I was enjoying a lovely chat, when a friend asked if I’d be sending Rhys to preschool …
I was surprised to suddenly feel a physical sensation as if I’d been buzzed by a taser in my chest. I got so overclemped it was hard to say yes, even though that was the answer.
“Where did that come from?” I wondered.
Irrational mommy guilt out of the clear blue sky.
We’re sending our two-year old to a one-morning-per-week preschool. This means he’ll make new friends, gain independence and learn from professionals I trust, and for the first time in seven years of being a stay at home mom, I’ll have **scheduled in** time to myself every week, approximately three hours of it.
So, why did I feel like I was announcing a plan to put him on an inner tube to fend for himself in the Mississippi River?
If a friend told me she was sending her toddler off for a few hours, I’d say “Good for you; he’ll love it; you deserve some free time,” and I would mean it. Even though I’d know she had a million things to do, I’d hope she’d treat herself to a latte and a novel at Deweys on day one.
(I’m okay at helping other people train their mommy guilt dragons.)
And yet, my own gets kind of out-of control sometimes.
So, before you tease me (like my husband did) that I’m not qualified to write an article about taming the flames of self-reproach, let me tell you how far I’ve come.
For starters, I don’t believe in guilt anymore. I think there is a lie fed to women that it is a noble emotion, but the truth is that love is a different thing all together, which is powerful when mixed with self care and integrity, rather than snuffed out by our own sense of unworthiness or willingness to please others at all costs.
Also over the years, I’ve overcome many of my own guilt triggers, including this most recent one with my toddler. (That was easy, as soon as I saw how proud he was visiting his classroom and acknowledged the reality of my ever-growing to-do list).
So, for what it’s worth, here are a few ideas to manage your relationship with the mommy guilt dragon next time she torches your heart when you least expect it.
1. Don’t let her boss you around.
Depending on what triggers you, she’ll swoop in and try to convince you to overschedule, miss opportunities, spend too much or little money, waste your time worrying or settle for the status quo, the list goes on. But, what she doesn’t tell you is that guilt begets guilt, it’s a snowball effect. And it doesn’t help anyone.
2. Step back and listen to the message she brings.
Your dragon may be a little mean, but she’s also smart. Sometimes we’re wrong, and we need to own up to it. Other times, we’ve bought into ideas that don’t serve anyone, such as my apparent belief that I don’t deserve me-time. I now realize I need to own my self worth, and I hope you do too, if you can relate.
3. Thank her for the lesson learned.
Wisdom is the **real gold** our dragons offer us, and it’s priceless because we don’t have to make the same mistake twice.
4. Summon the love that’s bigger than her.
I don’t know about you, but prayer helps me stay strong in the realization that I’m a child of God, so I don’t let myself be guilted by the mixed messages our society sends us about motherhood.
5. Make a choice.
Centered in love, you can’t go wrong. Sign up for the PTA out of a desire to support your child’s school or don’t, out of a longing to be there for your family. Isn’t it true that our underlying motivation is more important than the decisions we make?
6. Enjoy the results of your efforts.
I think you’ll notice that the more decisions you make out of love instead of guilt, the nicer your dragon will become. Before you know it, you may even enjoy her company. I’m hoping to convince mine to light the fireplace, so I can cozy up with a book on a Saturday afternoon this fall;)
When’s the last time you experienced irrational mommy guilt? What helped you overcome it? I hope some of these tips help next time!