I was dealing with a bit of mommy guilt yesterday (wishing I could have Dylan all the time instead of sharing him with his father), and was thinking about it more when another mother confessed she was dealing with mommy guilt as well. I dismissed mine; it had no place in reality and I was able to let it go. It got me thinking though, about parenting and my relationship with being a parent.
Everyone always assumed I’d have children. I was given the wonderful opportunity to talk to my long lost best friend from elementary school, and she said she was really surprised that I only had one child; she always thought I’d have at least four or five. I cringed at the thought; I love being Dylan’s mother but the idea of that many children is just way too much for me to handle. Just the idea of it. Not even the real thing. So, yeah.
I thought about how my son is a tad spoiled- he’s four years old and just received his own Wii. I bought it for him (a used one from my local Game Stop) for a very specific reason. He’s discovered Mario Kart, and kept wanting to take my (beautiful, black) Wii home with him. It was my birthday present to myself, and, as my fellow gamers will understand, I’m a little attached to it. Now, I also have a Wii Fit Plus setup, and like doing my morning yoga with it. So it’s been difficult. I sacrificed my routine so my kid can race around a pixellated track as a little green frog (he always picks Yoshi). He also gets a toy every time we go to WalMart. It’s usually not more than $10, and it keeps him occupied while I’m trying to finish the shopping. It was a brilliant plan at the beginning- but now….now I’m sort of re-thinking the whole thing.
I realized that too often, I’ll put things back that I need, in order to get things that he wants, because I have this driving force that keeps me going and makes me want to be the best mother possible. But, I also realized, I don’t think I’m doing him any favors. I don’t *think* that it’s divorce guilt, but then again I could be wrong.
There’s something else though. What does it say about us mothers that the expression exists “you’re too hot to be a mom!“? I know that it’s usually meant with the best of intentions, and as a compliment…but has anyone stopped to really think about that for a minute? What does it say about mothers that they are no longer expected to be hot?
That got me really thinking, and examining my own actions.
I remember when Dylan was first born- I was terrified to even TAKE A SHOWER because I was worried that Dylan would need something during the ten minutes that it takes to wash my body and hair. Terrified. I’m not sure what I really thought would happen. Now I don’t know about your babies, but mine ate, cried, pooped and slept. Nothing really life threatening there. But I sacrificed my own basic needs, and would only shower if someone came over and held him. Talk about new mom neuroses.
I realized, too…it’s not much different now. Well, I do shower but still won’t do it when he’s at the house, I do it before he comes over or after he goes back to his dad’s house. And it doesn’t stop there. Why is it that I will spend a hundred dollars buying my son summer clothes but I hesitate to purchase one top for myself if it’s more than $20? Why will I buy him a nice winter coat but won’t do the same for myself, rationalizing that I can just layer and wear a scarf? Why is it that I will take time to play trains with him, but won’t take the 30 minutes a day that I should to exercise and get myself back into shape? I’ve even been cutting my own bangs (and you can TOTALLY tell) so I’d have more money to spend on him.
In trying so hard to be the perfect mother, I let myself get lost along the way. I need to bring more of a balance back into the picture. I need to bring a toy with us to the store instead of constantly buying him more. I need to spend less on his wardrobe- he doesn’t need 20 different outfits for one week- and a little more on mine.
I want to teach my son discipline and to not constantly want things- and I will confess that right now I am not doing a very good job at that.
I realized also that I’m sending a clear message to my son- mommy is not important. This message is in clear opposition with the message of mutual respect, of learning to honor one another. I am sending mixed messages when I refuse to take the time to honor myself. Sometimes we joke that our kids act like they own the place- but have we stopped to think that maybe it’s our fault? We are the ones responsible for their social integration. Keeping all the focus on them all the time is not helping them integrate into the family at all, and it’s really no wonder that there are kids who grow up feeling entitled and as though the whole world revolves around them- because it has!
I’m not beating myself up about it. But, I am aware of it now and will be working to change things. I would also like to encourage my fellow mothers to examine their own motivations and actions, and take a second to consider whether or not you are sending your kid the message that you (mommy) are not important at all.
I took the first step myself, tonight. After dinner, I told Dylan that it was mommy’s turn to use the television. At first he balked a little bit (“but I want to watch MORE Little Bear!”), but then settled down and played with his trains. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and I got to enjoy a television show for once.
It was really great.