Dealing with the Crushing Guilt of Parenthood

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Today, I am losing my mind with guilt. I have a million things to do, not enough time to get them done, and I am going crazy because I feel like no matter what I’m doing, I’m letting someone down. For example, right now, I am writing this blog post. I shouldn’t be doing that. I should be working on three different website projects, cleaning up after my daughter’s birthday party from yesterday, paying attention to my two (almost) neglected dogs, doing laundry, reading a parenting book, working out, planning what I am going to work on tomorrow, meal planning, burning my daughter’s new audio books to her iPod and ten other things that I really don’t want to think about right now. While all of these aren’t of equal importance, I won’t pretend that they aren’t all constantly rotating in the back of my mind like some kind of sick carousel where I only get a glimpse of something that I know is really important before it immediately moves on to the next item and I am forced to forget about the other one until it is featured in the front of the carousel again.

The good thing about having that never-ending carousel in my mind is that if I start to slip and focus on one thing for too long, the carousel reemerges and reminds me that I have other priorities and I need to switch gears. The bad thing about the carousel is LITERALLY everything else. Sometimes it malfunctions and prioritizes stupid shit that really wastes my time. Sometimes it cycles through things I have no control over, like what people think of me or how unfair distribution of wealth is. Sometimes it prioritizes the thing that’s right in front of me and doesn’t allow me to take a step back and look at the whole picture. It forces me to stare at how unorganized my pantry shelves are and start moving shit around instead of making my kids lunch. It’s not a high functioning carousel. In fact I would say it was faulty from the start. And the guy who is supposed to fix it is organizing his pantry shelves.

I’ve just got this nonstop to-do list, and in my mind, the consequences of not doing just one of these makes me a failure as a whole, no matter what excuse I try to tell myself. Cue the guilt. I am not enough and I never will be. Let’s take a look at my responsibilities and the negative consequence my anxiety-ridden mind believes will happen if I forget or don’t get one of them done immediately:

Working: Well…money. And reputation. If I don’t get my work done in a timely manner, people won’t be able to count on me, I will lose all credibility, I’ll let my partner down, I’ll never get another client, I’ll never contribute financially to this family and have no future, so ultimately, complete ruin.

Cleaning up after the birthday party: I had a legit Star Wars-themed party for my four year-old daughter. I spent weeks planning every little detail and staying up late to get it right. I tossed most of the food and some of the trash last night but it’s still a nightmare. All my pictures are off the walls, there’s junk that I needed to hide from my party guests so they don’t know I am actually running a shit show just piled haphazardly in my office, decorations and cups and crumbs all over the place. If I don’t clean up the rest of the decorations and plastic cups and dishes and sort and put away all the new gifts she received, my house will be a source of constant anxiety. I won’t be able to walk by any room without thinking of how messy it is and how unorganized my life really is. If I can’t keep my house organized, how can I keep my life organized? I’m such a piece of shit. Forcing my kids to wade through the mountain of garbage and wrapping paper when they wake up in the morning is surely a sign of a lazy parent and they will feel totally neglected. Kids that are totally neglected grow up to be totally unstable. Complete ruin!

 

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Paying attention to my two dogs: We’ve got two pugs, they are adorable and I love them dearly. Unfortunately, one of them has some serious behavior issues that are so frustrating for us that it affects us pretty much every day. Suffice it to say he’s a little shit that we never had time to fully train. Or train at all. My other dog is almost 10 years old and has gone from being the spoiled, jovial puppy who got all of our attention, to playing second fiddle to our first child, then third, then fourth, and now I don’t even know what fiddle this fucking dog is. Almost last, I’m guessing. This guy just lays around all day. It’s like he’s given up on life. Just look at him!

 

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God, he looks so sad. I try to remind myself to sit and pet him, try to walk him every day, give him treats, but it’s not enough. I am letting down this poor dog, the one I chose to adopt, to love forever, and he only gets my attention in short spurts maybe once a day. He was my little lapdog and he used to follow me from room to room when he was younger. Now he barely stirs when I sit next to him on the couch. He didn’t ask for this shit. He didn’t ask to be brought into my home. I forced him here and took him away from his mother and now our fun relationship is just a memory. Great, now I am a shitty dog owner. I am betraying the one who wants nothing more than my love and will gladly wait until it’s convenient. I’m a sad excuse for a human. Everyone hates a dog abuser. Complete. Ruin.

Doing laundry: My kid had nothing to wear on two separate occasions today. I had to send him to his brother’s room for pajama bottoms because they are about the same size these days. I don’t have any more clean yoga pants or leggings and that’s pretty much all I wear right now. Not being caught up on laundry means we have to wear dirty clothes. Sending my kid out in costume like “It’s Halloween 2.0!” because they have no clean pants. I’ll be totally embarrassed about it and then I’ll be the mom who is so neglectful she doesn’t even give her kids clean clothes to change into. I’ll become an outcast. Everyone will judge me. Complete ruin!

Reading a parenting book: My kids are acting a fool right now. They are going through some tough times. I don’t know if it’s me, (it probably is, it’s always the mother’s fault, amirite?) or they are all just going through normal kid phases that makes them act bat shit crazy, but each one of them has some sort of issue right now that’s driving me up the wall. Negativity, selfishness, emotional outbursts, saying rude words, and a hundred other things. If I don’t power through these parenting books to figure out how I can confront these issues head on and help them through whatever they’re going through right now, they are going to be forced to deal with it on their own and look inward. They will have no guidance or support. They’ll feel neglected. They’ll turn to drugs and violence. They’ll die in a ditch. Complete ruin.

Working out: I’ll gain weight, my skin will look terrible, I’ll cut time off my life, I’ll hate myself and never want to look in the mirror or step on a scale. I will be barely able to leave the house anymore because looking pretty is the fucking price women pay for existing in this world, apparently. If you’re anything less than the ideal, you get treated differently. Worse. That’s for damn sure. But let’s be honest, I haven’t done more than light jogging in ages. Who the hell knows when that’s going to change. I guess I could be one of those people who wakes up an hour earlier to get a good workout and shower in to start their day. I could totally be that person.

Hahahaha psych. That ain’t me. Not working out = Complete ruin.

 

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Prepping  for tomorrow: If I don’t try to get my poop in a group for tomorrow as far as planned outings, errands, grocery shopping and deciding what we are going to eat for dinner, I am going to have just as much of a chaotic day as I had today. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off, desperately jumping from activity to chore to errand without really getting any of them done completely. I will run out of time, start to panic, lose my mind, start thinking about what a failure I am for not planning anything for dinner until 5:30 p.m., and  require shock therapy to get my sanity back, which is basically complete ruin.

All that stuff, while thinking about how to be a better parent, wife, friend, employee, party planner and pet owner and telling myself that I am failing at each and every one of them.

And those are just responsibilities that I can’t avoid. I haven’t carved any “me” time in there except the four minutes it takes to drive through the coffee shop and get that good-good. Which I need a lot of. To have energy to handle everything I need to handle.

That also doesn’t include all the guilt I feel for not taking every opportunity to teach these kids good citizenship, tolerance, kindness, infectious humor and humility. Those are all things that are really important to me, and I want to send kids out into the world who make it a better place. I want a new generation of humans who truly want to change this world and will work with others to make it happen. I want them have integrity and be leaders, to have empathy and a hunger for knowledge. Oh, and I guess be happy or whatever.

The truth is, I don’t know how to overcome the guilt I feel. I take a sleep aid every night to keep myself from lying awake until 3 in the morning thinking about everything I did wrong, whether it be that day with my kids, or that time in 8th grade when I farted in gym class while talking to a boy. Those are equally bad, right? He was a gentleman and ignored it, by the way. Bless his heart. Oh! That just reminded me that I want to teach my boys to be gentlemen who graciously ignore the farts of the ladies they’re talking to. I need to write that down.

What I can tell you is that I thrive off external validation. Sure, I have my own internal voice that creeps up sometimes when I really need it to and tells me that I am doing better than my parents did for me. That the fact that I spend so much time trying to raise the best kids I can means that I care and am doing all right. I have basic self-esteem. But the one thing that has always skyrocketed my confidence has been someone else noticing my effort and saying something. It is as simple as someone mentioning that my kids were pretty well behaved at a birthday party. (Were they? I wasn’t even watching. Oops. I was counting on there being an adult in every room scanning the situation and reporting on anyone who’s kids got injured or started breaking shit.) So that was a welcome surprise, and I appreciated it. Of all the places you want your kids to behave, it’s in a room of 40 other people. Compliments like that got me and Steve like:

 

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It is also nice when I hear that someone I don’t know or expect reads this blog and actually likes it. Or someone on my friends list shares one of my posts. What? How? Why? Steve is such a saint, he talks about my blog to anyone who will listen and has actually gotten several people from his work to read it, and they’ve told him that they enjoy it. I couldn’t believe it. Sometimes I feel like I’m just talking out of my ass here and I’m the only one who cares. I mean…I really am just talking out of my ass. But I guess a few other people care. And that feels really good.

I also get a little validation any time someone asks me for advice. Look, this is a blog full of advice. I obviously think I know enough about parenting to start a fucking blog. Even that blows my mind because like, does anyone really know what they’re doing? All we can do is share our experiences, and honestly a lot of times I start writing a blog post and don’t even have any advice until I’m done writing it. I use this blog to talk myself through my parenting issues just as much as to give other people advice. There’s something about writing all my random and scary thoughts down that helps me work through them and find solutions. It’s actually kind of amazing. Everyone should have a blog. Or a diary or whatever. Just write shit down on the back of your kids drawings. It’ll be fine.

 

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So maybe that’s some of my advice. Write your shit down to help you work through the guilt. I think after writing this post and actually seeing all of the things I try to accomplish in a day, I do more than I thought I did. Today, I got the kids to clean up the living and sitting rooms without threats or yelling. We even made it into a game. There was giggling. It was pretty sweet. I played a board game with one of them and worked on some websites, got through several loads of laundry (just cycling through the washer and dryer, not folding or putting them away. I’m not a fucking machine), and am now sitting here, finishing up the post I started last night at 1am, drinking my coffee and planning my work for the rest of the day. That’s not bad.

I don’t know if the guilt will ever fully go away. I know previous generations didn’t worry as much about how they were raising their kids as we do. They basically did their best and just hope they survived. These days, there’s more pressure to raise perfect kids. Which is a completely unattainable goal. We are setting ourselves up for failure from the GET-GO. However, I think maybe if we think about everything we really do for our kids, for our homes and our jobs, cling to those small compliments we get from people here and there, (and give them to others in return!) and realize we haven’t gone completely off the deep end yet, maybe we can give ourselves a break. Even if it’s just for five minutes before that carousel starts spinning again, maybe that will give us the boost we need to keep fighting another day.

Parents, you got this. Even when you feel like you don’t. Chances are, your kid won’t end up a serial killer. Probably.

ONE LOVE.

 

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1 thought on “Dealing with the Crushing Guilt of Parenthood

  1. A sick carousel full of my to do list! Perfect analogy! Such a great blog post! I honestly kind of like knowing that other mothers/women are also riddled with guilt. Reminds me that I should let up on myself –this is a thing that lots of women do. It can’t all be our fault.

    Your kids behaved amazing! You are a fabulous party planner!

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