The Antidote to Mom Guilt

Mar 25, 2020

I don’t believe in the word “mom guilt”, as prevalent as that buzzword is. I believe that guilt should be left for acts that are illegal or immortal (thanks Dr. Laura for your definition of guilt) I’m more down with the idea that I’m feeling bad, frustrated, unsure, sad and/or overwhelmed as a mom.

Nonetheless, most moms resonate with the phrase “mom guilt” and during this unique season in our lives, I’m sure most caregivers are feeling some level of sadness, irritation, grief and tiredness as we transition into a new kind of norm. These feelings won’t hide during social isolation; instead they’ll throw a tantrum and demand your attention. We’re all operating from a new perspective, one with novel positives and negatives and it’s through our prism of experience that we’re able to make it work or not work.

For me, it’s a day-by-day ebb and flow and what I’m learning more each day is that I really don’t know much. I do know that my goal is simple and complex: to try my best to be kind to myself as I move in and out of fear. I want to shift a focus to our shared humanity, my own sense of vulnerability, and the need for self-care and I know others do too. This is a time of collective suffering and consequently, collective compassion. But first, we have to get our house in order. We have to feel safe in order to create the space needed to serve. It begins with cultivating a healthy routine for you, whether it’s through:

  1. movement,
  2. meditation,
  3. walks outside,
  4. gardening,
  5. organizing,
  6. nourishing meals,
  7. social detoxing
  8. taking a shower
  9. whatever floats your boat

We must prioritize our well being FIRST. And for us caregivers and teachers of our children, that’s not easy.

But hey, if not now, then when?

In order to keep peace in our hearts and in our homes, we can assume the role of the “Faithkeeper” (art pictured above by Frank Howell). “In the Native American tradition, this person’s role is to remain at peace, centered in spiritual vision, no matter what events befall the tribe. Even if everyone else in the tribe slips into pain, fear, or dissension, the Faithkeeper is the one person the tribe can rely on as a lifeline to the Presence. This is our role now.” (Suzanne Sullivan)

I feel super grateful to have an incredible tribe of “faithkeepers” in my life that I turn to. Our text message group names range from “Bad Ass Mamas” to “Golden Girls” to “Forest Family” and when I reached out and asked them what was showing up for them during this time, they all had similar feedback.

“I’m feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do.”

Even faithkeepers these days have trouble keeping it together. Between ZOOM calls for work and school, social distancing outside to lots of screen time, overwhelm of free resources and boredom, the uncertainty of what/when/how to make it all work echoed through their vulnerable and powerful feedback. We, as a society are being expected to rush it out, fast and hot, and many devoted family members feel pressured to supersize their abilities and output. “This is a McDonaldization of society and education and I want to step back and ask, is this what we want to consume? Is this what will nourish and sustain us? Will this be good for our individual and collective bodies, minds and hearts?”(Cohen)

In Parker Palmer’s landmark book, The Courage to Teach, he writes,“The connections made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts — meaning heart in its ancient sense, the place where intellect and emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self.” A crisis should not prompt us to add more; it should encourage us to distill things to an essence and to model for our families how and what to prioritize.

“This is an opportunity to pause and think about how we can be healthier selves, citizens and leaders in the face of uncertainty, crisis fear and change. Think about what you want to hold onto and what you want to let go of and how you want to be remembered. Dream about how you can chart a course about hope even and especially when it feels like there is none.” (Cohen) In the midst of chaos, comes the opportunity to transcend by remaining grounded and open.

We are ALL unsure and that’s OK.

We are all OK.

Right here, right now.

If you’re reading this, I want you to know that you’re doing a fantastic job. You were built for these times. Transition and transformation is painful and messy. The messiest. But you’re doing it by simply being and that stillness will lead to productive doing. Give it time and don’t rush it. Nature never does and look how much its accomplished. You’re thriving no matter what you’re doing or not doing. It doesn’t matter. This is no longer a competition. It’s a battle call for community, service and love and by showing up (and staying home), you’re transforming into the warrior you’ve always been. Know that, deep in your soul.

I’m proud of my faithkeepers, the caregivers, the teachers, those on the front lines of this crisis. More now than I’ve ever been.

And that includes you.

As a tribe, a community, a nation, a world, and a universe-we are going to be ok.

Better than ok, if we allow it.

Now let’s go wash our hands and have a snack.