The Guilty Mom Syndrome

THE Plague of Mommy Guilt has been around since time immemorial. The moment a woman gives birth and the colostrum comes dripping, mothers are just engulfed with this overwhelming sense of guilt (breast versus bottle). It stems from this desire to give the best by doing everything perfectly right for our child, our flesh and blood. But there’s no such thing as perfect; so we crumble from the pressure and we turn into our own worst critic. Lurking behind every child’s smile is a mother who worries if she is doing it right and who prays to high heavens that she doesn’t mess up.

A new attack

This week, I had a profound attack of the Guilty Mom Syndrome. I was chosen as a fellow for the 21st Lopez Jaena Journalism Workshop in Iloilo slated for December 3 to 8 (all expenses paid). To be selected among many esteemed journalists is an honor. I was excited to attend.

Sadly, my husband has a business meeting. We both can’t be gone on a trip at the same time because we have no family support to help supervise our kids, apart from the yayas/nannies. The big boss in our house, my 5 year old, cried: “If you’re gone, who’s going to take care of me?” [Such a far cry from the reaction of his older teenage siblings who were excited to have this dictator mommy, that can snap and lose her cool, out of the house!]

To be fair to my husband, he volunteered to cancel all his plans because he knows this opportunity is perfect for me. BUT the frugal person in me could not easily turn a blind eye on the wasted money in the form of his plane tickets/hotel, plus missed business opportunities.

I also have a responsibility to my students too. The timing is off for the workshop and circumstances are against what I want, making my heart heavy. I’ve always believed that if something was meant to be, making the choice—even if it was tough—would feel good and bring some measure of peace. Because half-heartedness brings regret, I had to quash the nagging feeling of doubt and embrace my decision to stay.

Not the first

The balancing act of motherhood and personhood is a hard one to fine tune for me. I was an individual first before a mom; and I would still like to nurture myself too, so I can be a person that my kids can look up to and emulate. But how? #TheStruggleIsReal

I stayed home out of necessity with my 2 older kids in the US because childcare was exorbitant, and family was 4 hours away. From the tax perspective, it was also more beneficial to be my husband's dependent.

When the youngest was born in Pinas a decade after his oldest sister, I chose to stay home so he could experience the same care and attention. However, I did not anticipate the judgment in some people's eyes when I put my career on hold. It was followed up with the dreaded stay-at-home-mom question: "What do you do all day?" Sigh.

The query made me feel that choosing not to work was a setback and a waste of academic degrees. Was it not ok to be content with homemaking, childrearing, and letting my husband take the lead? I do realize that perhaps whoever was asking maybe curious and didn’t intend to make me feel bad. But I still felt bad anyway!

Fulltime motherhood can actually feel isolating, especially if you don't know anyone at a similar life stage. At times, work felt appealing because there: I get to pee with privacy (no toddler banging on the door asking to be let in), have coffee with adult conversation, eat lunch in peace, etc. But then, things would revert back to the same question: who can I trust to watch the baby? Ah, the guilt.

Give support

Whether working or stay-at-home, moms should never be made to defend their choices because there’s no competition! The role of any mom is a huge responsibility. The moment the baby is born, we mothers are in charge of another human being for the rest of his/her life. Even if he/she grows into adulthood, we will still feel responsible for this "baby". We all do what we can to get by. The world is already full of so much negativity, so we really just ought to support each other.

One thing I've learned having kids in both the preschool and high school stage is the days may seem long with motherhood’s dirty work (spit-ups, diapers, tantrums, bickering, etc), but the years are short, fast, and fleeting. Thus, we need to do what feels right for our families. We all come from different backgrounds so what may work for some, may not work for others. Less judgment but more compassion and understanding for others are necessary because it is not easy to be a mom/parent.

There are days when I can’t wait for my kids to sleep to get some peace and quiet. But even during parenting’s most difficult moments, I cherish the time spent with my children because they won’t be little forever. I know that 30 years from now, it won't matter how much money I made, what accolades I received, what kind of car I had, etc. What’s more important is that I made a difference in my kids’ lives and that they remember a mother who tried her best to raise them well and loved them unconditionally.

Now, I drown my hurts with my youngest son’s kisses. On any given day, a prestigious journalism opportunity takes a backseat to my kids’ needs. Though I feel disappointed, I can only hope/pray that there will be more opportunities in the future with God’s perfect timing and grace. If none come, I will be ok because I know I did right by my three kids. They shall always be the priority because they will eventually leave. While they’re still in my nest, I give them the best of me for however long they need and want me.


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