It appears to be the result of some cosmic joke, where women have their childhoods stolen to raise children for other people who really should be doing it themselves. It is then followed by a lifetime of never being able to do anything right as a mother, no matter how hard they try. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but my best advice is to consider it a life sentence and get used to it. I had never really heard of Mom Guilt until I became a mother. Mom Guilt, as it turns out, is when you “feel guilty” about something you did not do wrong but felt like you should have done. The guilt results from the overwhelming societal expectations for what a mother “should” be able to do for her children. As someone with an intensive degree in Self-Blame, I am no stranger to this self-inflicted torture.
What’s mom’s guilt?
It is the pervasive feeling that you have somehow failed your child, that you let them down in some way. You do something wrong, and they are sad. You do something good, and they are happier. It would be the feeling that things could have been so much better – so much more ideal – if only you had done it right.
But what did you do wrong? What part of this mystery of life did you mess up on?
You see, most mothers live in a different reality than their children. Mothers seem to be in a different universe, replete with magic, where the rules are different and the joys are more varied. The mothers’ world seems to have the capacity to fill their little princes and princesses with hope and joy while simultaneously shrinking away from them like a hushed whisper. They see from their vantage point:
“I dreamed my little boy could dance, sing and play the piano, but he was sick. His skin looked like orange leather. Sometimes I worry he doubts me.”
And here’s what their children think “I thought we’d be happy together. But my mother never lets me do anything fun. She never lets me do anything at all.”
I met a teenage girl recently who decided to get breast implants. I asked her why she did it, and she said, “My mother won’t let me get a boyfriend.” Her mother was fast and seemed to want her daughter to exist in a state of perpetual childhood.
I see this all the time: mothers trapped in the endless cycle of how things were meant to be with their parents. They insist on making everything just so, on having every detail precisely right for their children to feel safe in their presence. Their children are expected to end up exactly like them, and friends tell them this is what ordinary girls do.
You can’t help feeling like you did something wrong because that’s how it is. I’m here to tell you that you cannot change reality, and things will never be how they are supposed to be. You can only change your perception of reality and what feels right. If anything, it should be your children who feel how things ought to be, not you. Many moms out there have been so hungry for love in their lives that they create a permanent reality in their children’s minds: “When I was little, my mother told me this would happen.