Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mom Guilt...

“Bad” Mothers

We’ve all been there – that “bad” mom moment. Your voice rises, you speak THEN think. It’s a universal parenting experience. For all the times we stay calm and collected while literally walking on broken glass, once in a while we just lose it.

It happens in an instant, but we live with the guilt and regret of it for much longer – forever if we’re the type to judge ourselves harshly. I am.

I have to admit, as the mom of four fabulous grown ups, I hoped my “bad” mom moments were behind me. It’s not like I’m dealing with pre-verbal toddlers or pre-reasoning teenagers. My kid and I discuss things, we agree to disagree, we’re reasonable people. At least that’s how it is most of the time….

When my first child was born, I swore I would never, ever, under any circumstances say: “Because I told you to….” I hated it when my mom said that to me, and I still cringe when I hear parents say it to their kids. Kids are asking for the how and why of a situation so we should help them understand. Right? Theoretically….

Here’s how the theoretical conversation goes down:

Please eat all your peas.
- Why?
Because they will help keep you healthy.
- Okay.

However when my second daughter was two years old, she started asking “Why.” Not just once. Incessantly. It drove me to distraction.

Here’s how the reality-based conversation went down:

Please eat all your peas.
- Why? Because they will help keep you healthy.
- Why? They have good stuff in them to make you grow big.
- Why? Peas use the sun to create the stuff your body needs.
- Why? That is how plants work.
- Why? So they can grow and get big. Eat them, you will too!
- Why? Because I told you to.

And there it was. Just rolled off my tongue. “Because I told you to” ended the conversation - which honestly was what needed to happen. But isn’t a “good” mom supposed to encourage their kids’ curiosity and learning? I definitely felt the “bad” mom guilt weighing down on me in the quiet left after the last “Why?” faded away.

So fast forward a few decades, and here I am again. Feeling “bad” mom guilt in the quiet that’s left over after one of those not so pretty reality-based conversations.

My youngest daughter Brittany is engaged, and we’ve been joyfully working together on the wedding plans. From the beginning, I swore I would NOT be a Mother-Of-the-Bride “MOBzilla.”

Brittany’s wedding is something she’s dreamed about since she was a little girl. So I want to help her make it the wedding of her dreams, a true memory of a lifetime. Now I fear I added a moment to the memory that isn’t pretty.

My moment was in response to a guest list mix-up that ended up creating hours of additional work. I’d happily spend hours with Brittany choosing bridesmaid gifts or poring over flower arrangements, but I didn’t want to commit hours to cross-checking names and addresses that were added to the list by mistake. It’s a big guest list – happily so – but it’s going to take a ton of work to make it right.

Much to everyone’s dismay, mine especially, I had a MOBzilla moment. I should not have lost my cool, but life’s demands were piling up on me, and I snapped. Not that it makes me feel better, but I’m confident I have company in my “bad” mom guilt.

The best of us moms have had our moments. We yell when we know better. And then we apologize. But we still feel bad about it long after the kids have forgiven and forgotten. Kids tend to be resilient – hopefully the adult children of regretful mothers retain some of that resilience….

This month, we learn from Renee Kendley how to handle those times when you lose your cool. On page 66 of this month's FAMILY Magazine, Renee tells us to “Talk to your child about how people, even parents, have meltdowns sometimes where they don’t act rationally.”

It’s after the meltdown when we parents need to act rationally. We set the example of how to be the calm after the storm. I’m still working toward that with Brittany.

I am hoping when Brittany reads this blog, she’ll know I want to help however I can with her wedding. I want to be the ideal Mother-Of-the-Bride (I always aim high). But when life charges in and stresses up the works, MOBzilla moments have a way of crashing the party.

In the proper spirit of my rational moment, I’m going to do the “good” mom thing. Apologize from the heart. Beg for forgiveness. And most importantly ask her to give me a second chance, because in spite of all my best intentions, there’s always the possibility it might happen again….

Happy parenting!


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