Slapping a Krispy Kreme jelly donut and stick of beef jerky on my child’s plate is pretty much the same breakfast as the freshly baked zucchini-kale muffin, juicy cantaloupe, and nonfat Tofurkey bacon that these overachieving moms are serving their kids.
Or that’s what I told myself when I was gripped by “mom shame.”
Now that my kids are in their mid-teens and making their own breakfasts, I don’t spend quite as much time wallowing in that pit o’ shame. But I remember what it was like in there. If you’re a mom, there’s always something you can feel bad about.
A Cacophony of Guilt
When my kids went to a groovy public charter school during their elementary years, I felt bad around “regular” public school moms because my kids had stumbled into this great, almost elite, free opportunity. And I felt bad around private school moms because, while the posters in their kids’ classrooms said “Obey authority,” the posters at my kids’ school said “Question authority.”
I felt bad around privileged moms who shopped for overpriced groceries at Whole Foods because my kids didn’t light up with joy when they saw celery on the counter as a snack. (They didn’t see that, but if they had, I promise you they would not have enjoyed it.) I felt bad around lower-income moms because my kids actually did have access to all the fruits and vegetables I could force them to eat.
As a married work-at-home mom, I felt bad around single moms whose work schedules prohibited them from dragging their kids to endless sports practices and games. And I felt bad around moms who drove all over the state transporting their little athletes to tournaments because I wasn’t willing to pay the big bucks and drive the long miles for my kids to have those fancy opportunities.
And though school, food, and sports accounted for a good deal of my mom humiliation, there was an endless array of other opportunities to wallow in shame: fashion, faith, domesticity, fitness, you name it.
So basically, I always felt bad.
My Light-Bulb Moment
The light bulb turned on when I was busy feeling shame because another mom in my small group had a spotless home. The illusion of both her perfection and my inadequacy was shattered when Clean Mom admitted that she envied the colorful parade of creations bursting forth from my home: cards, videos, books, beads, magnets. She felt shame, she admitted, when she looked at my messy, creative life.