Mom guilt isn’t just for moms

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Mom guilt isn't just for moms
Mom guilt isn’t just for moms

It often feels like blog after blog addresses the same issues: mom guilt, a need to encourage other moms, failing to get it all done, the importance of setting our kids up to feel amazing about themselves (ever notice what a lousy job we’re doing at feeling good about ourselves?). But if we all know these truths to be self-evident and can splatter it all over the internet…

why is all this rhetoric still relevant?

Today I dialed in to a webinar about work-life integration. Not balance. Integration. The guest presenter is a well-studied professor and author, offering expert guidance on the art of finding harmony between your work and home selves.

Next to his polished PowerPoint display was a chat box. A place that everyone in the virtual classroom could use to communicate with other attendees. It didn’t take long for the real need to become clear.  A select few themes screamed from the screen:

  • Guilt
  • Failure
  • Getting it all done
  • A partner who wasn’t bearing their share of the load

We whined a little, then someone writes (I imagined a harumph and an eye roll here), “Why is it only women on here worried about how to do it all? Why don’t the men ever worry about this stuff?”

Cue the men.

Oh, they were there. In full force. And get this – even after we had established a co-ed quorum, the themes stayed the same.

  • Guilt
  • Failure
  • Getting it all done
  • Partner who wasn’t sharing the load

News flash – dads are just as stressed about achieving balance!  Holy cow.  These aren’t mom issues. These are parent issues.

Cue the singles. The DINKS. The grown children caring for aging parents. The grandparents suddenly finding their empty nest filled with rebound kids or raising their grandchildren in a sort of second parenthood.

You guessed it – the themes didn’t change. We were all typing as fast as we could (you can’t see this, but I type wicked fast); and yet the comments were scrolling in real-time so fast that it was impossible to acknowledge each other’s needs. It wasn’t always possible to thank that one person who’d offered a great idea before it was bumped off the screen like that (super-addicting) quarters game. It was a desperate scramble to encourage one other through this tiny online window.  More than once, I resorted to pasting some of my own Orlando Moms Blog links and just saying “Read it later!”

One pet owner felt guilty for having to leave work to let her ailing dog out in the middle of the day – sad that he was stuck at home and sad she couldn’t stay at work or enjoy a carefree lunch hour. Singles were struggling to conquer their laundry pile. D’ya hear that, mommas?! Single people with NO CHILDREN have piles of clean clothes they can’t fold! These aren’t mom issues. These aren’t parent issues. These are people issues.

Remember how I said we’d all dialed into this call for free coaching from a paid professional on how we can develop the skills necessary to integrate the 4 areas of life (work, family, self…OK, I’m proving my own point here). We MISSED IT. We all missed it, because we were so hungry for the solace of commiseration. Desperate to not be alone. Our collective voice from around the nation resounded in this little text box saying “I need to know that others are struggling.”

C’mon, America! Who is setting these expectations?!

Perhaps they are like the many layers we Central Floridians have to wear this time of year, with our 40-degrees-in-a-day temperature swings.  Perhaps we’ve layered on our expectations like so many coats of high gloss nail polish.

My mom tells stories about my great-grandmother, who could make biscuits by grabbing handfuls of flour and lard without measuring and whip up a messy batch of perfection every time. She tells of my grandmother’s ability to clean up the kitchen as she went through the process of making a meal. By the time the dinner was served, the kitchen was clean. So I wonder, did my mom feel like she had to make fantastic messy biscuits without making a mess?

And did I mention my mother herself was an accomplished homemaker? She’s crafty and resourceful with both practical fixes and appealing design. She gave me a chic, comfy home and great homemade food. So I should be able to do both of those things, right?

I’ve also worked full-time at my professional career for 15 years. So I have to do all 3…right?

But I don’t do all 3. I so don’t. I can’t cook, and my house is a wreck. (I’ve shared photo evidence with you in the past, so you know I speak truth.) If my daughter sees me whine and stress and put myself down for not doing all of these things, she identifies them as the standard to which we should strive, right?  Evidently, because look how mom’s striving! But did I mention I also clocked over 100 volunteer hours last year? Will she think she has to do all 4?!

Do we keep layering on the expectations? How do I tell her it’s OK to not do all 4? How do I convince her that even just ONE of these things is a success to be celebrated? That if she can just perfect some messy biscuits, her GREAT-GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN will hear of it. And probably blog about it. Or maybe they’ll just blog and not clean their own house. Or just volunteer a lot and order take-out every night. Why in the world do we feel like we have to “and” ourselves into misery?!

Be good at your thing. Whatever it is. Just Be that.

Ironically, within a few seconds of the presenter ending his speech, the webinar was closed.  That box – that precious spring of strength, renewal and the ethereal connections made possible only online – was just gone.  So where’s your box today?  Am I the chat window, showing you that you aren’t alone? If so, I will proudly and desperately scramble to reassure you as fast as my fingers can type that you are doing just fine. Moms of kids, dads of pets, all the single ladies, all the grannies with handfuls of lard and flour – I get you.  I know that you are trying yourself into exhaustion. I know because I’m exhausted, too. But we have got to pick a layer. Just one. So before this window closes, what’s your layer going to be for now? Write it in a comment below so that I can encourage you.

{Hint: If you need inspiration, I assert you can never go wrong with messy biscuits.}

Side note: The webinar mentioned above was hosted by Bright Horizons, a company that offers backup child and elder care as a benefit through my employer.  I’ve used them and regularly encourage everyone at the office to establish an emergency child care plan of some sort.  They regularly host nationwide conference calls on various topics, primarily centered around work and family.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t make messy bisquits, but I put zuchinni in everything. And I don’t feel guilty! Loved your column. Like I’ve said before, I rocked my kids until their feet almost hit the floor, but I don’t remember if that floor was clean beneath their feet. Probably not. But who cares?
    Aunt Susie

  2. I loved this and will bookmark it so that I can continue to love it. I was in the BH webinar today and I’m so glad you shared this link. You are doing amazing work in the midst of a messy house, stained jeans and parsley in your teeth (don’t look now, the guy 3 seats over is watching). Keep on keeping on, sister.

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