This term will probably be a stranger to you if you don't have a kid, but for moms, it's a familiar term, and a familiar feeling. Familiar because it is something we're plague with almost all the time. We feel a tinge of guilt with almost everything we do.
Probably it's society's expectations of mothers, or simply because we, ourselves desire to do and give our best for our children that whatever we're doing just doesn't seem enough.
In these 8 months of motherhood, I've experienced different levels of mom guilt (and I know I'll only be experiencing more in the days to come). I'll categorise them into two just to simplify things. To me, there's the everyday mom guilt, and the crippling mom guilt.
"Everyday Mom Guilt"
The everyday mom guilt comes from doing the everyday things. I am a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) blogging and doing social media on the side, emceeing and occasionally some marketing/digital marketing projects on ad hoc basis. It is already a handful to be a SAHM, but to also work on the side leaves me constantly busy. Constantly.
Whenever I'm required to attend events or head out for work purposes, I'm filled with mom guilt each time I sneak out of the house and when I return to a desperate baby reaching out for me to carry him.
Whenever I have work to rush till the wee hours in the morning, I'm filled with mom guilt for not going to bed together with Boon and Tyler. Whenever I leave the bedroom after putting Tyler to sleep, I'll be filled with mom guilt thinking what happened to family bedtime and going to sleep together?
Whenever I'm breastfeeding Tyler while working on my phone, replying work mails and messages, I'm filled with mom guilt because the good mother is always present. I should be looking at my baby while I'm feeding him as he is looking at me. Many times Tyler looks at me and my phone thinking what mommy is doing. He would stop feeding and try to look at the phone that I'm holding in my hand. But whenever I look at him, stroke his hair and pay full attention to him, he would look at me lovingly and carry a contented, shy smile on his face.
Whenever Tyler and I are over at my parents', they'll play with him and take him out to the porch to have fun where he'll be super cute and happy. But I'll be working on my laptop in the house, taking the opportunity to quickly finish my work since my family is helping me with Tyler. While working in the house and hearing the laughter and giggles outside, I'm always filled with mom guilt thinking about all the cute and fun moments I'm missing out.
On another hand, whenever my gigs and projects slow down and I have more time in my hands, I'm filled with mom guilt too. I feel guilty for not doing enough to contribute to our family's finances. I'd wish I could bring in more money so that we could easily afford good clothes, good toys and good education for Tyler and his future sibling(s). I'd wish I could do more.
These are the everyday mom guilts.
Occasionally, I experience what I call the crippling mom guilt.
"Crippling Mom Guilt"
That crippling mom guilt when Tyler falls down due to a moment of neglect. One second of not watching, BAM. And I wonder why hadn't I kept my eyes on him for that one second. The guilt is overwhelming knowing that I was the cause of his fall and pain, that I was the reason he cried. And the guilt never leaves.
That crippling mom guilt when I was due to leave for Perth on a sponsored trip in April. I knew the trip would be a good break for me as well as a great exposure for my blogging career, and with all the support from Boon and our families, I knew Tyler would be in good hands. But the guilt of leaving him for a week and not being able to breastfeed him to sleep killed me. I knew he would be searching and crying for me at night. I knew he would miss me. A few days before the trip the separation anxiety hit me so bad that the thought of leaving brought tears to my eyes. I was an emotional wreck especially on the day I was due to leave for the airport. It was so bad that I bawled my eyes out while watching him sleep beside me. I felt so lost and crippled, and the temptation to bail out on the trip was so strong. But I'm glad I went ahead because I realised that was a trip I very much needed to have a break, however not without struggles and mom guilt. It was tough. The guilt never left.
Two nights ago, something happened that crippled me with the worst mom guilt I've ever felt. It's been two days, but whenever I thought about what happened my heart would turn sour and I would be overwhelmed with an wave of guilt.
Tyler is a fully breastfed baby who wakes up in the middle of the night, every 1-2 hours for a feed or some suckle in his dreams (we call it dream feed as he falls back to sleep immediately). On good nights, he would fuss for a latch every 1-2 hours so if I were doing my work outside of the bedroom, I'd need to go in, latch him for about 5-10 minutes and then leave the room again to continue my work. This could go on for 4-5 times a night. On not-so-good nights, he would keep latching and latching even when there's obvious no more milk in the boobs, and struggle to fall asleep. That latching can go up to 45-60 minutes nonstop (yes, poor boobs). Whenever it looks like he has fallen asleep, I would slowly release my boob from his mouth but that would wake him up and he would fuss for latch again. That's when the whole latching process starts again, and I would be stuck to the bed, lying in an awkward sideways position, frozen and half exposed in the aircond room, exhausted but kept awake by the constant latching, all beside a relentless baby and snoring husband. Welcome to my life, folks.
On Saturday night, it was about 3.30am when it happened. I was utterly exhausted, completely flat out, desperate to catch a wink. My body was crying out for rest, and my mind was shutting off (doesn't usually happen, so it means I'm seriously exhausted).
Tyler was relentless in his latching, felt like he had been latching on since forever and saw no sign of stopping. Why wasn't he falling asleep like usual? I was desperate to see him stop and flip over to his tummy himself like how he usually does. On that night, he just didn't. He just kept going on and on, while I was flat out tired, cold, restless, and getting real frustrated. It was Sunday the next day and we would need to wake up early to prepare for church. It was going to be a full, packed day. I needed to sleep. I needed it so bad.
I tried to release my poor boob and flip him over to his tummy to sleep, but he would just bounce back and fuss for more latch. This repeated for about 3-4 times and I just had nothing left in me- no milk left (obviously!), no energy, no patience, no sanity, and very little love left. Thoughts about how other babies would just sleep through the night and I was desperately yearning for that. I was overwhelmed by envy and wondering why not my baby? Why not him? I was getting fed up. I had enough. I was so desperate to rest.
So I decided perhaps it was a good time to carry out some disciplining and training. No more latching and just let him cry it out and hopefully cry to sleep. Cruel, but that's how them parents do sleep training right? I thought maybe we could give it a try. So I sat up, while Tyler just cries in anger for his latch. It went on for about 30 minutes and no sign of giving up, so I carried him up and thought maybe I could carry him to sleep instead of letting him latch into dreamland.
Guess what? It was the worst idea ever. One of the worst decisions in my life. The moment I carried him up, his eyes were open wide and he was fully awake and ready to play. He started to smile and laugh and pounced on his daddy asking for him to play. His sleep became a 3 to 4-hour power nap and the boy was all recharged and energetic! Oh my Lord what have I done!!!
Tried calming him down for bed but to no avail. Decided okay maybe we should off all the lights and keep the room pin-drop silent. I so regretted my decision I told Boon, we'll train him another day I just really wanted to sleep. Whatever it took for him and myself to sleep! So I raised the white flag and latched him to sleep. I lost the fight.
One hour into latching, and his eyes were still wide open. To make matters even more unbearable? Tyler has developed this very bad habit of pinching me. Doubt he knows it inflicts pain. Doubt he even know what pain is. It was just a habit he randomly developed.
He would plant his little short but sharp fingernails into our necks, and when I feed him he would pinch my nipple while latching. The pain is sharp and unbearable, and whenever I move his hand he would fuss and return to pinch even more. Tried letting him pinch other things like my hand or the blanket but nope, he wanted nothing else. So yes, 1 hour of latching and pinching. I looked at the time, it was 4.30am. I had enough. I had zero energy and zero sanity left. I was in the cold, in pain, and going full blown insane.
I unlatched him, turned to the other side, raised my voice and said,
"Enough, no more!"
"I don't want you!"
The moment I finished uttering those words, I woke up. I had a sudden realisation that I was seriously hitting my limit, because otherwise why would I utter such words? Such hurtful, painful words that I didn't even mean? Serious shit I was going crazy. I really hit rock bottom. Few seconds after I said those words I wailed and wailed, and I just couldn't stop. What have I turned into?! What got into me?? Why was I so heartless?! My heart was wrenched, broken and I just couldn't stop weeping.
After I said those words and turned away, Tyler went into a full blown cry. This time it wasn't an angry cry. It was a sad, hurtful cry. I sensed so much hurt from his cry, and I could feel that he felt unwanted and rejected, from his own mother. The one whom he depended on for food and comfort. The one whom he needed to fall asleep. The one who brought him into this world. The one who promised to love him, but failed him.
I failed him. I failed myself.
Boon quickly put Tyler into the baby cot and came over to hug and comfort me. I told him, "You go and sayang him now! Go! Leave me alone! He is very hurt now." Boon carried Tyler and brought him out into the living room, both of us still crying and in a huge mess.
From the bedroom I could hear Tyler's cries and Boon trying to lecture Tyler about his behaviour. I was angry at Tyler, and angry at myself for being angry at him. All I could think of was what a horrible mother I was. The words I uttered kept ringing in my head and each time I thought about them, my heart broke even more.
"I don't want you?"
I don't want you?? Heck, I want you so bad. I wanted you so, so bad. We desired for you so, so bad. We didn't pray and try and go through the painful process of pregnancy and labour to not want you. You have no idea how much you're wanted. You are so wanted. So loved. So, so loved.
After 2 minutes I crawled out of the bed, still weeping, went into the living room to find a still hurt and crying Tyler whose face was drenched in tears. I went straight to reach out to him, carried him and loved him in any way I could. Both of us crying and in an emotional wreck, I carried him back to bed and latched him to comfort him. I was overwhelmed with such guilt that at that moment I really felt like I did not deserve to be a mom. No mom says such things to their baby. No mom does that.
I kept telling Boon I was afraid he would carry the hurt and rejection with him, I was seriously worried and afraid. The last thing I wanted was for him to feel unwanted by his mother. After latching for a bit, Tyler flashed a huge smile to us and was ready to play again.
He forgave me, and I really hoped that he would forget about what happened too.
The next hour was spent with Tyler crawling about our bed, still energetic and happy, latching whenever he liked, pinching whenever he wanted (I was so guilty I just endured the pain and let him do what he needed to fall asleep), and me replaying what just happened in my head.
It wasn't until 5.30am that he finally went back to sleep, and we were due to wake up in 3 hours to get ready for church. What a night.
The guilt never left. But I guess it could work in a good way to serve as a reminder that no matter what happens, no matter how he drives me up the wall, no matter how I lose my strength, patience and sanity, I should never lose my love.
I really pray that I will not lose it like that again.
To all moms who struggle with losing it with your children, know that you're not alone. Behind the kodak moments and picture-perfect family photos on Instagram, lies the crazies of life and parenthood. Every family has their share of crazies, and two nights ago, we did.
You may wonder if I'd regret sharing this so openly on my blog, or if I'd be afraid of being judged by others for being a bad mom.
I used tell Boon I'm not afraid of being judged as a wife, daughter, sister, friend, blogger, emcee or even as a person in general. I honestly couldn't care less about what others thought about me. I was only scared of being judged as a mom, because I really wanted to be a good one to Tyler.
But now? I can tell you I'm not afraid of being judged by others as a mom. Because there is really no one who judges me more than I judge myself. I'm the worst critic of myself, especially when it comes to motherhood. I'm an imperfect mother, but I'm trying everyday.
You may feel like an imperfect, horrible mom for some of the things you did, but know that you're not alone. As long as you're trying everyday to be the best mom you can, you're already a good mom.
Today, as I'm telling you, I'm also reminding myself,
that as long as I'm trying everyday, I am a good mom.