Freedom From Parental Guilt

I have seen a lot of admonishment and even chastisement on social media right now towards moms who are going crazy having their kids home during quarantine. I've experienced such conflicting thoughts of agreement and disagreement about it all!

And I have found a glimmer of freedom and relief that I want to share with you.

To be honest, I have been a little discouraged to see how much of a burden kids are on their parents! And then I turn around and realize, I’m actually one of the parents feeling burdened!

I really don’t enjoy being around kids all day long, whether they’re mine or not. Never have! I am practically sweating as I write that, because there is so much shame and guilt wrapped up for me in this topic!

In moments like these, I’m usually quick to add in, “But I love my kids! I adore them!”

But you know what? I’m learning that I don’t need to say that. That’s part of the “glimmer of freedom”. But more on that in a minute.

In all my browsing on Facebook during these days, reading post after post about how to survive with kids at home, I have seen only one or two women post about how much they’re enjoying spending time with their kids right now. And I thought it was refreshing! It was positive! And we need more positivity.

And yet, here I sit, very disillusioned by the prospect of playing another puzzle or fixing another snack, or playing referee in another squabble, and just plain wishing I was talking to an adult in normal, adult language - no oversimplified conversations about why we’re eating PB&J and not blueberry yogurt!

And as if it wasn’t enough to sacrifice so much time and energy in ways that I have never enjoyed, guilt and shame come creeping into my head because of the lie that “if I feel like it’s a sacrifice to parent my kids then I must not be a good parent.”

I’m lucky to have many amazing friends who would never tell me I was a bad mother for not enjoying being with kids all day. But during my childhood, I was surrounded by a culture that taught me that there was nothing greater for a woman than being a mom, and the highest, most fulfilling thing a woman could do was be with her children full time. Nothing could be greater! I am a Bible-believing Christian, and I thought that’s what the Bible taught. And years of belief don’t just die overnight.

Along with this idea that my children brought me fulfillment was the belief that if I didn’t feel happy being with my kids full time, there must be something wrong with me! Who wouldn’t want to be fulfilled??

I know this isn’t the story of every mom who feels guilty about her attitude towards #momlife. But it’s my story.

There has been a lot of fear driving my decisions as a mother, as a woman, as a person. And one of them is a fear of depriving myself of fulfillment, and ruining my children by not taking on every responsibility toward them, by myself.

I came across a prayer on Facebook today - prayer for all of the moms across this country to learn to love being home with their children, and enjoy being the ones disciplining, teaching, and training them during this quarantine.

The prayer was followed by a stream of comments shaming all the women who didn’t enjoy being with their kids. Some of the comments were civil. Some were not.

But one comment stood out to me and made my heart soar. It stated that men are also responsible for the children, as they are also likely to be working from home. If the woman is to take care of the children while at home, what should the man do while at home during this?”

And that’s when my glimmer of freedom found its way into my heart.

I remembered that my husband didn’t enjoy being around kids all day either.

And no one seemed to care.

As much as it saddens me that there could be a double standard for moms and dads, that simple thought made me realize that I can absolutely be a good mother, even if I don’t want to be around my kids all day long. Because I know my husband is a good dad. And his confidence to acknowledge that he doesn’t want to take care of kids all day long without any shame inspires me to do the same!

And the fact that no one seems to be bothered by his preference? That reminds me that no one should be bothered by mine.

Because I don’t believe that moms are any more responsible for their children’s upbringing than dads. The same Bible that I thought gave me such tremendous parental responsibility, teaches me that fathers have just as much parental responsibility as moms. That’s the same Bible that teaches me that I am never meant to be fulfilled by parenthood.

Going forward now, my goal is to practice being okay if I don’t enjoy having my kids around me all day. And to be okay if anyone holds me and my husband to a different standard. Because today I remembered that we don’t have a different standard! And that’s why I can relax!