A Possible Remedy for Mom Guilt

Guilty Mom

I can’t watch the new Rice Krispies commercials.  They make me sick with guilt.  Do you know the ones I am talking about?  They usually portray a very attentive mom and a toddler/preschooler on her lap.  She is helping the child stir marshmallow into the bowl of Rice Krispies.  She’s talking quietly, face beaming.  The child is enraptured by his or her mama…and after watching this mommy bliss the tag line says something like, “The best treat is the one you get at home.  Rice Krispies.  Childhood is calling.”

It’s commercials like these that cause me to feel completely inadequate in the mommy area.  I mean it isn’t that I didn’t bake with my kids.  (At Christmas time it is a family tradition to bake treats together.)  It’s just that honestly (well, I vowed to be honest…) life wasn’t really like this in my house.  In MY house if we made Rice Krispies treats the scene wasn’t ANYTHING like the link above.  It was madness.  It was chaos.  It was fighting.  (I want to put the marshmallow in.  NO I want to put the marshmallow in.)  It was screams of agony when the comb came out to saw away at sticky hair.  It was more marshmallow on limbs and naked stomachs than in the bowl.  (Hey! How else could the boys try and stick their belly buttons together like some kind of twin super heroes?)

Connecting with as many moms as I have connected with over the years, I know, (intellectually I know) that most households are more like mine than the commercials we see on TV.  But still.  But still…somehow that mom guilt-guilt that my sons didn’t have an idyllic family life–eats away at me.  It has an uncanny ability to withstand any attack by rational thinking or clichés.  “I did the best I could with the circumstances that I was in.”  OR “I grew as a human being and righted many parenting wrongs so that they weren’t detrimental to my children had they continued.”  OR “No mom is perfect.”  OR “Experiencing hardship puts hair on their chests.”  (Okay…maybe not that last one…)  ANYHOO…the fact is that looking back over the years should be a celebration.  Momentous occasions to revel in overcoming strife, making good decisions, and equipping my boys with the will and the smarts to become adults.  And, damn it, I did that.  Those boys are good kids.  They stay away from alcohol and drugs.  They are empathetic to those less fortunate.  They have optimism about changing the world for the better.  One’s personality lights up a room.  One’s brain will figure out how to light a room using less energy.  There is so much good.  I am not sure why I (and many moms like me) can’t just concentrate on that.  It’s the bad….and you all know there are a few minor imperfections that those sons of mine acquired over their relatively short lives…that causes me a great deal of guilty rumination.  My mind’s running reel of shame sounds something like this, “If only I had….If I had just insisted on….If I could go back I’d….How did I miss that….I wish I had…”  Sound familiar anyone?

It’s an age old question isn’t it?  How to get rid of that pesky mom guilt?  If I made a sort of cathartic list would that help? Hmmmm.  I suppose there would have to be two lists.  One list would be apologies for things that I deem necessary, the other would be a list for apologies THE SONS would deem necessary.  Here goes!

MOM’S LIST OF APOLOGIES (Otherwise known as the stuff I really SHOULD say sorry for.)

  • I am sorry that I was not the kind of mom who played.  I know you saw me cringe every time you asked to play “guys” or board or video games.  It wasn’t right.  I should have sucked it up just to spend time with you.  For that I am sorry.
  • I am sorry that you had to experience the world of divorce.  I know I haven’t been perfect in the way I have handled your father and all the animosity that comes with contention.  You should have had two parents that worked together for YOUR sakes.  You didn’t.  For that I am sorry.
  • I am sorry that I was so young when I had the two of you.  It seemed sometimes that because of my age and lack of wisdom, I was learning on the fly; a newbie archer of sorts flinging arrows into the air, never really achieving a bulls eye.  You needed a mom who was experienced enough to get it right the first time, or second time…or third.  For that I am sorry.
  • When you were young, I yelled.  I was one of those moms who yelled and stomped and jumped up and down.  Although I have long since stopped that behavior, (a change I am proud of,) I should have never done it in the first place.  For that, I am sorry.
  • There were sometimes over the years that I didn’t believe what you were telling me.  I took the word of an adult, assuming that what he or she was telling me HAD to be the truth and that since YOU were the children you had to be lying.  There have been moments when it has come to light that those decisions…to believe the adult…turned out to be the wrong choice.  This one boys…this one…plagues me the most.  Who can you turn to when your own mother doesn’t believe you at a time you needed to be believed?  For that, especially for that, I am sorry.

THE BOYS’ WISH LIST OF APOLOGIES (Otherwise known as the stuff that I SHOULDN”T be sorry about.)

  • I insist upon you doing your best.  I pester you.  I dog you.  I take away privileges if your best effort didn’t go into school week after week after week.  You want me to stop.  You want me to leave you alone.  I won’t.  For that I am not sorry.
  • I demand respect.  I won’t stand for any lip.  I am your mother and you will treat me accordingly.  I will go to great lengths to be sure you learn that elders are to be revered.  Right down to kicking you out of the car, even if that meant you’d be late for school.  For that I am not sorry.
  • I worry.  I worry a lot.  I overreact and picture all kinds of scenarios that could possibly maim or mutilate my dear sons.  I feel a great compulsion to inform you all about each and every possible scenario.  Of course so you’ll be prepared.  Of course.  Sigh…okay for that I am sorry.
  • I get angriest when you aren’t empathetic.  I drive home the plight of others who have less than or are less fortunate.  I won’t accept hurtful slang that label even if it IS what all the cool kids are saying.  I will tell you if you are bullying, if you are being mean, if you are not acting like the evolved non-prejudiced adults that I hope you will become.  For that I am not sorry.
  • I repeat myself.  Especially when it comes to appropriate social networking and electronic communication.  “Remember,” I will preach, “what you put down in an email, text or on Facebook will be a permanent record, and can be passed around and around and around.”  And then I throw in the clincher, the phrase that moms all over the world have probably used at least ONCE in their teens’ lives: “If it wouldn’t make your mother proud, don’t put it in writing.” And NO mom in the world would apologize for teaching her children THAT!


Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

3 Comments on “A Possible Remedy for Mom Guilt

  1. You should definitely reread siblings without rivalry. Amazing book that my wife and I each reread a couple of times a year. It’s also good to reread yardsticks to remind you what developmental things are going on whatever age your kids are.

  2. Jill, that is a good question. I think I only apologized to the boys because I am making such a concerted effort to do it “differently” with Ila. I guess i feel like I’ve only had a short time to screw up with her (tee hee) and well those mistakes that I listed haven’t really happened with her.

  3. I am thinking a couple of things… I am thinking that it is curious that you apologize only to your sons?! But mostly, as I deal with a mother in law that will never accept responsibilty or blame or even the ramifications of hurt feelings, what a gift you have given your children. The gift of realizing that we all goof, and we all feel sorry. I feel this gift and SO hope that I am able to give this gift along with the many gifts you have stated here. You are a wonderful mom. For that you cannot and should never apologize.

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