Mom guilt is a very real thing (note that I say Mom Guilt but Dad Guilt totally applies to this entire post too). I feel it’s almost naturally ingrained in us because we worked so damn hard on the art project that is our child, we would hate for anything we did to affect how damn perfect that project currently is. Unfortunately, mommy guilt is only augmented by everything around us.
The media, especially of the online social variety, is one of the first places I turn to for parenting advice. Whether it’s looking to Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration, or asking for some support on a Facebook parenting group – there’s always something or someone out there that ends up doing more harm to my confidence as a parent than good. Now add an anxiety disorder on top of the typical mom guilt and you’ve got a potion for disaster.
My anxiety has always been a thing that ebbs and flows. I’ve had months, even years, when I’m doing so well that anxiety just feels like a nagging mosquito that won’t quite go away, but it’s not completely ruining my day either. Then, I’ll have weeks or months when I’m so debilitated by my disorder that I can’t leave the house, let alone see friends, participate in my favourite hobbies, or even regularly go to work.
I think that since I’ve become a mother a lot of this recurring anxiety has to do with mom guilt. I always worry that my anxiety is an indulgence – like I don’t have time for that shit. I don’t have time to feel like crap, or to feel anxious and lose it, because I always have to be on, I have to take care of things, I have an entire human being relying on me. Now add in the online factor, where mom guilt is only further perpetuated by displaying unrealistic, and frankly unattainable, mommy ideals. I’m looking at all these mommy influencers on Instagram and they’re perfectly put together, with their perfect outfits, and their spotless homes. They’re beautiful, and I want to be just like them – but that’s not reality, it only compounds the guilt.
Then there are the forums and parenting groups on sites like Facebook. No matter how many safe places people try to create online (because that’s where you’re brave enough to talk about things like parenting choices and mental illness), online also happens to be a really safe place for the bullies and the judgmental individuals. You know, the ones who would never tell you they think your parenting is wrong to your face, but hey that screen they’re sitting behind protects them like a steel door so why not? Well, these people have absolutely NO problem saying they think you suck online, and don’t we just always internalize that one bad thing that was said rather than all the good things that were said before it? This is probably one of the biggest reasons it’s taken me 18 years to open-up about my illness in such a big way.
We have more than enough guilt naturally ingrained in us – I love the little human I’ve made so much that I question many of my parenting choices, and feel guilty about the majority of them. I feel guilty if I’ve given him something deemed unhealthy to eat because I haven’t had time to cook dinner. I feel guilty if I’ve sat him in front of the idiot box because I’m exhausted at 5am and just need half an hour more of sleep. I feel guilty if I’m not taking him to enough extra-curricular activities – because how else will he become a well-rounded child who plays piano, soccer, swims competitively, and has the singing voice of an angel? (That last one was sarcasm, for the online mama’s who are about to shame me for yet another parenting decision I’ve made).
I feel guilty, and it makes me anxious, and then I feel guilty for feeling anxious – because I’m a mom, and I have to have my shit together.
That’s why I finally decided, after 18 years of keeping my mental illness to myself, to start speaking up. Most importantly, you know what I’ve learned in this short period of time? I’m not the only mom with an anxiety disorder. Not by a long shot. So, here’s to all the other moms out there – you are not alone. Not everyone has their shit together. We’re all struggling right alongside you.
We need a safe place, a place where we can talk about our fears, and be heard by other moms who know how debilitating anxiety, depression, postpartum depression, and any other kind of mental illness can be. It’s especially important because we’re moms, and ultimately, we want nothing more than to be the best we can be for the person we spent so long creating and then caring for.
So that’s what I’m going to do here. This is no longer going to just be another mommy blog – I want this to be a forum for women like me, who just need someone to hear them out, emotionally support them and hold them up, reminding them that everyone has ups and downs, but dammit you’re a good Mama!
If you’re a parent and want to contribute your story on coping with whatever it is you’re coping with while parenting, or if you’re just another mama or papa that needs someone to talk your troubles out with, comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.