By Brandy Browne
I remember bringing home my beautiful first born. She was our rainbow baby after many miscarriages. She was absolutely perfect in every way…except for the fact that she literally never slept more than an hour at a time. The parenting honeymoon endorphins carried me for weeks. Then, reality kicked in. I was sleep deprived, nursing around the clock (which meant I was starving), and I had no clue what I was doing. Moreover, we had prayed so long for a child that I felt heavy heavy guilt even thinking about asking for help. This was, after all, exactly what I prayed for. Who was I to complain?
Healthline writer Alexandra Frost (2020) describes “mom guilt” as “that pervasive feeling of not doing enough as a parent, not doing things right, or making decisions that may mess up your kids in the long run” (retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/mom-guilt#definition). In my case, this was fueled by the traumatic experiences of miscarriages and unexplained infertility. Other environmental factors were key as well. As I would scroll my Facebook newsfeed, all I could see were other “perfect” moms who seemed to balance everything with ease. Meanwhile, I was in stretch pants on my couch with a wet tee as I had leaked through another set of nursing pads. I felt like a fraud. I was convinced my husband and I must be headed towards divorce, as we were constantly sniping at each other. I had taken on all the nighttime feedings to nurse, and I struggled to pump enough at one time that he could give her a bottle. He wanted to be more involved. I wanted some sleep and to feel less like a sleep deprived zombie. Yet, we could not get it together. I should mention that this was ten years ago, and we are still going strong, having added two more sleep depriving children to our beautiful family.
My problem was that I needed to reach out to my support system. They were there. I just would not let anyone in. Because I refused help of any kind, my mental health hit a low that took quite a battle to climb back from. My friends would ask how I was doing, and how did I reply? Gushing monologues over how much fun I was having being a mom. It was not completely dishonest. I was completely in love with her, and I did love being her mother. But it was not all fun and games. It was HARD. Even wishing for motherhood for quite a while before actually entering into it, I was ill prepared.
Fast forward ten years…I am finally content to take my time (running, long baths, etc.) to refuel so that I can be the best I can be for my sweet humans. I know that letting them fight boredom and not placing the burden of being their constant source of entertainment does not mean failure on my part, but merely an opportunity for them to build creativity and become better problem solvers. I take time to cultivate relationships outside of my husband and children with other women who share my values. They encourage me to be my best for my family. My family’s needs (and many wants) are fulfilled, but not at the expense of my mental health. I am better able to meet their needs when my “mental tank” is full. I refuse to feel guilty for that, and you should not allow yourself to feel guilty either. Self care is necessary, not only for your growth in your parenting journey, but an unregulated child will never be regulated by an unregulated guilt ridden adult. Treat yourself with the love and grace that you would want your child treated with. You are absolutely worth it.
Frost, A. (2020). What is mom guilt? Why being gentle with yourself matters. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/mom-guilt#definition