Reclaimed Perspective: Mom Guilt

Walking through parking lots and grocery stores with kids in tow almost always elicits some comment from a stranger. “You’ve got your hands full!” (Uh… I guess? Thanks?) and “Are they twins?” (No… they are two years apart…) are the most common.

But when I get the “Enjoy this time! It’ll be gone before you know it!” comment, it always feels like someone has just pulled off the scab on wound of guilt that just started healing. Suddenly, the questions start pouring in again – am I doing enough? Am I enjoying this walk through the parking lot? Why was I so cranky with them a few minutes ago? Didn’t I realize that this time is ALMOST.OVER? I will never get to walk through this parking lot with these squirming and bickering children ever again! ACK! Quick, kids! Someone start enjoying this moment before it’s gone!


And then we pile into the car, I give one or two of them an extra hug, I wipe a sentimental tear, and we drive off to our next appointment, leaving the stranger and her well-meaning comment behind.

Unfortunately, however, there are many, many strangers in this world who like to remind young mothers of the speed of life – and when I am least expecting it, they pop my preoccupied bubble to share their wisdom. But is it really wisdom? It is truth, that’s for sure. Life really does move quickly – we all know that. Even a brand new mother of an 7-month old realizes that her time with an infant has whizzed by and is almost over. But wisdom… maybe not.

I do want to keep the pace of life in mind, and not take for granted these days that I have with my young ones. And I do want to enjoy my time with them.

But I also don’t want to live in fear and anxiety. I would much rather live fully in these moments than living in worry about how much my future self will miss my current stage of life or living in regret at how much time has already passed and how much I miss the past.

Thankfully, my garden came to my rescue as I was mulling this over the other day. There, under a huge spiny green leaf, was a teeny tiny squash just beginning to form. It was adorable, if a squash can be adorable! So small and green, but the same shape as a fully formed squash. I enjoyed that moment. But it also sparked anticipation in me – anticipation for what that squash will look like and feel like and smell like in a month or two. I am excited to watch it grow, excited that it will turn into something full and useful and grown-up.

Can you see where I am going with this? No, I don’t want to eat my children when they grow up. But it reminded me that I am excited to see what they become, and that I don’t actually want to freeze them in time! I am excited to watch their minds begin to mature and develop. I am excited to watch their individuality blossom. I am excited to see what they do and where they go and what kind of difference they make in the world. I am excited to be their friend!

Fear and anxiety are such a constant presence for moms (or at least for this mom!). What if she/he/I/we somehow fail? What if we fail a LOT? What if they make really dumb choices? What if they get hurt or broken or lost?

But, if possible, I would much rather practice living with anticipation rather than worry. Fully enjoying these moments (as much as one can enjoy being jumped on, talked-nonstop-to, woken up, spit up on, and occasionally yelled at), and yet remembering that these moments are not the end point. They are not the only thing I will get to enjoy! They are the steps we are taking on the road to full, fruitful, and independent lives – lives that I will forever get to cherish and be intimately related to.

This feels like a much more hopeful perspective than the fearful QUICK-SAVOR-THIS-MOMENT-OF-TODDLER-MELTDOWN-BECAUSE-SOMEDAY-YOU-WILL-MISS-IT perspective that all my kind stranger friends seem to be promoting.

So, to my little squashling children? You are adorable! You are tiny, but I can see your personalities and your ideas beginning to take shape. You are already like small adults in so many ways. I love watching you develop, and I can’t wait to see where you are in one year, two years, and even 10 years. As long as you don’t grow as fast as zucchini squash, you have my full permission and blessing to keep on growing! I will enjoy these moments – but I will try to hold on to them lightly, with anticipation for what is to come.

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