I don’t identify with moms who cry their eyes out every time they let their kids go at the school gates. Does that make me a terrible mother? Absolutely not!
For the majority of families across America, our kiddos have been home. A lot. As in-person learning picks up again, parents may be feeling a mix of emotions having their children out of the house each day. But I’m here to tell you and show you how to ditch the guilt of NOT missing your kids when they are away.
When it comes down to it, feeling guilty is unnecessary and detrimental. Did this mama really just put that in print? Aren’t we parents supposed to cry our eyes out when we drop little Johnny off at school for the first day? Aren’t we supposed to count every moment until we can see our little backpack-clad humans waltzing toward us after the school bell rings at the end of the day? Shouldn’t we be getting in the car pickup line like 30 minutes early so we can make sure we are the first parents to collect their kids from campus? NO!
Now let me be clear, if you fit the description for one (or all) of the parenting types mentioned above, then that’s awesome. I in no way think any less of you. But for all the mamas (and papas) who reluctantly shake their heads in agreement when other parents talk about how hard it is on the first day of school, and yet absolutely do not feel the same way, this article is for you!
You know what I’m talking about. The group of moms who are still watching the playground well after all of the kids have gone into their classroom, all sharing their sob stories, their mascara completely cried off when their child is finally out of eyesight. And then there’s you (and me, in this case). I’m not sure I ever cried when I sent my three little ones to school on their first day. And I used to feel bad about that. I would hear that same group and I would be that one who was nodding in agreement when inside, I didn’t agree at all.
I began to wonder, was I not a caring mom? Did I love my children less than little Johnny’s mom who already volunteered to organize teacher appreciation day? No, absolutely not. I adore my children, love them fiercely, and would gladly take a spear to the heart for each of them (well maybe not gladly, but I would do it). But, I have learned a few things about being a mom in the last nearly eight years and one of the best pieces of advice I could ever offer is: leave the guilt in the garage.
If you can admit that you are a mama like me, then we are the ones who do imaginary fist pumps once the hectic school loop is complete, take a deep breath, and relish in the quiet of the car. Is that because our children are monsters and we just can’t control them? Nope. I have to brag a bit here and say that my little humans are some of the sweetest, kindest, and best-behaved children I know. No really, people who barely know them say the same thing. So it’s not that I have these out-of-control beast humans that I can’t wait to pawn off on someone else. Then what is it?
How to Ditch the Guilt For Your Kids
One of the reasons I don’t cry in the school parking lot, or when I have left the kids to go on vacation with my husband, or when they have a sleepover at Grammy and Grampy’s is because I know that being exposed to other people, experiences, places, and spaces is essential for their positive growth and development. I know in the deepest part of my being that it truly takes a community to raise a child. I think I am a pretty rockin’ mom but I also know that I have my shortcomings. I also know that some of my greatest weaknesses as a parent is another person’s greatest strength. You better believe I want my kids learning from all of the bests.
Parents, we live in a time that is so isolated. Children used to be raised by a slew of elders: moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and neighbors. Moms and dads were not expected to be the all-in-all for their children because we don’t have it all. We need the wisdom of others who have lived life a little differently, who see the world with a different set of lenses than we do. And we need teachers who have way more patience than we do, to teach our little ones what they need to know for optimal development. It is not only good for our kids to learn and interact with other adults, it is essential. One day, we will no longer be able to shelter our children as we once did, so let’s equip them now with worldly wisdom and adaptive skills.
How to Ditch the Guilt For You
The other—just as important—aspect of needing to get rid of the guilt is that feeling guilty about not being the supermom (or parent) is that it keeps you from living out the best version of you! Let’s unwrap this a bit more: if you want to be the best role model, best parent and best version of yourself for your kids, how can you do that if you are always knee-deep in guilt? Anyone relate? This was one of the biggest aha! realizations that I came to and it is what helped me alleviate a Santa-bag size of guilt out of my life.
One morning, I looked in the mirror and hardly recognized myself. Honestly, I physically looked like somebody different. I said, out loud, “Where did you go? What happened to you?” I watched as tears rolled down my own unfamiliar face because I realized at that moment that I had become everything for my kids, at the expense of sacrificing everything about myself. I had stopped exercising, stopped doing the things I loved, and had given up all of the things that made me me before I took on the role of mama.
It took a while to really understand how detrimental that was for me and also for my kids. When I am no longer living in this earthly body, I want my kids to remember me as a strong, hardworking, entrepreneurial mama, who never stopped chasing after her dreams. I want them to remember that mommy took some me-time because she knew that nurturing herself meant being able to come home and be a more nurturing, more patient, and more engaged parent. I want my girls to know that they can be amazing mamas and own their own business if they want to. They can have as many children as they want and still pursue their own dreams and desires. I believe I am raising children to understand that the world is not always about them but that they are an integral part of this world.
I show affection to my babies every day. I hug, kiss, and snuggle them any chance I can get. I tell them how much I love and cherish them and how thankful I am that God gave them to me. But I also know that my job as a mom is to teach them independence, confidence, and resilience, because before I know it, they will be spreading their own wings and flying on their own.
So let your kiddos soar, my friends. Don’t feel guilty that you are excited for them to start new adventures in and outside the classroom. Take the time when they are learning to learn about yourself a little more. Spend time nurturing your own dreams and goals. Love yourself now and then. I guarantee that the more you do, the better parent you will become, because you will have refueled the tank of parenting that so often gets depleted.