I had a long day. That was my excuse, but all moms have long days so is that really an excuse to lose my temper and be unkind to my children? All my days are long yet I can usually hold my exhaustion at bay, at least until 9 p.m. when the last kid finally dozes off and I can also relax.
On this particular day, however, I was worn out because we were on vacation.
The kids were too excited about the new environment, and I was worried about my deadlines. We may be on holiday but my work didn’t care about that! It was way past the boys’ bedtime in a new room at a new place and I was feeling old and stretched thin.
Without warning, I snapped.
I yelled and then I cried. They were stunned. In that silence, I knew instantly I was wrong and I apologized. As soon as I said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean those bad words,” my sons hugged me and cried in relief. I didn’t feel relief, however—I felt even guiltier! Waking up the next day greeted by love letters decorated with flowers made me feel even worse. I felt like a bad mother.
Many moms wrestle with that thought. “Am I a good mother? I got mad at them—am I a bad mother? I gave them junk food. I didn’t give him a bath. I fed her formula milk. I gave him the iPad. I let her watch TV. I hired a yaya. I work. Am I a bad mother? If I’m not a bad mother, why do I feel so guilty?”
Let’s talk about guilt first. The dictionary (Merriam-Webster) defines guilt as “the fact of committing a breach of conduct especially violating a law and involving a penalty.” Guilt means we did something wrong. Guilt is a fact, not an imagined offence.
In many cases, mothers don’t do wrong when we make decisions we feel are best for our family. Whether that’s being a working mother and hiring household help to skipping a bath (because the baby’s not dirty anyway!) and letting the kids watch TV (because you need some peace and quiet). Yet even though we didn’t commit a crime, we still feel guilty.
I feel guilty. All the time. But I can easily squelch that guilty emotion when I remind myself of two facts:
(1) I’m doing my very best, and
(2) I love them so much! Everything I do is because I love my kids and that alone makes me a good mother.
Everything I do is because I love my kids and that alone makes me a good mother. Click To Tweet
Then that day happened.
The uncalled for yelling and the cruel words that broke my kids’ tender hearts. Yes, I was doing my very best giving my kids a holiday (so they can have fun) and trying to meet deadlines (so I have their tuition money). And yes, I love them very much. But I was wrong to say what I said. And I was definitely guilty.
When I commit a real offence—no matter the reason!—there are only two ways to deal with the guilt:
(1) Apologize immediately and sincerely, and
(2) forgive myself.
I hope saying sorry shows my kids that their mama makes mistakes and realizes it immediately. I hope they see that by sincerely apologizing and not blaming them for my mistakes, I admit that I’m not a perfect mother but I try so hard to be a good mama anyway. Lastly, I hope they see that I will always try again and again and that I won’t ever give up being their mommy.
That means I need to forgive myself when I do wrong so that I can get up and give motherhood another go.
I’m lucky my kids are the most forgiving people in the world. They are so quick to hug me and say, “It’s okay, Mama! We love you!” Their love makes me realize I’m not a bad mommy. A flawed one definitely but a good enough one nevertheless. And I shouldn’t feel guilty about that.