Even before I became a mother, I had my fair share of guilt. I felt guilty for texting instead of calling to catch up with friends. I felt guilty for throwing cardboard in the trash can because I was too lazy to take it out to the recycling bin. I felt guilty for drinking three glasses of wine on a Tuesday. And then throwing the bottle in the trash can. Suffice it to say, I was no stranger to the feeling. After all, I grew up in the Catholic church, of which guilt is a founding principle.
But as soon as those two blue lines showed up on the pregnancy test, I discovered a new kind of superguilt: pregnancy guilt. As I came to quickly realize, pregnancy in and of itself, is basically a huge guilt fest. In the first trimester, I felt guilty for mourning the loss of my nightly glass of Cab, for wondering when I would no longer feel nauseous all day, for being kind of a little bit bored because 40 weeks is a long damn time. I mean I was growing a human, so shouldn’t I feel amazed and blessed and in awe of my body’s ability to grow said human like every minute of every day?
Then the second trimester came, and with it, a whole new set of guilt-inducing changes. I felt guilty for wishing I looked pregnant instead of like I ate a few too many burritos (patience, my dear!) I felt guilty because I would’ve given my right arm for a rainbow roll with copious amounts of wasabi and soy sauce. I felt guilty because I finally took a few sips of wine and it was a total freakin letdown.
Then the third trimester rolled around and the guilt was at a fever pitch. I felt guilty for pretty much everything: being annoyed with strangers’ well-meaning questions about my due date/the gender/my sleep patterns/the name we picked, etc. Wishing repeatedly that babies only required seven months of gestation. Eating another chocolate cupcake. Buying one more overpriced maternity outfit, because four horizontally striped spandex shirts and one pair of worn out maternity jeggings does not a wardrobe make.
Then I gave birth to the aforementioned tiny human and something happened: 1) I was suddenly responsible for an entire person and 2) I felt guilty about pretty much everything having to do with that person. Translation: Mom Guilt. The kind that makes Catholic guilt/pregnancy guilt/too-much-wine guilt look like child’s play.
It’s the type of guilt that always comes with a flip side; something you could be doing differently or better for your child. Recommended amount of tummy time or a happy baby who’s not screaming because his face is buried in the carpet? Tylenol for a teething baby or any amount of natural remedies that don’t seem to squash the pain nearly as well? Independent playtime or total one-on-one attention? Daycare or staying home? Pile of laundry or playing with the baby? Cloth or disposable? Bottle or breast?
We make a million choices a day for our babies and, if we’re honest with ourselves, there’s probably always something we could be doing to potentially screw them up. But something tells me that a little less tummy time than our pediatricians recommend isn’t one of those things.
I don’t have a remedy for mom guilt and I’m not sure that any mother is really immune to it. I consider myself to be a pretty relaxed, easygoing mom, but I’m certain there will always be a tiny voice inside my head asking if there was a different or better way, even when my child is grown. Being responsible for a person’s childhood is a huge responsibility and it would be impossible to navigate those years without a little second-guessing.
There is always something you could feel guilty about. But try not to. Your child(ren) are loved, fed however you so choose, usually clothed and generally happy. They also have short memories and they’ll forgive you for making them wear any number of clever, cheeky onesies that were on sale at Carters. If you’re doing the best you know how, then that’s good enough. Tomorrow is a different day with a whole new set of choices.
Save the guilt for the teenage years when your daughter starts dating the kid with the Harley.