Mommy Guilt

I've been coming across a great deal of stories, blogs, and blog posts about something called mommy guilt. For those of you not familiar with the term, it refers to the emotional repercussions that come about after any instance in which a woman feels that she has fallen short, under-delivered, or outright failed in her attempts to be a good mom.  

Of course I can relate. Who can't? Show me a mom and I'll show you someone who can think of a dozen experiences wherein she disappointed her children and herself.  


My personal best "Worst Mommy Moment"? Easy. That would be the pre-kindergarten Christmas Pageant, December, 2000. All of the children were assigned costume-requiring parts in what promised to be a spectacular musical revue. My little angel was cast as a sheep, along with two of her friends. 

Now, it is important to note that, at the time, I was not only a working mom. I was a newly divorced, struggling-to-make-it, single working mom. The only thing that I ran shorter on than money was time. So it logically follows that I opted to make a costume for my daughter, and that I waited until the night before the event to construct it. 

In a rare moment of semi-organized planning ahead, I did purchase materials for the costume about five days in advance. They were:
- one size four sweatshirt, black
- one size four pair of leggings, black
- one bottle of silver glitter glue
- one bottle of Elmer's School Glue
- four bags of cotton balls 

I intended to sew the cotton balls on with a needle and thread that I had at home. Alas, at eleven-thirty on the night before the pageant it became apparent that there would not be sufficient time to sew all those cotton balls. Thank goodness I had purchased the glue.  

I spent the next two hours gluing cotton balls to the black sweatshirt and, at about two a.m., sank (exhausted) into bed. 

When I awoke the next morning I was chagrined that some of the cotton balls actually fell off when I lifted the sweatshirt from the kitchen table. But that was ok. I had the glitter glue.  

I proceeded to fill the holes with clever swirls of glitter glue.  Fast-forward to the big event. My dad had offered to take my daughter to school at the appointed time and get her all costumed up, as I was unable to leave work early enough to get her there. (My parents have always been such great helps to me. Thanks Mom and Dad.) 

When I showed up, the kids had already taken the "stage" in the gym. As I headed for the bleachers my path was suddenly blocked by (have you guessed?) Dad. He placed both hands on my shoulders and stood directly in front of me, effectively obstructing my view of the kids. 

"I want you to know that it's fine," He said. Confused, I peered around him, searching for the sheep.  

And there they were. Two white fluffy sheep-children in amazing rented costumes, and a third, in a shabby black sweatsuit with three determined cotton balls clinging in random places. All three sheep were singing their hearts out. 

But one little sheep had mange. And it was my fault. My eyes filled with tears for us both. 

That night I was very low. Talk about mommy guilt. I was so ashamed. 

Now, when I look back through the more objective lens of time passed, I realize that there was nothing of which to be ashamed. I did the best I could with what I had. And that's really all we parents can expect from ourselves. 

It was years before I told anyone that story, and I cried again in the telling. But I can laugh about it now, and so can my daughter, who remembers the program and that we all came to see her, but honestly doesn't remember the terrible costume. And therein lies the biggest lesson of all. 


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