Today I saw a meme of sorts – it wasn’t a funny, Kermit drinking tea sort of meme, but one that was supposed to touch the heart of all the moms out there.
And I paraphrase –
“Stop feeling guilty! Just because you packed a crap lunch or missed a soccer game, don’t feel bad! We’re all doing our best! Give up the mom guilt!”
And maybe because I’m a bit cranky these days, but I looked at it and thought “I wish that’s all I felt guilty about.”
Seriously, if I only felt guilty for things like missing games or under-decorated birthday cakes, I probably wouldn’t need a therapist. But thanks to anxiety, Catholicism, and my own special blend of herbs and spices, I take feeling guilty to the next level.
I don’t feel guilty about lunches. Well, maybe I have as well. But my guilt, like my life, has an extra layer of extra.
I feel guilty about all sorts of things out of my control. The things my older three children have missed out on by having a disabled sister. By not doing enough for the disabled daughter. By not living up to my potential because I’m just freaking tired all the time. By not giving enough time to my husband because someone else needs me. Feeling guilty that I can’t be the type of mom my kids should have had because of my anxiety and depressed times.
Jaysus, I’d love to feel bad about missing a fecking soccer game.
It’s exhausting, carrying around all this, and amazing that despite carrying all this, I still manage to get up every morning and try all over again to be better at everything. Which is also exhausting.
Our circumstances are extraordinary. So is my mom guilt, my general life guilt, the secret shames I carry for having a messy house or missing appointments. My Imposter Syndrome is better than your Imposter Syndrome though, but they don’t hand out bumper stickers for that, now do they?
So coming across a meme that is meant well, but is a bit lacking…can set me off. Because stuff like that, those generic platitudes, feed into the problem. Because you’re not feeling guilty over a crappy lunch – you’re feeling guilty because your spouse is out of work and you’re buying the cheapest lunch items possible to make that crappy lunch and you don’t have the money to buy a cool kid’s lunch. You’re not feeling guilty over missing a soccer game, you’re feeling guilty because you’re the only mom in a team full of overachieving parents who missed yet another game because you work. You don’t just feel guilty because your child is missing a school party, you’re feeling guilty because they’re missing the party because of a doctor’s appointment scheduled months ago, one you can’t just reschedule for another day as you’ve already waited months for this appointment. It’s the guilt of having to hold your child down while they take blood, despite the promises of a treat, a reward for being so brave afterwards.
Universal guilts of spending money on yourself, spending time on yourself become amplified when you’re already weighed down by other guilt. You don’t need outsiders to tell you you’re wrong, the voices in your head do that job for you. No, you shouldn’t spend money at the salon to get your hair cut for the first time in six months or a year – there are medical bills to be paid. No, you shouldn’t pause life and read that book – the dishes are stacked up and no one has clean socks. You should do laundry and clean your house instead. Being told to take time for you seems impossible when you have a child who is so very dependent on you. Feeling resentful about that is not allowed, because then you’re a bad parent who doesn’t cherish your precious offspring.
It’s a weighted blanket of guilt that keeps you up at night and yet oddly enough, keeps you moving forward.
You are way past having a light bulb moment from a meme. You read platitudes by people on the internet and roll your eyes.
Or maybe that’s just me.
But you don’t say these things out loud, because then, ironically, the meme maker will confront you – “I was just trying to help! I didn’t mean you! I have real problems too!” – and then you feel badly for making them feel bad.
The thing is though…the thing is, so much of motherhood on the internet is about being positive. So much of social media is showing your best side. So much of the internet is about striving for better – better lifestyles, better bodies, best life now. Cherish those little moments! Take time for you! Don’t feel guilty! Love your messy life! All accompanied by a smiling photo, granite countertops in the background, all shiny and clear of clutter.
The thing is – I don’t really base my self-worth on these sort of memes. Yet I can still see the damage they do. Not car-wreck damage. But that pebble in your shoe damage, that one last thing that makes you rip off your sock, or causes a blister from rubbing so much.
And these people do mean well. This sort of thing does help them. It just reminds me at times at how distant my reality is from theirs, and how most people don’t show the truth. The hard stuff. The uncomfortable stuff. The real mess.
I am a mess. I’m a hot mess. My house is a mess. My brain is a mess. I do not have granite countertops, and the plain white tile ones I do have aren’t clean right now. I need therapy for all the guilt I carry over everything.
And I know I’m not alone in this.
So cheers to us, the ones living the true messes, the ones who carry on despite the guilt and shame weighing us down. Cheers to us, for getting up every morning and putting one foot after another. Cheers to our little victories, cheers to us for finding a bright moment. Cheers to us for getting up the strength to wash that load of socks or for making that frozen lasagna for dinner.
Cheers to surviving in an ocean constantly trying to drown us.
We may feel the weakest, but we are the strongest of them all.