January 23, 2017

How I Kicked the Mom Guilt & Chose Compassion.

It’s nine p.m. and I am finally sitting on the couch after arriving home from work and preparing a meal.

It should have taken 15 minutes, but ended up requiring two hours and every pan in the house.

I’m exhausted.

I can’t wait to kick my feet up and enjoy 30 minutes of getting lost in trash TV that requires little to no brainpower.

Then suddenly I remember something. I have this little human in the room who has teeth un-brushed, toys covering the floor, and zero signs that he is interested in bed time.


Just this once, he can just put himself to bed, I think. I absolutely cannot muster up the energy to go through the bedtime process and endure the hour-long task that is ahead of me.

“Okay, tonight you are going to be a big boy and get ready for bed all by yourself,” I say.

“Mom, look at my Pokemon that I traded my lunch money for,” he replies.

“What? So you didn’t each lunch? Okay, you’re not listening, time for bed. Mom is tired and you will have to put yourself to bed tonight.” I stand firm.

“Mom, I’m not tired. Was pizza for dinner or was that a snack because I’m still hungry. I am starving. Starrrrrving!”

This is not working.

Suddenly it’s like I have actual lead in my legs. There is no way I am moving from this couch. I will win this battle. I will win if it takes every last ounce of energy I have!

“You will go to bed this instant, or, or I’m taking away your leggos!”, I shout.

He starts to move, head bowed, bottom lip out, and a most pronounced scowl takes shape on his face. Surprisingly, no tears. Slowly he makes his way up the stairs. With each heavy stomp he makes a statement until I can no longer see his little feet.

Oh my gosh! It worked! It worked, he’s walking up the stairs.

It’s actually happening. I won!

Kicking my feet up I grab the remote and start to bask in my victory.

Until—suddenly I have an acute pain.

Ahhh guilt—there you are. I knew you’d be coming.

But I’m just so tired. Aren’t I allowed to be tired?

And then it comes.

The flood of self-disappointment. “I’m a terrible Mother. It’s my fault. I’m so selfish. I deserve everything bad that comes my way!”

Dramatic? Yes, but also real.

I start to walk up the stairs, no, run, nothing is stopping me! I must fix this terrible thing I’ve done.

Guilt, guilt, guilt.

And then I see him. There he is, snuggled with his dirty stuffy, with all the lights on, totally asleep.

“I should wake him up.” I say. “Yes, that is exactly what I’ll do, wake him up and we can have a total do-over.” 


I take a deep breath. I remember a story I had watched on TV about a mother who left her kid in the grocery store.

“At least I am not that bad,” I think.

Slowly walking up to my son, I kiss his head.

“Sweet dreams,” I whisper.

Walking out of the room, I start to feel sorry for myself. I just experienced more emotions than I can count in 15 minutes.

That voice of reason starts to enter.

I think about the words of the wise teacher who taught a yoga class I attended earlier that week:

“Practice compassion. Let yourself feel totally engulfed in your emotions and then give yourself a freaking break.” 

Good wisdom here.

Why is it as mothers we don’t give ourselves enough credit?

We get the kids to school, make their lunches, keep track of their calendars, buy their clothes, email their teachers, read them books, take them to the park, teach them to be kind, teach them what’s right, and the list goes on and on and on. Yet, the moment we feel we fall short, it’s as if our livelihood is completely crushed.

Maybe you know that one mom who has it all together, who annoyingly always has the energy to put her kids to bed every single night.

But most of us don’t have the energy all of the time.  The truth is, it really is okay.

What about the guilt though? How do we get past the guilt?

How do we recover from that annoying pain? Yeah, that fun feeling of physical and mental anguish that guilt brings on.

Well I know how I get past it. I either cry myself to sleep or in some cases I question myself.

It goes something like this:

“Are my expectations realistic?”

“Did I really think my six year old would put himself to sleep so I could enjoy my own personal time?”

“Did I really think that he should be aware enough to recognize I need alone-time?”

“If I wish for that, can I somehow make that a reality?”

“Am I setting enough time aside to check in with myself before reaching this point of no return?”

Most of us mothers can’t even think about not being able to keep it all together. We should be able to work, and cook, and clean, and take care of the kids, and bills. We want and need to control everything. Right?

What we don’t realize is that motherhood is so much more that. Yes, it is about doing a lot of the things that we see as our duties. But it is also about reaching our highest potential as individuals so that we feel empowered as mothers.

Think about yoga for a minute. One of the things I love so much about yoga is how similar it is to motherhood. It takes you on a journey whether you like it or not, with little room for pride and negative talk.

When I first started practicing yoga, I was so out of my element. I’ll never forget the feeling I had in my first class. I looked around the room thinking, “These people have lost their damn minds.”  Yet I still wanted to be a part of it.

As I started to attend classes more regularly, my goal was to be perfect. I wanted the perfect alignment, the perfect half push up, the perfect down dog. I felt I could be in control.

The person next to me motivated me to keep up, and the person on their head motivated me to be awesome!

Well guess what?

It didn’t take long to realize that this perfect practice I sought out, didn’t actually exist. Turns out my pride was crushed almost as soon as I entered the room most days.

I have eventually learned to land a headstand, and find the correct alignment in my posturesbut not on every day or in every class.

I have learned that sometimes I can keep up with the flow of class, hold a two minute plank, and find stillness in shavasana. But many days, I can barely hold down dog. I realize child’s pose is where I need to be because I simply can’t do anything else in that moment.

And guess what? Any yoga teacher will tell you, that’s okay! That’s where you need to be.

Be compassionate with yourself. Let yourself have those days where you just can’t do all of the things you think you need to because you’re a mom.

Your kids will be okay. You will be okay.

And actually you will be better than okay.

You will be better off for it.

Think about how often you practice compassion for other people. In fact, as a mama you practice compassion all day long. And listen, the fact that you can actually leak your own breast-milk from hearing another baby’s cry drives that point home!

It’s pretty easy to continually judge and criticize ourselves. Of course we have all heard the saying “you are your own worst critic.”

But being compassionate with ourselves—it might as well be a foreign concept. This is the human condition.

If we can start to take a balanced approach, by setting realistic expectations, and being kind to ourselves through own failures and feelings of inadequacy, imagine how far we could go.

Today, ask yourself…

“Am I okay with failure?”

“May I be kind to myself in this moment?”

And then answer,

“Yes! Failure is a part of life.”

“I will practice the same kindness with myself as I would anyone else”

At the end of the day life will happen as it’s meant to. By being open and kind to ourselves, we will only open up room to practice the same with others.


Author: Rachel Gorton

Image: Tony Alter/Flickr 

Editor: Deb Jarrett


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