The internet is filled with blog posts just dripping with mommy guilt. These posts are about how a mom lost her temper, yelled or lost her patience or cried or otherwise acted imperfectly, then tearfully apologized to her kids. These posts are about moms trying to forgive themselves.
This is not one of those posts.
So much poop
The other day, we were running late to meet some friends for a hike. I took off Kiwi’s wet diaper, but as soon as her bum was free, she peed.
As I went to get her a dry outfit, she crawled onto the carpet—and pooped.
As I did my best to wipe it up, Peeper was literally hanging on my neck and ignoring my directions to get her shoes on. She asked me “Why?” and “Why not?” at least 50 times. Why are you wiping that? Why don’t we want to step in poop? Why can’t I touch poop? Why did Kiwi poop?
When I returned from throwing away all the wipes, I saw Kiwi had crawled farther, continuing to poop along the way. Now I had a trail of stains from the bedroom to the carpet.
I went to get more paper towels.
My phone was buzzing but I didn’t know where it was. Finn came to investigate this mysterious and tantalizing mess that suddenly appeared on the carpet. Peeper was still barefoot. I saw that somehow poop was smeared across the wall.
Then Peeper leaned up against the shoe rack and kicked her sister—three times—in the head.
Not my finest mothering moment
I lost it. I yelled. I used Peeper’s full name, including her two middle names, and told her to go to her room.
I saw her shock at my raised voice. I saw her lip tremble. I saw her melt.
And still I told her to go to her room.
I ended up picking her up, my forearms hooked beneath her armpits so I didn’t touch her with my poopy fingers, and deposited her in her bedroom.
She cried as I tried to clean up all the poop.
It was Shit-palooza.
No mommy guilt
After a few minutes—and after I washed my hands many times—I opened Peeper’s bedroom door. “I feel calmer,” she sniffed through her tears.
We talked through why she was in time-out as I held her and rocked her. I gave her a hug. I apologized for raising my voice and scaring her.
But I feel no mommy guilt.
Because I am not a superhero. I am a regular person.
Scratch that. I am somewhat less than a regular person—or at least that’s what I figure, since I have barely had a single stretch of 4-hour sleep in the last two years.
Anyone under the same circumstances would have lost her patience.
In fact, I should get a gold star and a freaking bottle of wine for lasting so long before yelling.
I am not immune to mommy guilt. I feel guilty over plenty of other things—letting my mom comfort the girls when they fall and I’m working, momentarily forgetting Kiwi’s birthday, neglecting to make the girls an Easter basket. But yelling that one day is not going on my mommy guilt list.
Mothers put so much pressure on ourselves. It’s unrealistic to maintain a serene patience in the face of the insane shit—figurative and literal—motherhood throws at us.
And I’ll call out these expectations for what they really are: They are dangerous. They set us up to fail at the most important thing in our lives. And that deep disappointment in ourselves is crushing. It’s enough weight to push us under when we are already so perilously close to drowning.
My mommy guilt won’t evaporate overnight. I’ll probably continue to feel guilty about missteps big and little tomorrow and next week and for many years to come.
But this one day—yelling at my two-year-old when my world was covered in poop—I will not feel guilty over.
You, too, will probably continue to shoulder mommy guilt. But ask yourself, Is there a mistake you can accept? Can you choose not to bear the mommy guilt for just one thing? Can you let go?