Dealing with Mother’s Guilt – Part One

Recently, I’ve gotten back to work and I’ve been busier than normal. Feelings of guilt started to surface and I found myself justifying my decision to work instead of being with Kurt. I realized that this is something all moms go through, that I can help other moms deal with these feelings. I want to send the message that feeling mother’s guilt is normal and hopefully, you can learn from my personal experiences.

Earlier this year, I started working on my passion project, which was an idea that came to me while I was pregnant with Kurt. I initially wanted to start working on it January 2019 but things changed when Kurt was born. I realized that my two boys need me more than ever and I really did enjoy being a mom. I also felt the pressure of needing to be at home for my sons. It was very different with Kyle, my first child. After Kyle was born, I was already back in the office after two months. The workaholic in me just missed being an entrepreneur. I was doing my best to balance being a working mom back then. This time around, with Kurt, I decided to spend more time with my kids and put off work until Kurt was six months old. Right now, I’m again trying to balance both sides – working Tin and mommy Tin. This is where the guilt starts to creep in.

I know moms generally experience guilty feelings about their parenting – it’s just a matter of how long their list is. I know mine is pretty long. I sometimes compare moms with dads, where it seems like fathers don’t have to deal with the kind of guilt mothers do. They’re not as concerned about giving up time with the kids for work. Moms, on the other hand, feel like they want to fulfill everything for their kids. But the reality is that we can’t and when we fail, we feel guilty. Guilt can strike anytime, anyplace. We just need to face it – we’re not perfect! 

Here’s something I read from therapist Brene Brown, “The feeling of guilt is just mostly focused on behavior, especially when the shame becomes about the feelings of the self.” It’s how we associate the things we’ve failed to do (or have done wrongly) to who we are, our self-worth. It shouldn’t be! If you’re a mom that deals with guilt about not meeting your child’s needs, I want to let you know that you’re not alone. 

I have a list of twelve things that cause mother’s guilt. These don’t come in any particular order, I just wrote them down as I thought of them. Since the list is long, I’ve split it into two. Part one has five items and part two has another six items, plus some tips on how to manage the guilt.

1. Breastfeeding VS formula feeding – Breastfeeding is something that women really associate with motherhood. It’s something they feel proud of, being able to breastfeed their babies. We naturally feel bad if we can’t feed our babies with breastmilk and revert to formula. We need to remember, though, that there are a lot of factors that affect breastfeeding. Sometimes our bodies can’t produce enough milk, sometimes there are latching problems, sometimes we have to go back to work. With Kyle, I didn’t have a lot of milk to feed him. It was okay for the first month when he didn’t need as much milk. But as he grew, it became harder to feed Kyle because I wasn’t gifted with a lot of milk. I also got an infection and had to take antibiotics, which means I couldn’t breastfeed for six weeks. Because of that, I started Kyle on formula. By the time I went back to breastfeeding, Kyle was refusing me because my supply isn’t enough for him. I almost got depressed with the idea of stopping but I talked to my pediatrician and she reassured me that it’s okay – sometimes it’s just not for every mom and I did my best naman.  And I just diverted my thoughts thinking that I have some friends who exclusively breastfeed their babies but has gotten sick and got hospitalized pa. So I just need to focus on Kyle’s overall health instead. 

2. Going back to work – This is especially hard for those who love and enjoy motherhood, especially when you’ve spent two months with your newborn. The guilt comes the minute you walk out the door, you think, “Oh no, I’m leaving him or her again.” We just have to deal with the reality that we have to get back to work. As long as you feel good about the person you’re leaving your baby with, na makapagkakatiwalaan mo siya (that you can trust this peson), it’s ok. Just think that whatever you’re doing is also for their future. You can do it momma. 

3. Denying kids sweets or junk food – The first two years of Kyle’s life, chocolates and sweets were banned in the house. I only allowed people in the house to eat them if Kyle is not around or hindi niya nakikita na kumakain ka (he won’t see them eating sweets). Of course, there are external circumstances that I can’t control. Sometimes my friends would want to buy Kyle a cake and Kyle would just look at me with that paawa (pitiful) face that says, “I want to but mommy won’t let me.” My friends would tell me, “Hey, come on. He’s just a kid. Let him try naman. It’s not good that you’re depriving him, it’s part of his childhood.” Sometimes I’d feel guilty because of that. Then sometimes Kyle’s dad, Paul, would come along and he would want to reward Kyle with something sweet and I can’t stop him, either. So it’s this constant struggle between letting your kid enjoy and keeping him from the food that’s not good for him. What I ended up doing is making a rule of only one sweet a day. If he sees something he wants to try, he’ll ask me and I tell him, okay but on one condition – it’s only one a day. With that, nakatatak na sa ulo nya na (it’s already impressed upon his mind that) he needs to ask permission and it’s only one a day. Most of the time he will go through a day without sweets anyway. It’s just a good idea to regulate his intake when he has a craving.

Kyle enjoying a sweet treat – ice cream on a hot day!

4. Screen time – I remember I was at a conference in Bali. Kyle was turning three at the time and I decided to bring him with me on this trip. It so happened that I needed to pick up Kyle for lunch and so he joined me at the conference with the other participants. There was this Singaporean man who was with us on the table who saw me let Kyle watch videos on my iPad. He walked up to me and told me directly, “I don’t let my kids watch videos while we’re eating.” I was very surprised that I wasn’t able to react. Why would he tell me this in public? He was even very loud about it. He just continued, “I have three kids. If I let one watch videos on an iPad, I have to let all three watch and that means I have to provide three iPads, one for each of them. That’s too much for me, that’s why I don’t allow.” I forgot what I said, probably something like, “Good for you.” I felt that a stranger had judged me and my decision to let Kyle watch videos on my iPad. After he left, I reminded myself that I don’t need to explain myself to him. The other parents at the table probably saw my shock and started comforting me. “It’s okay, we get you. Not all kids are the same.” Another parent said, “How can he even say that? Not everyone has the same situation.” We started talking about parenting after that. I explained to them that I only let Kyle use the iPad during meals. He doesn’t watch iPad videos the rest of the day. If you’ve read my picky eater blog post, you’ll understand why I needed iPad time for Kyle. It’s the only way I can make him sit still and eat properly. I’d rather use the iPad to keep him there than have him walk around and not finish his food. Also, I always set rules for using the iPad. Up to now, Kyle can only watch while he’s eating and sometimes he doesn’t need the iPad anymore. Sometimes he’ll ask to watch videos but I’ll only allow him at night. During the day I encourage Kyle to play with his toys. So when someone else comes up to you and makes you feel bad about letting your kid use the iPad, just remember that they don’t know the whole story. As long as you regulate your child’s screen time, it’s okay. Ideally, I don’t want my kids to have any screen time but I know things will never be perfect, I will never be a perfect mom. We do what we can to make things work.

5. Letting others watch the kids – This is true for those who have yayas (nannies). When I see moms sending their kids to school and picking them up every day, I sometimes question my self if I’m being a good mom because I can’t do that. I ask, “Am I enough for my child?” I feel that I’m not available for my children all the time. My kids might compare me with their classmates’ moms who are with them all the time. To deal with that, I schedule time with my kids – I have days when I’m the one sending Kyle to school. Admittedly, it’s tougher now that there are two of them, hati yun oras (the time is split). I just try to maximize the time with both of them when I can. If Kurt is awake when I need to pick up Kyle, I take Kurt with me to school. If I have to go to work, I make sure I spend time with the kids when I get home. Not taking care of the kids yourself is another source of guilty feelings but sometimes you really need to rely on someone else to help you. I just make sure that I know what’s going on in their lives and I’m still on top of what’s happening by setting rules. 

There are many more sources of guilt for moms and I’ll talk about the last six on my list on my next blog post. Can you relate to any of these? Do you have your own guilty feelings about not being good enough? Let me know and let’s talk about it! We don’t need to carry this burden because as I’ve said – there is no such thing as a perfect mom.

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