Motherhood: Mommy guilt

by Grace Ko in

As soon as I birthed the child I had carried in my womb for ten months, a new realm was opened to me, a whole new world of emotions both in breadth and depth spanning from joy and pride to anxiety, fear, guilt and shame. My highs felt higher, my lows felt lower, everything a bit stronger, deeper.

Someone once asked me what was most surprising about becoming a mom. I think it’s how easily the mommy guilt came. How quickly and loudly I began hearing the little devil sitting on my shoulder, shouting, “Do more! That’s not enough! How could you? How dare you?” I’m still working at quieting that voice.

“I should be able to exclusively breastfeed. What’s wrong with me?”

“I should keep him home. Why am I sending him to daycare? That’s selfish.”

“He’s sick, again. It’s because I’m failing as a mom.”

“We had fried chicken and French fries for dinner. That’s awful. If I cared about my child’s nutrition and development, I wouldn’t be feeding him this.”

If I could rewind and go back to those first few months that felt so sweet, so precious but so vulnerable, raw and unwound, I would whisper to myself, “Take time to lean on and lean in. Be “good enough”. You’re navigating unchartered territory. It’ll take time and space to grow into this role, this new identity, this new part of you. You’re doing the very best you can. And that’s more than enough.”

Once, after an emotional talk with my mom, she turned to me and said, “You’re a great mom. How could you give, do any more than you already are?” I wept. In the deepest corners of my heart, I was afraid I would never measure up to my mom, my hero.

There was another time I distinctly remember my dad was talking to some of our relatives. He told them, “Y and G are pouring out everything into being the best parents they can be for J.” This affirmed me in the deepest parts of my heart. My inkling is to hang my head, shaking it, saying, “Oh, no, no, no… You see, there’s this and that I could be doing, should be doing…” But I’m learning to just nod and say thank you and to acknowledge that it’s all by grace.

Strangely enough, I’ve realized guilt wasn’t magically birthed into me as I birthed my child. It was a pre-existing condition of my heart, only exacerbated and accentuated by hormones and the highs and lows of motherhood.

I’m not writing this because I have the panacea for mommy guilt. I’m not at the other end having defeated it. It’s still a daily battle. But I’m chipping away at it, with my pen and paper where I go to war against my internal tape, with the help of those that speak truth over me, with daily reminders to myself that “I am enough”.