THE BLOG

I Missed the Memo on Mom Guilt

06/05/2015 03:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2016
Julia Bensfield

Mom guilt (also known as #momguilt) is a thing. It's the feeling a mother, or any parent, gets when something happens to her child and she blames herself, whether or not the blame is warranted. Considering the amount of stumbling one does during the entirety of parenthood, Mom Guilt can be a full-time job if you let it be. And, like many things that I find both exhausting and annoying, I've opted out completely.

I first caught a wave of Mom Guilt in the days following my daughter Valerie's birth. She was laying in her crib, swaddled, and as I was adjusting her mobile, the entire contraption came tumbling down onto her three-day-old face. She wailed immediately and I felt true guilt: I was responsible for installing the mobile, and my lack of properly doing so resulted in the physical discomfort of my daughter. Additionally, I saw firsthand just how defenseless she was: No ability to speak! No arms! Terrible vision! Not a clue in the world! Suddenly, she was a living person who felt pain and shock, not just an alien spawn sent from beyond to terrorize my breasts. I learned my lesson and took more precaution with the mobile. Then, I never looked back. Even today, I don't feel guilty about this event. In fact, I am currently fighting back laughter at the thought of the mobile falling on her face. GOTCHA, VAL!

#MomGuilt also strikes when moms do things that are selfish. The meaning of selfish stretches wildly, especially when we talk about women. Its definition can be as banal as moms just doing something for themselves, like attending a yoga class (some women), or going to the Entourage movie by herself on a Monday morning (me). Or, mothers can do things that are, in fact, technically selfish, like skipping pediatrician appointments to go to the club or moving the sick baby's humidifier into her own room because she's getting sick too and then keeps the humidifier permanently in her room because she thinks it makes her skin look awesome.

I have chosen not to feel guilty ever for the following reasons:

1. I take good care of my child from a place of love. My baby was brought into a world that was prepared, happy and safe. This base keeps me from blaming myself over my human mistakes or occasional indulgences, because the bottom line is that things are OK. (Obviously I can't control everything and sometimes things go bad, but can we please not think about that right now?)

2. Being selfish makes me a better mom. I want my daughter to see me at my happiest and healthiest (at home and at work) so that she understands that she has a right to feel that way in life, too. No child says, "I want to be like my mom, because she demand-fed me until I was 12!" While taking care of myself covers the frivolous stuff, it also includes the practical, like no more jaywalking, no texting and driving and consistent exercise every day. Gotta stay alive, too.

3. I'm a normal person who makes good decisions and is just living life.
Please note that Mom Guilt is different from Mother's Guilt, which I fully intend to slather on thick when Valerie goes to college. And if College Valerie is reading this now -- honey, I'm fine. It's just. Well. Nevermind. I'm fine. I guess.