I felt Mom Guilt When...
Becoming a mother for the first time is NEVER what you expect. I went into my twin pregnancy early last year thinking “I’m going to be a unicorn! My past ways of perfectionism will definitely translate well into motherhood. I will breastfeed for at least 6 months, my kids will never watch TV, and I will sterilize EVERY pacifier that drops on that dirty ground. It’s going to be great!” What I came to find out is this: reality is going to give you a big fat check as soon as it can.
While we try to be the best parents to twins that we can, we eventually come to terms with the fact that no parent will ever reach perfection. Despite knowing this, we all still feel the well-known “Mom Guilt” (and I know there is such thing as "Dad Guilt," too). Someone recently asked me what kind of Mom Guilt I’ve experienced since becoming a mother. Until that moment, I had never stopped to really think about it in those terms, but I knew I had been feeling it on a daily basis. After taking a moment to think about it, I came up with an entire scroll of situations that make me feel guilty as a mother. I then did a quick Google search and WOW. I immediately felt normal. I identified with SO many other people's stories about Mom Guilt. Here are a few of my own highlights.
I felt Mom Guilt when…
1) I bonded faster with my son than I did with my daughter.
I’ve talked about this before on my blog. Basically, when the twins were born via C-section, my son was working out some amniotic fluid from his lungs. As a result, they immediately placed him on my chest first in the OR. A few minutes later, they put my daughter on my chest, too. However, I believe those first few moments with my son played into our bonding. There were times during the first 2 weeks I felt closer to him and as if I had more “work” to do with my daughter. We absolutely caught up eventually, but I felt (and still feel) bad about that. I love both of my children equally and always will!!
2) Neither of my children latched well when they were first born despite the help of a lactation consultant.
I expected to give birth and for both babies to just take to the breast with no issue whatsoever. Frustratingly, that’s not how it turned out. While I was producing a great amount of colostrum in the beginning few days, neither twin could seem to figure out how to latch properly. We involved a lactation consultant to get help, but we still never managed to figure it out. Alas, I resorted to regularly using a breastpump instead. While I was still providing breastmilk for them in those crucial beginning stages, I always felt bad about not being able to skip the pump and go straight for the breast. In the end, it didn’t really matter. My kids still were/are well-nourished, growing, and bonding with me as they should.
3) I feed my twins formula.
In addition to poor latch, I could only pump breastmilk for the first 2 months of their lives due to a decreasing supply coupled with exhaustion. Now, as a pediatric nurse practitioner, I will say this: FORMULA IS AMAZING. There may have been a time early on that I felt Mom Guilt about using it (and sometimes I still do), but I know there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Our pediatrician said the exact same thing. I work with physicians who use formula for their babies, as well. Let me be your proof that you can be breastfed for only 2-3 months (as I was when I was a baby) and go on to get a Bachelors, 2 Masters, a Doctorate, and acceptance letters to Ivy League schools. My children are absolutely thriving, meeting their milestones early or right on time, have perfectly healthy immune systems, and are growing like weeds.
4) I turn the Baby Channel on the TV sometimes.
I don’t do it often, but sometimes a girl just needs to take a shower. And whenever I’ve used this temporary “babysitter,” I often work extra hard on engaging them with me later through playing on the ground, showing them their dad’s colorful art, reading to them, etc.
5) I reluctantly buy something for myself every now and then.
I don’t do this often either. But, when I do, I feel bad that I haven’t saved that money to buy my kids a new onesie, a new toy, or a new box of Gerber. My husband keeps trying to get me to go get a massage, but I keep saying “no”… I feel like it needs to be all about the children. However, I know it’s not healthy to forget about our own sanity. Sometimes I just need to be pushed to treat myself.
6) I chose to cut back my work hours.
Speaking of feeling guilty for spending money on anything other than the babies… this is why. I was full-time and then went on maternity leave with the intention to fully return after 3 months. However, I quickly realized the twins were demanding far too much from me at the time to be able to juggle both. So, I cut back on my work hours significantly so that I could be with them. While I feel very blessed to have that as an option, I do feel guilty for not earning more money during this time when I know I could. Despite this guilty feeling, I know with 100% certainty I made the right choice for me and my family.
7) I don’t bathe them every day or even every other day.
Ughhhh. Bathing them just isn’t my favorite… YET. I know it will be better when they are both sitting up on their own and can take a bath together. For now, we bathe them one at a time and it just feels too much like a time-consuming assembly line. So, I bathe them about every 3-4 days. And yes, I feel bad about that (even though many moms say that’s how often they bathe their babies, too). The Mayo Clinic recommends bathing babies 3 times per week until they become more mobile as anything more frequent could dry their skin too much. Maybe I feel the guilt particularly more on this one because my mom says she bathed me every day when I was an infant...
8) I sometimes take funny pictures of the twins when they cry or make their “poop faces.”
Don’t lie, you know you’ve done it, too! I would NEVER post it on social media to embarrass them, though. It’s really more for my husband’s and my own amusement. Sometimes, in the overwhelming nature of having multiples, you just need a good laugh. Sorry, babies! I feel bad, but it’s still funny! With twins, you need to keep your sense of humor intact.
9) I’ve lost my temper in front of the kids.
We are all human. Nobody is perfect. We all have our moments. When you apply stress onto stressful situations over and over again upon a twin mom and dad, it’s inevitable they’re going to “lose it” for a moment. I have definitely made a point from day one to be as calm as I can around them, but sometimes my husband and I slip. Just like everyone else. We continue to try to be better about this. Whenever it's happened, though, I immediately feel regret and guilt.
10) I have to ask for help.
This is my absolute pet peeve. Anyone who knows me well knows this about me. In my past, I have NEVER enjoyed delegating tasks. I completely understand why help is good and healthy, though. And I do ask for help quite a bit. Every time I work, I have my mom on speed dial to come babysit the kids… AGAIN. While I’ve come to terms with the fact that asking for help is good (when it’s not done in excess), I still can’t help but feel bad for asking. Maybe it's because I think I should be doing it on my own since I’m the mother. I don't want to burn out my resources. But you just have to get over it and get some extra hands around when you need/want it. It truly takes a village to raise two babies at once!
After saying all of this, we can do one of two things: 1) Let go of the Mom Guilt as best we can, or 2) Embrace the Mom Guilt full on. While I personally don’t think we should feel the guilt (but that might be impossible), I do know you HAVE to give yourself permission to be imperfect. To make mistakes. To drop the ball. To forget things. Either way, just remember you love your kids and your kids love you. We're all in this mommyhood thing together! Oh, and if you want to keep things fun, there's always the old-fashioned Mom Guilt Bingo! ;-)