I was 26. The most amazing experience…phenomenon..happened. It rocked my world, lit up my soul, and opened my eyes to God’s miracles. My son was born. This was one of those top moments I will never forget. One of the best things that ever happened to me.
However, the feeling that came with having kids was not one anybody warned me about….GUILT! Those first couple months were some of the hardest months of my life. I cried often. I felt guilty about EVERYTHING! I felt guilty because I couldn’t be a good wife, I couldn’t get the house clean, I couldn’t get dinner made. I felt guilty because everyone kept correcting me with raising my baby…”put socks on him, his feet are cold”, “don’t hold him while he sleeps, you need to put him down”, “don’t nurse him so often”, “don’t ever let him sleep in your bed”, “let him cry it out or he’ll never be independent”. Then when I took their advice, I felt an even more extreme guilt. I was up every 45 minutes to 2 hours for those first 2 years of his life. Attempting to get him to sleep in his crib, trying to get him to not nurse to sleep. I tried to let him cry, but felt myself breaking inside.
None of my close friends had babies yet. Here I was with a baby that nursed every 45 minutes, would only fall asleep with me next to him, and the second I tried to sneak away would wake up (including all his naps), and insisted on being held AND walked while he was awake.
I was depressed. I don’t think my husband and I barely said a word to eachother for those first couple months. Our lives were turned upside down. I remember finally going out to eat with some friends (leaving the baby for the first time), and having them ask me how things were going. As I was saying how hard it was, my husband said, “Well if all I had to do was lay on the couch all day, I’d have 5 or 6 kids!” I went to the bathroom and cried.
This is not easy to share. It took many many years before I even shared this depression and hard time with my best friends or my sister. I’m one of those people that hide my feelings very well.
The guilt kept coming. I went back to work part time. Oh my, I felt like the worst parent in the world leaving my baby to work. If I got out of work, I rushed to pick him up as soon as possible because I felt guilty for making the babysitter keep him longer than she had to. I felt guilty for only working part time and not being able to contribute more to our financial needs. I felt guilty because all my energy went to the baby and none to my husband.
When I felt like I was about to break, my sister in law randomly gave me a book she said someone recommended for new moms. The title was “I Was A Good Mom Before I Had Kids”. I read that book and began balling. Not from sadness. But because all the things it said were spot on to how I was feeling. I learned the guilt, the stress, it was all normal. I began to heal and learn to change the way I reacted to situations.
I learned to stop listening to other people’s advice. I politely would thank them for their advice, then leave it at that. There was a reason it broke me to hear my baby cry. There was a reason I slept with my baby (and every baby that came after). Guess what. My 9 year old never comes into my bed anymore even though I was told he would never get out. 😉 And I promise you, sleeping with my babies has been one of the top things I will cherish for the rest of my life. When my last 2 year old moves out of my bed, it will definitely take some coping for me.
I learned that my husband’s life had been rocked just as much as mine! He was learning an entire new role. I no longer was showing him love or doing all the housework, meals, and laundry I was doing before. All he saw me do was lay around and nurse, and at the same time, I was crying during these times because I couldn’t get up and do anything, didn’t even feel like my body belonged to me anymore.
After reading the book, I learned I had to start opening up to him. I had to let him know that I needed him, that I loved him. And I learned just by simply asking for his help with even little things, he was more than happy to jump up and do them. Trust me, it has been a long process learning to communicate and it’s something I will always need to work on (communication is not my specialty). By the time the second baby was born, my husband had turned into super-dad and super-hubby! Not sure how he adjusted so quickly, but to this day I am still amazed at how lucky I am to have him in my life. He does anything and everything I need and takes such a big role in parenting, it makes me fall in love with him over and over again everyday.
After 4 kids, I have learned to trust my instincts. Parenting is trial and error. It is not one size fits all and what works for one parent might not work for another. I’ve learned as mother’s, we need to support each other, open up to each other. There are so many mom’s out there struggling with guilt, depression, feeling like they are barely getting by. It helps when you realize you are not alone in these struggles.
Guess what? Even after learning all this and gaining a better perspective on parenting and life…I still feel GUILT. I don’t think you can be a mother and not feel it. I still feel guilty when I work, although I’ve learned the value of running to the grocery store if I get out of work early before picking up the kids (that’s better than the guilt I would feel if I took them to the store and had to yell at them to behave). I feel guilty that I HATE playing pretend (do I really have to play Barbie’s or Transformers again?). I feel guilty that I don’t get much one on one time with them, I feel guilty that I am so short tempered and impatient with them. In fact, I never yelled and was one of the most patient people before I had kids!! Now it seems I yell everyday. I am constantly wondering if I am doing the right things for them, if I am being a good Mom, if I am raising them to be happy and lead great lives.
We do the best we can and we have to realize that. I pray everyday for guidance in raising my kids. I pray for patience. I try to constantly improve myself in a positive way. In fact, I am getting ready to order a book recommended by my sister so I can find ways to not yell at my kids 🙂
When this evil word Guilt creeps up to us, I think we need to pray, talk it out with other mother’s, and focus on all the good we do for our family and children. We love them unconditionally, and as long as we keep doing that and showing that, those little things we feel guilty for are not all that significant.