing instead of playing a frantic game of catch-up.
Busyness has become a virtue, and in modern society’s eyes, staying-at-home might make me an unvirtuous woman. Maybe admitting that I find not working preferable for our family makes me sound lazy or unindustrious. I don’t believe that anyone who is the sole caretaker of children can be criticized for being lazy. But I will gladly admit that I enjoy having more free time.
Without a doubt, I know my children will be happy and well-adjusted whether I stay at home or go back to work. Despite the daycare costs, we might feel more financially comfortable if I had stayed in the game. But as a whole, my family is happier when we’re little less rushed and have a little more time to stop and examine every bug along the way.

Is Daycare the Death Trap Detractors Make It out to Be?

It’s not what the internet makes it out to be.

“That’s why I’d never put my child in daycare.”
Because nearly every story about daycare deaths goes viral, every few weeks the internet is full of people making this judgment of the family who has recently expressed tragedy. Such comments imply that whatever fates befell the children in these stories are the fault of their parents for placing them into daycare, which are often portrayed as decrepit and dangerous places.
There is certainly more that can be done to ensure children are safe when outside their parents’ care, just as there is more to be done to ensure children are safe when in their parents’ care. But to lay the blame on grieving parents for placing their children in daycare is the wrong reaction, leading parents who choose daycare to feel shame about a perfectly reasonable choice.
Mercifully, accidental deaths are extremely rare at daycares, and deaths due to abuse and neglect are rarer still. The available literature about daycare-related deaths shows how infrequent these incidents actually are and suggests strategies for how to make them even less likely in the future. Although this information won’t halt the flood of internet commentary, perhaps it can help parents can make informed choices about their children’s care.

Defining daycare

“Daycare” is any care provided during the day that is not from the child’s legal guardians. It is a catch-all term for child care that takes place in a variety of settings: a child-care center, a private home, or even in the child’s own home in the case of a nanny.
Nearly all child care centers and even many private home daycares are licensed. “Unlicensed” can be a confusing term, suggesting that a daycare provider is acting illegally, but many states do not require licensure for certain types of caregivers.

Daycares and SIDS

One way to determine daycare safety would be to think about how much time children spend in the care of others versus in the care of their parents. Then weigh the death and injury rates among the daycare-using and non-daycare-using populations to determine whether one scenario is safer than the other. That data does not exist for all types of injuries or deaths, but some types of deaths, such as SIDS deaths, are nationally recorded. That data can serve as a starting point for studying daycare safety.
One study of sleep-related infant deaths that often resurfaces when a child dies at daycare is this study of SIDS in daycare centers. The researchers estimated that, for babies who spend around 40 hours per week in daycare, about seven percent of SIDS-related deaths should happen in a daycare setting. But they concluded that over 20 percent of SIDS-related deaths in 11 states between 1995 and 1997 occurred in daycare settings, a finding which suggested that daycare settings were less safe than home care.
One problem with this study, however, is that 17 percent of the SIDS deaths reported during the researchers’ timeframe were excluded because the researchers could not determine the location of death. Although the researchers indicated that the 17 percent of excluded cases contained similar demographic diversity of the main sample, those 17 percent would be really important to making determinations about the likelihood of death in a childcare setting.
Another problem was the length of time that researchers assumed children were in child care settings. The researchers estimated that children spend 40 percent of their time (a 40-hour work week) in daycare – a figure they realize may not be appropriate, given that many parents work longer hours. Both the excluded cases and the assumption about hours spent in care make it difficult to derive sound conclusions from the data.
But these two factors are perhaps less important than the largest problem with the study: how it has been interpreted. The researcher’s finding is used as evidence that child care centers are more dangerous than home care. The study did not draw a specific conclusion about child care centers, but rather all forms of care outside the home. The researchers found that 60 percent of the SIDS deaths in out-of-home care were at a family member’s home. Daycares run out of private homes represented 12.2 percent of SIDS deaths. Child care centers – the image that most often comes to mind when we think “daycare” – represented just 2.6 percent of SIDS deaths.
Of course, the 17 percent of cases excluded from the original sample could make these numbers much different. But it appears that SIDS deaths were less likely to occur in child care centers than in other care arrangements. Given that many of the children in the sample were found on their stomachs, the researchers suggest one reason for the higher incidence of SIDS deaths among infants in child care is that some caregivers are less educated about SIDS risk than others. This helps explain the difference in SIDS death rates in private homes, where licensure is not always required versus child care centers, where licensure is required and often includes SIDS awareness training.

A question of timing

For 99 of the cases in the above study, researchers also had information about the length of time children had spent in daycare at the time of their deaths. They found that for this small sample, one third died during the first week of care, and one sixth died on the first day of care.
What the study fails to consider is when SIDS is most likely to occur: between age one and four months. Because these deaths occur at roughly the time that their parents return to work, children who die from SIDS in daycare are used as evidence for the safety risks posed by daycares. But what if we are looking at correlation, not causation?
Researchers examining the relationship between preterm infants and SIDS found that very preterm babies who die of SIDS tend to die at around 20 weeks of age, while babies who were early term and full term die earlier, at about 15 or 14 weeks, respectively. Fourteen weeks, 15 weeks, 20 weeks: those ages all suggest that the most likely time of SIDS will occur after a parent has gone back to work, given that our current national legal family leave is 12 weeks and roughly a quarter of women who return to work after having a baby do at eight weeks.

Daycare deaths caused by abuse or neglect

Parents concerned about abuse or neglect by a daycare provider can take small comfort in the fact that parents, more than any other group, are the most likely perpetrators of such violence against children. According to a CDC report, in 2014, parents were responsible for 79.3 percent of fatalities for children through age four.
“Nonparents” were responsible for 15.7 percent of those fatalities, but “nonparents” is an extremely broad category, including, among others, both extended family members and daycare workers. It’s clear, then, that parents are more likely to be the perpetrators of lethal abuse or neglect than daycare providers.
But that’s not what we think when we read about daycare-related deaths in the news. In his sensationally-titled “The Hell of American Daycare“, Jonathan Cohn profiles a mother whose daughter died after being trapped in a house fire at a family daycare. It’s a tense, slowly-unfolding, horrifying piece, the kind that makes you hold your breath as you scroll, hoping the story isn’t going where you think it will.
But of course, it does, and readers are further drawn into the fire and its aftermath as well as Cohn’s interviews with daycare inspectors, one of whom would not trust her own children with more than 20 percent of the daycares she has visited.

Beware the solitary news story

Daycare deaths like the one Cohn profiles are, from a clicks-and-shares perspective, “perfect” news stories: they offer single, poignant, terrifying stories that burn into our memories and stoke our greatest fears. These kinds of stories can lead us to an inflated sense of risk about daycare, because we’re less likely to see a news story that reports on how a daycare center is doing everything right and all the kids are happy and healthy.
We’re also likely to read such stories as sort of coded messages about the parents whose children die in daycare. Because those deaths happen disproportionately at lower-cost and sometimes unlicensed centers, there are issues of race and class involved that can lead readers to assume that the parents have done something wrong, that they haven’t done their due diligence in checking out the child care center, or that it was their own behavior that required them to need child care in the first place.
Parents who read these sorts of stories should not interpret them as an indictment against daycare more broadly, but instead as an opportunity to identify systemic problems with daycare. The widely different rates of SIDS-related deaths in different types of daycare situations is one such example. That SIDS deaths appear to be higher in private homes than in daycare centers suggests that parents who wish to use in-home care should check for common risk factors associated with SIDS (such as smoking) and confirm that their providers are aware of current infant sleep guidelines.

Beware the solitary caregiver

Stories about daycare deaths start to make daycares themselves look dangerous, simply because all daycare deaths have one thing in common: the deaths occurred during daycare. But looking at these stories more closely, it’s possible to identify other common variables. Another feature of these stories is a caregiver left alone with children, or, as was the case with the case profiled in Cohn’s article, a caregiver who left the children alone.
Many states have required infant-caregiver ratios that, when followed, ensure that no single employee is overwhelmed by watching too many children at once. Daycare.com provides state-by-state licensing requirements for caregivers, including the infant to caregiver ratios required by each state. For 30 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the ratio for infants to caregivers is 1:4 – one adult for every four children. In 10 more states, that ratio is 1:5. In Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, and South Carolina, the ratio is at its highest: 1:6. Kansas, Hawaii, Maryland, and Massachusetts share the lowest infant-caregiver ratio, which is 1:3.
Many states also have maximum class sizes with adjusted ratios. For example, Wyoming has a 1:4 ratio for infants, but a maximum class size of 10. Classrooms with 10 infants require three caregivers, shrinking the ratio below the 1:4 requirement for smaller classrooms. Other states permit slightly different mixes of children, depending on their ages. Idaho, for example, works on a points system, which assigns points to different age groups (two points for children under 24 months, 1.5 points for two to three years of age) and allows each caregiver a total of 12 points, which would translate into an infant-caregiver ratio of 1:6, but could also mean four infants and four five-year-olds.
In many states, the infant-caregiver ratios are different for “family care” situations, which means that children are taken care of in a private home rather than a dedicated center. Many states don’t require licensure for family care until a certain number of children are in the home. In 12 states, licensure is required for even one child. In Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Virginia, licensure isn’t required until there are six kids. In South Dakota, it’s 13 kids. Many states do not consider the provider’s own kids in the regulation threshold.
When interviewing a daycare provider, it may not be enough for parents to ask whether or not a center adheres to that legal caregiver ratio, as it’s unlikely a provider would volunteer that the center was acting illegally or irresponsibly.
Instead, it might be more valuable for parents to ask what the back-up plan is when a caregiver has to be absent. How does the daycare provider ensure the appropriate ratios are met? Are children sent home? Are substitute caregivers called in? Who are the substitutes? A daycare provider with answers to these questions is less likely to be in charge of too many children at once, ensuring that all of those children can be safely cared for.

Yes, You Can Sleep in and Still Be a Hero

Go ahead. Lay that yoga mat down and take a nap on it.

Every once in a while – probably on the rare days when I remember to match my socks and put on mascara – another mama will see me with my four children and get the (mistaken) impression that I know what I’m doing. Sometimes they ask me things I know the answers to, like what aisle the diapers are in at our local grocery store. But other times the question they ask me is hard.
The other day, I got one of these questions. A friend had just been through five days (that is not a typo) of labor and had finally delivered a beautiful baby, her first. She asked me if I could recommend anything, herbal or the like, that would increase her energy so she could heal and take care of her baby and her house and do all of the other things that a regular life requires.
When I read her email, it sounded frantic and stressed to me. I worried for her. In my opinion, she was a superhero, and yet in hers, she was falling short. When I walked away for a while and came back to reread it, I realized her tone was normal. That frantic voice had been my own. Her email had hit a nerve with me, because while her circumstances were different, her situation was universal.
This is what we do, isn’t it? We try so hard, and want to do so much. When we fall short of our own expectations, we adjust us instead of adjusting the expectations. We go to bed later, or set the alarm earlier. We sacrifice our yoga class or our ladies night and trade it for an extra load of laundry or yet another trip to the grocery store. We become martyrs.
I saw myself doing this recently. Life had become especially stressful and overwhelming, as it does, and I decided that a daily workout was in order. It’s healthier than wine or a pint of ice cream in front of Netflix, I reasoned, so I started to set the alarm earlier and earlier. When it went off, I resented the hell out of it. I would still put my feet to the hardwoods and lay out my mat, but my breathing was stiff and my moves lacked heart.
I was so damn tired.
And I couldn’t focus. I was there on my mat, only feet from my washer and dryer, thinking, “Maybe I should just throw a load of laundry in,” or “If I skip this and unload the dishwasher, I can leave for work five minutes earlier,” or “If I got in the shower right now, I might even have time to shave my legs!”
Eventually, I’d give up trying and go find a chore, thinking I would thank myself later on the back end for the work I did on the front end.
There’s a problem with that though: there will always be another chore. I’ve yet to find the last one myself. They keep popping up like a game of Whac-A-Mole. I fold and put away the last load of laundry and return to find the basket full of that day’s clothes. I clean the kitchen to a shine and, five minutes later, greasy fingerprints smear along each cabinet at four different heights.
I can safely say that there has never been a time in recent memory when I have settled onto the couch after a long day and thought, “Whew! That was a tough day. But at least everything is done.”
I also have a nagging suspicion that if, by some miracle, I did finish it all, it would be sort of anti-climatic. I doubt Ed McMahon would ring my doorbell, holding balloons and an oversized check. And that is probably a good thing, as I would not be wearing a bra or decent pants.
I thought for a long time before I responded to my friend’s email. I thought about how I drink too much coffee in the mornings, chasing wakefulness, but finding jitteriness instead, and then drink calming tea in the afternoons to bring my heart rate back down to a reasonable level. I thought about the evenings when I sometimes drink too much wine, chasing relaxation, and wake up instead with a headache, needing more coffee, and a full repeat of the cycle.
I thought about one of my lifelines, an ongoing group text with close friends, where we each can find each other saying things like, “Is it okay to not shower and spend three hours watching Netflix in my bed on a Saturday afternoon?” Everyone inevitably answers, “YES! Absolutely,” giving each other permission to relax freely, even when we struggle to give that permission to ourselves.
The more I thought about that woman who labored for five days, the more I wanted to tell her what a hero I thought she was. Because it’s important to think about how much we have achieved instead of how much we haven’t.
When one of the girls in my group text wrote, “Is it okay if…” I immediately told her she was a hero, too, just for getting out of bed each morning when she didn’t really feel like she could.
Later, when I shared my chocolate with my whiny four-year-old, even though I really wanted the whole thing for myself, I thought, “Damn. Now I am kind of a hero, too.”
If we want to keep saving the world, us heroes have got to rest. While sometimes it can feel selfish or even indulgent to take time for ourselves, no one wants a sad, broken mama. We need to take time to do the things that heal us.
When I finally sat down to write that new mother back, I said this:
“I know just the thing for you! It’s a widely known remedy that can heal or at least put a dent in almost anything that ails you. It’s free, and anyone can do it, regardless of athletic ability. This miracle, sweet mama, is rest. Give yourself permission to honor your body’s needs, because you just came through battle, and you are a hero.”
And then I took my own advice.
Sometimes I still wake early and do sun salutations until my arms shake and sweat drips onto my mat. Other days, my alarm goes off and I make my way downstairs, unfurl my mat, lie down on it, place a blanket over my body, and go back to sleep.
Because sleep is good. And I’m a hero.

Didn’t We Just Have Sex Last Month? A Letter to the Mom With the Nonexistent Sex Life

Touched. Out.

Dear Mama,
You have a child. Or several. Maybe your baby was just born, or perhaps your kids are entering school age.
It’s a miracle that they were born at all, considering how little you have sex.
The thought of sex makes you have a tiny burst of desire before you cringe. All that touching. All that moving around. All that work. Putting something back into a vagina that recently popped a baby out.
No, thank you.
It’s gone on this way for awhile. Resentment creeps in when you think of sex. So does guilt. A lot of guilt.
And then there’s the fear. What if you don’t put out enough for your husband? Are you losing your connection? Will he leave you?
You expected that you’d be as devoted to your children as you are to your husband. You thought having kids would make you inexplicably, magically, head-over-heels connected with the person who was once the love of your life.
You didn’t know that it would make him repel you like oil on water.
It’s not that your husband has done anything wrong. You love him more than ever (can someone please remind him of that?), but the thought of getting intimate makes you recoil.
You can get over this feeling. About every full moon. (Who am I kidding? I have gone at least four months without getting down and dirty). And when you do, the memories start flooding back. You slowly lose yourself in it, you even enjoy it. You end the session snuggling in each other’s arms and wondering how you lost this kind of connection.
You don’t want to admit it, but sometimes you shed a tear.
Then that magic slowly peters out as the next four weeks go by.
The women in your mommy groups on Facebook say that they try to have sex once a week or more. You hear that you’re supposed to “fake it till you make it” or “use it so you don’t lose it.” But all that pressure makes you want to do it even less.
You know what? I’ve been there, too. So has every mom. Many are still in it. If they’re not, they may enter this stage again.
You’re totally normal. There’s nothing wrong with you, your libido, or your relationship.
This is a new season. You’ve never experienced it before. The love you have for your children is a new kind of love. The partnership you feel with your spouse is a new kind of love, too. It’s not better or worse than the love you had before. It’s just different. It’s going to take some learning about. It’s going to take some exploring. And that’s what you’re doing.
Your sex life isn’t your whole life. It doesn’t define your relationship. It’s just another aspect of it. It weighs in pretty equally with communication, vulnerability, and trust.
So why do we put so much pressure on the sex part instead of the communication, vulnerability, and trust parts? You don’t hear your friends say say, “I feel like I have to communicate with my husband at least once a week, or I’m afraid he will leave me.”
Maybe it’s because we compare ourselves to that one friend who has morning sex while her kids are banging on the bathroom door.
Maybe it’s because society pushes sex on us.
Maybe it’s because we’re too tired to work on the other aspects of our relationship, and sex seems like the easiest place to start.
The more pressure you put on yourself, the more the resentment and guilt will rise up. Instead of sex being about connection, it starts becoming a competition. You start logging the frequency instead of paying attention to the intimacy. You notice when it’s missing, but you don’t nurture it while it’s there.
Instead of working on communication, vulnerability, and trust with your partner, you tally up your bedroom habits.
Is sex the only thing that differentiates your marriage from a friendship? No. If sex was that important, what would be the point of getting married? Didn’t we all have more consistent sex before we were married, or is that just me?
The foundation of a committed, long-term relationship is more than just sex. It’s the communication, vulnerability, and trust that develops when you share a life with someone.
So next time you worry that you haven’t had sex in a while, remember that this is simply a different season. You’re focusing on another important aspect of your partnership that’s not more or less significant than your sex life. It’s just different.
This is another page in the book of your relationship story.

Some Days I Just Feel Sad

You’re not depressed, but you’re not happy, either. Some days motherhood has a way of bringing you down. Thankfully, kindness can pull you back up again.

It’s one of those days – a difficult, disheartening kind of day when the huge pressure of raising a small human creeps up on you unannounced and sucker-punches the optimism right out.

You try to get up. You know you can do it! Your training wheels of parenting are long gone. Hell, you’re a pro now! You should know how to handle the situation. You keep reminding yourself over and over and over again. Yet, your legs seem unable to carry your weight today.

“What’s wrong with me?” you wonder.

“Maybe I should see a doctor. Something’s seriously wrong. Am I depressed?” You quickly dismiss this feeling.

“I am not depressed. I have hope for tomorrow,” you reason. “It’s just this day that’s getting me down. Maybe it’s the weather.”

You brush aside your feelings. You drag yourself through the chores of the day, feigning a meek smile when your five-year-old shows you his magic trick. He knows your heart isn’t in it today. So he cups your face in his tiny hands and stares intently into your eyes before asking you to watch his trick again.

This time, you’re more present. You see his magic trick.

It’s not really a trick. He just hides a rock in his hands and says the rock has vanished. But he sure is funny. So you smile and clap. For a fleeting second, you’re actually smiling. But that moment comes and goes and you’re back in your dark, heavy corner, defeated. You feel guilty for not being more mindful.

This time he lets you be and gets busy with his toys.

Half the day is gone. If only you could just fast forward to bedtime, maybe you will feel better when this gloomy day is over.

“I think I’m sleep deprived. No wonder I’m feeling fatigued. I should try and get some shut eye.” Suddenly the revelation strikes you.

You decide to take the rest of the day off. If only days off in parenting would come a little easier.

You switch on the TV and put a movie for your kid to watch while you rest on the sofa. Instinctively, a sharp arrow of guilt pierces your heart. You hate that you know so many statistics about screen time and their derogatory effects.

Overwhelming guilt seems to be the theme of the day. Your sarcastic-self smiles wryly: “No wonder ignorance is bliss.”

“Knock it off.” You chide yourself. You close your eyes wondering how to shut down the chorus of self-critical voices swimming inside your head.

“Stop ruining this. He is safe. He is happy. That’s all that matters,” you remind yourself.

Thankfully, exhaustion takes over and before long you are in a dreamless half-sleep, partially aware of your five-year-old watching his movie and running round and round in circles.

“Wake up. I’m hungry.” Your picky eater tells you, trying to pry open your eyes. It takes a few seconds to register.

“What time is it?” You jump and sit up straight. Focus! You look at the clock. It is way past your child’s evening snack time.

Another bout of mom-guilt hits you where it hurts the most. “Congratulations! You succeeded in starving a child who NEVER gets hungry.” The judgmental voices in your head are back. You cower in your corner of self-defeat. No, sleep did not succeed in putting a positive spin on your day.

“But you’re a mother. Happy or not, you have to do something about feeding your child.” A little voice rings true in the back of your mind.

You run to the kitchen. The fastest thing you can whip up is instant noodles and milk.

“Instant noodles? You may just as well feed him dirt. That will be more nutritious. Why don’t you have any fruits or eggs?” The guilt attacks are relentless.

Still, you power through and serve him some food. At least your five-year-old seems content. The TV is still on. You try not to calculate the number of hours it has been on so far. You look at the clock again and wonder if you would still have time to take him outside to the park after he is done eating. You don’t feel like it. Your five-year-old doesn’t seem to care one way or the other.

“I wonder what is more difficult – going outside right now or dealing with the guilt later.” You have no clue. But today you feel burned out. You can’t seem to muster enough strength to dress your child and yourself to go out. You give up on that thought. Reflexively, the guilt returns with all its vengeance.

“I just need a moment here.” You say to no one in particular.

You switch off the TV. To your surprise, your five-year-old does not protest. On the contrary, he seems relieved to be freed from the hypnotic grip of the idiot box. He starts playing with his toys again. You feel guilty that you did not switch off the TV sooner.

This is the last straw. You can no longer take it. The sheer burden of mothering in a world and time that has taught you only judgment and no kindness finally gets to you.

You no longer care if your five-year-old turns the house upside down. You go to the bedroom and lie down feeling like the worst parent of the year. Hot tears of anger, sadness, and frustration roll down your eyes.

Before long, your child is by your side. “What’s wrong?” he asks.

At that moment, you wish that your child was not so perceptive. You feign a weak smile. “I just need a minute here.” You tell him.

“Okay,” he says, and lets you be. You’re thankful that he still has no sense of time. A minute might as well be an hour.

Fifteen minutes later, he is back. He does not say anything. He climbs onto the bed. His rests his tiny back on your curved back as you lie still in a fetal position. He just quietly sits with his construction toys and plays. Minutes go by. He doesn’t say a word to you. You feel the need to explain, so you say “It’s nothing. I’m just not feeling well.”

“Oh, you got a fever?” he asks, touching your forehead like the many times he has seen his parents do to him. He picks up the blanket and covers you.

“Let me give you some kisses. That will make you feel much better.” He smothers you with hugs and kisses.

You smile. He smiles. The weight on your chest suddenly seems lighter. “That is KINDNESS.” A tiny hopeful voice in your head says.

Moments later, your husband is back from work.

You didn’t cook any dinner. The guilt tries to stage a comeback. But this time you are stronger. You plainly say, “Sorry, did not cook dinner yet. I don’t know why but I am feeling so exhausted today.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll eat noodles. Are you “exhausted” exhausted or unwell?” Your husband wants to know.

“Not sick. Just tired,” you reply.

“Okay, you rest. Don’t worry about dinner. We boys can take over.” He replies.

“That is KINDNESS.” The hopeful voice seems to have grown bigger. The heavy feeling melts away.

When bedtime arrives, you lie wide awake rewinding the day in your head. You wonder why the hell you were feeling so awful in the first place. You can no longer remember the reason. “Thank god, the day is done. Tomorrow will be better.”

Tomorrow you will do better. You know it. You have always known it. It’s just that every once in a while you forget. So, the next time you’ve backed yourself into a sad corner from the relentless parenting days, remember this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You were never meant to carry the guilt-ridden moments of parenting all by yourself. Because when motherhood brings you down, all you need to do is ask for a moment of kindness. And you shall receive more than you ever hoped for.