Mom guilt set in the moment I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. This was over 2 years ago, and yet the guilt has never been in short supply.
I was 21 years old when I became pregnant with Annabella. I was not married, but I had been dating my boyfriend, Jeremy, for a few years at the time. We were nowhere near ready to get married, let alone have a child together. That is where the guilt began.
I did so much research about having a baby, what to do, what not to do. I decided early on that I would breastfeed (breast is best) and I considered cloth diapering so that we could be more environmentally responsible.
As my pregnancy went on, I realized that some things may not turn out how I had hoped. Jeremy and I decided to get married, so our families began planning our wedding. In the weeks and days leading up to the wedding, I began having nightmares about my impending motherhood. I would dream that I forgot my baby in a room all day, forgetting to feed and change him or her. I once dreamed that I gave birth in my bedroom at my parents house and had no idea what to do with the baby after.
That summer, after Jeremy and I were married, when I began nearing the end of my pregnancy, I started organizing what little clothing we had for our daughter. I hadn't had a baby shower yet and money was tight for us. I was ready to begin nesting but felt like we had nothing in our tiny apartment for the baby. Anyway, that night as I went through the baby clothes, I began to cry. My husband had just gotten home from spending time with his brother and was not expecting to find his wife in tears.
He asked me, "What's wrong?"
"We have nothing for Annabella!" I cried.
He reminded me that we had a small stockpile of diapers building up (disposable, because we did not own a washer and dryer so we would not be able to wash cloth diapers every day). He also reminded me that since I was planning to breastfeed, I already had the necessary equipment, and for everything else, we had lots of family and friends who wanted to bless us at the baby shower.
After my baby shower, I felt blessed and excited and prepared for the arrival of our daughter. Even in the hours after she was born, I felt peace about becoming a mom.
Unfortunately, things came up that caused me to feel guilty again. She was born with allergic colitis, so she could not nurse. She needed special hypoallergenic formula and I was ordered to quit nursing her. I was told I could continue to nurse her if I adopted a trial-and-error diet, to figure out what was causing the awful side effects. I said "No, thank you," because I wanted my baby to fed, not sick and possibly in pain.
Knowing that I was doing the best thing for my daughter was not always enough. Sometimes, I still wish I could have nursed her. Bottle feeding benefited my family for several reasons, which I won't get into in this post, but most of all, I know that Annabella was a perfect and healthy formula-fed baby. She is 18 months old now and thriving. She started walking at 11 months old and she is already speaking in three word sentences. I know there are awesome benefits to nursing, but it is not the end-all-be-all. Even after realizing that, it took time to fight off the guilt of formula feeding.
I follow a wonderful mother on Instagram who does everything I wish I was able to do for my daughter. She is my age and she even lives in the same town as me. Her daughter is a couple months younger than Annabella, and she is still able to nurse her and she even cloth-diapers. AND she feeds her family an organic, GMO-free, vegan, gluten-free diet. Comparison really is the thief of joy. I had unfollowed this mother when our babies were only a few months old because I envied the fact that she was able to nurse her daughter. I felt inferior to this woman I had never even met before.
Once I stopped comparing myself to this Instagram mom, and realized that she probably has the same inner struggles with guilt that I do, I began to admire her for the parenting decisions she makes instead of envying them. She is not any better than me because she cloth-diapers. I am not any better than her because I hand crochet hats and mittens for my daughter.
It took time for me to realize that I have to do what works for my family and also keeps me sane. What good does making organic gluten-free food from scratch everyday do if I am exhausted and cranky all of the time? I don't need to feel guilty because I am not like the Instagram moms whose kids seem to always be clean and dressed in adorable designer clothing.
Still, I find myself doubting that I am doing my best for my daughter. But then I remember that she is happy, healthy, energetic, and brilliant.
If you are a mom who feels guilty about the decisions you make as a mother, I know how you feel. But chances are, you don't need to feel guilty about those things, whether I mentioned them or not. Stop comparing yourself to other moms. Know that you are doing your best for your kids. When the guilt comes back, remind yourself that you are a great mom. You may not be perfect, you may make mistakes, but you are a great mom.