Letting go of mommy guilt

One of my goals for 2013 is to simply enjoy my life more. One part of that is letting go of unhealthy thoughts. I have been struggling lately with some serious mommy guilt. It seems every thing I do elicits a guilt trip.

Let me be totally clear here. I am the only one making myself feel guilty, no one else. There are environmental factors contributing, but no one is standing over me making me feel bad. The two big things I’ve been feeling guilty about are A’s feeding situation and working/daycare. When I was pregnant, I had grand illusions about exclusively breast feeding for at least six months, then starting solids, but still nursing till A was a year old.

What I didn’t count on was how difficult breast feeding would be. And how tiring it is. And I really didn’t realize how hard and time consuming pumping is. On a good day at work I get to pump three times. If I’m lucky I can get two to three ounces a session. That leaves me with, at most, nine ounces, but it’s usually closer to six. (Have I mentioned how I have to pump in my car because there’s no where in the office to pump? Awkward.)

I’m back at work full time now. A takes five to six four ounce bottles a day while I’m gone. You don’t have to be a math wiz to figure out that’s not enough to make it a whole day. I pumped three times a day, everyday for the last few weeks of my maternity leave, but since most of those sessions only yielded between an ounce to three ounces, if I used all of them now to supplement what I’m not getting, I’d be out in a week.

As a result, we have been supplementing with formula. And I feel terribly guilty about it. Formula gets a bad rap from just about everyone. And I find a lot of EBF moms to be extremely vocal about how they’ve made BFing work, and how they would NEVER use formula. Constantly hearing how others succeeded at what you failed at will make you feel guilty every time.

I’ve tried adding an extra pumping session after I get home but if I’m being honest, by the time I get done at work the last thing I feel like doing is pumping. I just want to spend time with John and A. I don’t really think it’s a supply issue; she gets plenty when she’s nursing (she’s always satisfied after nursing and has good diaper outputs when we’re at home together not bottle feeding). I don’t have the expendable income to by a new pump to see if it a different one will get more, either. My mom says she never was able to get a ton when she pumped either, so maybe it’s hereditary. I don’t know.

A also sometimes gets bottles when we’re out and about. This is mostly because I don’t particularly feel like nursing in public. I have nothing against moms who do, I just don’t really think it’s for me. I’ll nurse her in my car in between stops if we cross into feeding time, but sometimes I just pack a bottle if we’re in a time crunch. I always feel like I’m being silently judged.

I know it’s stupid to feel guilty about this. I’m still breast feeding, and what’s really important is A gets what she needs regardless of where it comes from. But I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed her in a way.

Then there’s the working mom thing. I don’t think there is a greater guilt than that of a working mother. On one hand I need to support my child and provide healthcare for her. On the other I can’t help but feel I’m abandoning her a little everyday. (On a slightly related note: SAHMs, can we call a truce and recognize our lives are equally difficult?) I know I’m being ridiculous. My mom worked when I was growing up, and I surely don’t resent her for it. A has no idea I’m not there right now, and hopefully by the time she’s having dance recitals or soccer games I’ll be either staying home or in a job with more flexibility. Right now she’s happy when she sees me, and she’s also happy when she’s with her caretakers, but I still miss her terribly.

Feeling guilty over these things is stupid and unproductive. In the end I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances, and really that’s all I can do. I may not be the world’s best mom (and really, who is?), but I am the best mom for A. I can tell by the way she looks at me, like I am the center of her universe. I can tell by the way she rests her head on my shoulder. I can tell by the way she wants only me when she is fussy. I can tell because I am her mom, and she’s healthy and happy. That’s all that really matters, anyway.

2 thoughts on “Letting go of mommy guilt

  1. You remind me of me with Bub. Everything you have said about breastfeeding and pumping is exactly what I said. That first baby was so hard. Milk came in late, didn’t produce enough with the pump, had to supplement, felt uncomfortable BF in public, the whole thing. And of course there was guilt. There is always guilt. But he is fine and he is healthy and he certainly never suffered because of a bottle of formula.

    And I have accepted that I will never be a SAHM and that I will always have to work. But I think you said once that is is not about the quantity but the quality of time spent together. Truer words were never spoken (or written).

  2. Your SIL/you are right. QUALITY over quantity, ALWAYS. My mom went back to work full time as a lawyer the second her maternity leave was up. If anything, I’m a better person for it. I’m more social, open and outgoing because I learned to interact with so many different people so early on. Not that A was EVER at a risk for not being an outgoing people person with you as her mother, but hey being more of a social butterfly is never a bad thing! Mom was also really good about making sure that the time I did spend with her was super special and memorable (not sure if she worried about this before I could remember things, but then that doesn’t really matter does it?) and I know you are already planning all the awesome mommy-daughter dates you’re going to have with A so there’s no risk of every minute she spends with you not being quality!

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