Today I was driving to Target (moms’ paradise, am I right?) and my baby started crying. And I knew he was fed, as I had just nursed him. And I knew that he had a clean diaper as I had just changed him before we left. He just HATES his car seat. He cannot stand it. And I try making car rides as pleasant as possible because of this. I turn the car on before we all get it so its nice and cool (because, hello Southern California weather). I give him his favorite stuffed owl that jingles when he plays with it. And I adjust the mirror on his headrest so he can see himself (helpful for me too so I can see what he’s doing back there in my rear view mirror). Soon his cries grew louder and louder, and by the time we were halfway there he was full blown wailing. And I felt so terrible. Just wracked with so much guilt thinking “You know he hates the car, you could have just gotten what you needed on Amazon & just been patient. Do you REALLY need more coffee and eye liner?” (Yes, yes I do). As his cries grew louder I did anything I could think of to distract him. I talked to him, sang nursery songs, & at some point I even found myself singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” Things got weird people. They got weird. Apparently desperation makes me think I’m Madonna. Anyway, when we finally got there, I looked down at my hands on the steering wheel and saw that my knuckles were literally white from holding on to the steering wheel so hard. Yikes. Definitely a wake up call for me.
Because I really am pretty hard on myself. I honestly think that I have mom guilt… oh, easily every day? And it’s because I care, and because I love my children dearly. And because this is the most important job that I have ever done: raising my children. And I don’t want to mess it up. But I also need to sometimes take a moment and just put things in perspective. Babies cry. That’s just what they do. And what they have done since the dawn of time. I’m not the only mother out there whose baby has wailed (& honestly sounded more like a cat than a baby boy at some points) during an entire car ride. But I also feel like maybe it’s biological that as moms, we are hard wired to get stressed out and/or feel guilty when we hear our baby cry and we can’t help them.
And the mom guilt doesn’t stop there. No sir. I feel it when I’m interacting with one of my children and not the other. Or if they’re both crying at the same time and I have to weigh who needs me more. I feel it when I shush my daughter when she’s just being a normal and excitable two year old, but she has to be quiet because her baby brother has finally fallen asleep after rocking, nursing, shushing, dancing & anything under the sun that makes babies sleepy. I feel it when said baby wakes up too soon from a nap, and yet he still smiles lovingly at me through sleepy red rimmed eyes. I feel it when I’m on my phone and have zoned out and then glance up to see that my daughter has built a tower out of her blocks and is looking at me expectantly; or when I notice my son has been cooing and smiling at me in his sweet baby way. Sometimes when I go to bed at night, I run through the day’s events in my head and think “Did I play enough with my kids today? I should be reading more books to them. Does my oldest notice how divided my attention is now? Will my baby realize that his childhood is so very different than his sister’s was because he is our second? Is my toddler hungry because I ate her last chicken dinosaur shaped nugget because it looked like she was done eating?” (Those things are friggin delicious! Dip one of those puppies in ranch? Amazing!) Loops and loops of thoughts and questions and doubts.
But then I stop myself, because I really am just trying my best. And I honestly think that that is worth something. Because I feel that in some way, feeling guilty is just a result of caring so very much. And I know that I will never be a perfect parent, because no one is perfect. And I know that I will continue to hold myself to super high standards because that’s just who I am. Maybe it’s the former athlete in me, but I feel like I always need to aim higher. When really, if my kids are smiling and happy, I think that that itself is proof that I’m doing something right. So the best that I can do is just cut myself some slack when I feel guilty that I’m taking a long shower because that is one of my few uninterrupted “me times”, even though I can hear both kids crying for me as my husband tells them that I’m getting out soon. Because at the end of the day, all that matters is that I don’t stop trying. Trying to do better, be better, and trying to be easy on myself.