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Parents Should Stop Feeling Guilty

Once Our Self-Isolation Is Over, Can We Finally Abolish the Term "Mommy Guilt"?

A single mom being affectionate with her young son while working from home on her laptop.

The irony of this time in our lives isn't lost on me. I know that the universe didn't create the "social distancing" movement to prove a point to parents, specifically, but it sure feels as though a greater power has decreed: "OK, OK, millions of women and 17 men! You keep complaining about how you feel guilty at work that you aren't home with your kids and yet also feel guilty when you're at home with your kids that you should be working. I've seen the memes! I've watched your Instagram Lives! I want you to know that I hear you! I'm going to go ahead and finally let you — er, how do you Americans keep referring to it? — 'have it all.'"

And then, the greater power cast a spell (or waved a magic wand? I don't know how this works), and poof! We did finally get to have it all.

So, um, I don't know about you, but can I go back to having just some of it?

In true be-careful-what-you-wish-for fashion, I was your classic "working mom" (a term I truly loathe) who always yearned for more.

I told myself that I wished I could have more time to bust out the paints and glitter and pom poms and just "create" with my kids. Turns out, that was a lie.

I told myself that I wanted to teach my kids to read, to learn how to say hello in Mandarin, to do basic addition. Turns out, that was an uneducated lie.

I told myself that I wanted to be there for every little developmental milestone. Turns out, it was nice just hearing about them, too.

I told myself there weren't enough hours in the day to soak up all the love I could from my family. Turns out, days are, like, really long. (Please, I beg of you, do not echo this sentiment with some version of "but the years are short!" We know, Carol.)

I don't need to see my kids 24 hours a day. I don't need to see them half that time or even a quarter of it, if we're being honest.

After three days of sheltering in place with my family, I was ready to tap out. Now, weeks into this universe-mandated "I told you so" social experiment, I'm begging to return to whatever type of normal life will exist after all this is over. I mean – and please keep this between us — I don't need to see my kids 24 hours a day. I don't need to see them half that time or even a quarter of it, if we're being honest. It's quality over quantity, right?

So when we all do go back to our normal routines — the once-logistically tiring grind of dropping off kids at day care or school before commuting into the office — I have one request of all those millions of parents who've grappled with some form of "mommy guilt" (another term I hate) through the years.

Can we just leave that sh*t behind?

Can one of the things we let go of — you know, besides a functioning economy and the sense that our world isn't one giant powder keg — be that heavy-weighted guilt we carry on our shoulders every day as parents? Now that many of us are struggling to do both, can we finally just stop pitting "working moms" against "stay-at-home" ones? Can we stop trading in self-inflicted shame that we aren't enough for our kids? That we're undeserving of love because our kids ate fast food that one time or watched two (gasp, two!) episodes in a row of PAW Patrol or trick-or-treated in a store-bought Halloween costume?

And can we stop projecting that others aren't enough for theirs? Can we stop pointing out that Susan "was on her phone the whole time" her son was at the playground? (Remember playgrounds?) Or casually noting that Andrew "doesn't deserve a trophy" just because he dressed in an Elsa gown for his daughter?

Now that we've all gotten some perspective, can we just stop feeling guilty? Can we recognise that we're better humans — and better parents — without it? Hell, I was able to definitively confirm that I'm a better parent when I spend less of my time parenting, but let's just start with abolishing guilt and see how that works first . . .

Image Source: Getty / Tom Werner
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