Craving a little me time? It's not the end of the world -- even though that's the way Mom Guilt feels.
I have needs.
There I said it (and it’s not what you’re thinking).
So, why do I feel so guilty?
I’m talking about Mom Guilt.
For those of you unacquainted with Mom Guilt, here is my facetious definition of the “disorder.” Mom Guilt is a psychological phenomenon characterized by feelings of inadequacy in regard to one’s parenting skills stemming from challenges in balancing and prioritizing maternal versus juvenile needs. The phenomenon does not seem widespread among fathers, thus its classification as a purely female type of guilt.
Of course, not all moms experience it, some do and deal with it reasonably, and some of us have it in spades. But most mothers I know feel some level of guilt about meeting their own needs --especially if it means their children might go without something, however insignificant, as a result.
My daughter, Maggie, recently joined an all-girl volleyball team. Her classmate’s father, Scott, is the head coach and asked for assistance with the team; per Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) regulations, a female adult must sit on the bench during games. Several women could split the responsibility for games, but were required to attend a CYO training session prior to the start of the season.
Initially, I volunteered along with several other friends, but when I learned the training was on a night I had plans with people over 4 feet tall, I decided to bow out.
Later, in a conversation with my friend Kelly, Scott’s wife and the assistant head coach, I explained I wouldn’t be able to help after all, and the reason why. Even as the words left my mouth, I felt guilty.
Guilty I wasn’t helping the other parents.
Guilty I wasn’t participating in my daughter’s latest activity.
Guilty for saying no.
Most of all, I felt it necessary to elaborate to my friend (or maybe myself?) that I had needs, and this time Maggie’s activity was not my main priority.
Kelly understood because she has two children and knows Mom Guilt well. She immediately told me to go out and have fun “for her” and we spent a few minutes lamenting the presence of mom guilt in our parental psyches. We sheepishly laughed, discussing the ways we regularly sacrifice for our children and how silly we are for reproaching ourselves over a night out, a new outfit or even simply admitting we have needs.
Maggie is enjoying playing volleyball, but she would have been proud to have her mom sitting on the bench in an “official” capacity. She will be just fine, of course. Maggie’s fortunate to have the opportunity to play volleyball. She has a mom who paid for her participation -- and a pink volleyball from Dick’s Sporting Goods, plus is taxied to and from practices and games. Not to mention a mom who is cheering like a crazy person from the bleachers when she scores a point and a mom who nods encouragement over a missed serve.
I am working on my Mom Guilt, though it doesn’t seem to be an easily combated phenomenon. But I’ve heard small steps are the key to changing a mind set. My first step in recovery from will be to call and schedule an appointment with my favorite stylist, Sarah, at Nolas Salon and Day Spa for a much-needed cut and color. Step Two? While I’m relaxing and chatting with Sarah, I will not dwell on the fact Maggie is also desperately in need of a hair cut. Step Three? Enlist support. I will invite fellow survivors of Mom Guilt for a night out.
We all need to start somewhere, and starting with martinis might be the best way to begin our recovery.