On Mommy Guilt and Hiding in the Bathroom

Enough, ok? Enough.

Enough with the guilt and the shame and the impossible expectations. Just stop it.

Being a parent is like living in the 1983 movie Mr. Mom. Everywhere you go, someone is ready to explain, “You’re doing it wrong.”

1983 - 20th Century Fox

South to drop off, North to pick up
1983 – 20th Century Fox

Last summer, I got sucked in. I read The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up.’ If lollygagging were an Olympic sport, my kid would bring home the gold for the USA. Man, I took this to heart. I didn’t want to crush his spirit anymore.

When my daughter and I took walks or went to the store, I allowed her to set the pace. And when she stopped to admire something, I would push thoughts of my agenda out of my head and simply observe her. I witnessed expressions on her face that I’d never seen before. I studied dimples on her hands and the way her eyes crinkled up when she smiled. I saw the way other people responded to her stopping to take time to talk to them. I saw the way she spotted the interesting bugs and pretty flowers. She was a Noticer, and I quickly learned that The Noticers of the world are rare and beautiful gifts. That’s when I finally realized she was a gift to my frenzied soul.

I was gonna let my child be a Noticer. No more rushing or hurried days. After all, it was summer. We didn’t have to be too many places at a particular time.

I’m not even gonna lie. I didn’t last 24 hours. We were driving to my mom’s house for a visit. We needed to make one stop along the way. The normal three-hour trip to SIX (6) HOURS. Look, I want to be a good parent. But seriously?!

I am a chronically late person because I am also a Noticer. However, as an adult, this is no longer endearing or adorable. It’s annoying to my friends and sometimes rude. I’m really working to be better about this. So I cannot in good conscience let my son take Noticing to eleven.

Fortunately, Rachel Macy Stafford has some more really helpful advice ripping through social media like wildfire. Apparently, I must stop yelling.

With a lightened load, I was able to react to my children’s mistakes and wrongdoings in a more calm, compassionate and reasonable manner.

I said things like, “It’s just chocolate syrup. You can wipe it up, and the counter will be as good as new.”

(Instead of expelling an exasperated sigh and an eye roll for good measure.)

I offered to hold the broom while she swept up a sea of Cheerios that covered the floor.

(Instead of standing over her with a look of disapproval and utter annoyance.)

I helped her think through where she might have set down her glasses.

(Instead of shaming her for being so irresponsible.)

And in the moments when sheer exhaustion and incessant whining were about to get the best of me, I walked into the bathroom, shut the door and gave myself a moment to exhale and remind myself they are children, and children make mistakes. Just like me.

For the love… It’s entirely possible I am a horrible person and Rachel will one day be sainted. But I’m a yeller. I yell when I’m happy. I yell when I’m mad. I have a big ole voice, and it wants to be heard. So let’s make the distinction between yelling and losing control. The latter is definitely a problem. But raising my voice is not dooming anyone.

Maybe I’m a terrible person, but I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing for my kid to understand I’m not super happy about spills and messes. It’s a bad idea to lose my business, but some eye-rolling and annoyed looks are going to be the least of what he faces in life. You mess it up; you clean it up.

Now hiding in the bathroom…I totally endorse that move.

The Internet is an embarrassment of riches. Rachel isn’t the only parent who can help us live up to our full potential.

A little over a year ago, a mommy blogger posted a little gem called, Dear Mom on the iPhoneIt went viral. You saw it, didn’t you? Every 15 seconds for the entirety of 2013, someone posted it on Facebook. It was really fun.

Now you are pushing your baby in the swing.  She loves it!  Cooing and smiling with every push.  You don’t see her though, do you?  Your head is bent, your eyes on your phone as you absently push her swing. 

Talk to her.  Tell her about the clouds, Mommy.  The Creator who made them. Tickle her tummy when she comes near you and enjoy that baby belly laugh that leaves far too quickly.

Put your eyes back on your prize…Your kids.

That big ole pile of shame was invariably followed by a host of angry mothers defending themselves and calling this Ferguson woman everything short of Hitler. Although, I’m pretty sure I saw some Nazi references.

This year’s version appears to bring Jesus into the argument. Oh boy! A minister writes how he’s divorcing his iPhone in 2014. You know, because shame can’t be fully experienced when you’re only letting down your family. You have to be disappointing God too. Someone bring popcorn! This is gonna be a great show.

As if being a parent on a smart phone or iPad isn’t wretched enough, God forbid you let your children use electronics. Don’t you know you’re rearing an entitled child? (Yes, I corrected the grammar in the title. Farm animals are raised. Children are reared.)

It wouldn’t take long to see the chains of entitlement in any school in the U.S. When many in my generation were growing up, we saved our money to help our parents buy our bicycles. Today, some elementary school students have iPads as a part of their curriculum. In 2007, 22 percent of children aged 6 to 9 had their own cellphones. One could guess that the numbers have grown exponentially since then.

I agree with almost nothing Matt Walsh writes. But his take on this issue is pretty fabulous.

I always love the older folks who lecture about how THEIR kids weren’t as “attached to electronics” as kids are nowadays. That’s probably true, but mainly because, well, YOU DIDN’T HAVE ELECTRONICS. You had a toaster and a black and white TV with 2 channels, both of which were pretty easy to regulate. But, sure, congratulations for not letting your kids use things that didn’t exist. On that note, I have a strict “no time machines or hover-boards” policy in my home. It is stringently enforced. I’m thinking of writing a parenting book: “How to Stop Your Child From Becoming Dependent Upon Technology That Isn’t Invented Yet”

The thing is, I get the basic point these people are making. It is easy to let the immediate or urgent things interfere with the actual import pieces of life. Bad is not the enemy of the best parts of life; good is.

But none of this is new. The stage may have changed, but the plot is basically the same. When I was growing up, I remember hearing one of my mom’s friends say she had to stop going to library for a little while because she would become so interested in her books that she would neglect her children.

I don’t know of anyone who wants to close libraries. Well, unless we go back to that Nazi situation, but that’s definitely a poor decision.

Humans are by nature selfish creatures. We have to be. Otherwise we’d never get fed or changed as infants. Certainly, the process of maturing teaches us to prioritize needs in any situation. That means often, others needs are more important than our own. But that takes decades, not a couple of years.

They don’t know you stayed up all night to finish the perfect Halloween costume. And they shouldn’t. It’s their job to consume parental sacrifice. It’s our job to make it.

Certainly, they should be taught manners and to practice gratitude. It’s important to point out when kindness has been shown to them, so they will understand that Aunt Jamie made a special trip to get the particular kind of cookies he likes. But she’s not going to really get any of it until she’s independent and having to pay rent and utilities on her own.

Let’s just take a moment here before everything really gets going in 2014, and settle down. Go hide in the bathroom if you need to. Get out the bottle of Jack Daniels you hide behind the guest towels. Take a good gulp. Count to ten. Now, see? All better.

We can do this. We can bring up perfectly decent humans without the guilt or shame or personal attacks on anyone else’s style. We just have to take it one day at a time. We’ll do our very best today. If it doesn’t go according to plan, we can try again tomorrow.

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2 thoughts on “On Mommy Guilt and Hiding in the Bathroom

  1. #1: Please tell this to my mom. My mom who wants my kids to have been made eternally grateful and socially conscious at birth. And it’s not just her – people want kids to be adults at a young age. Like you said, selfishness is human nature.

    #2 Yes to being done with overshared blog entries on how we are doing it wrong. Couldn’t agree with you more.

  2. That is a classic movie in my house. My sisters, mother and I often break out into a chorus of “you’re doing it wrong” with each other when one of us is inevitable doing it wrong! I’ll just keep working on being the best mom I can be. Love your blog.

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