If your floor is crunchy and you yell sometimes - you're not alone.
Pssst. I'm going to share my secret with you.
A secret of dark shame.
The floor of my home is crunchy.
As a mother of three children ages 4, 2 and 3 months, I assure you: my floor is actually crunchy. Five years ago, had you suggested to me I would be shuffling through Cheerios and Goldfish and peeling my elbows off the grape-jelly and apple-juice epoxy on my dining room table, I would have scoffed. I was a much better mother, as they say, before I had children.
It's the secret that dare not say its name: Mommy Guilt. As a licensed professional counselor specializing in wives and mommies, I've heard hundreds of women confess this to me, eyes cast to the floor: I'm a terrible mother, and it's so easy for everyone else.
These women are working both in and out of the home, but we all share the same terrifying feeling that we will be found out. We yell! We (gasp!) microwave bottles! We feed our children Cocoa Puffs, and they've refused to eat a vegetable since we spooned them into them at age six months! We've used a combination of a towel, duct tape and a maxipad swaddled on our toddler because we forgot to buy diapers! The horror! The horror!
I'm here to tell you: I'm not alone, and neither are you. The mother you see every morning at school drop-off whose children are in matching, crisply ironed Ralph Lauren shirts, the mother who is in heels and makeup at 6:30 a.m., the mother who somehow shows up to every freakin' PTA meeting with a smile on her face and a homemade brownie platter in her hand – all these women share the Dark Secret.
We're wearing maternity underwear, and our youngest is 6.
All kidding aside, it has been amazing to hear my clients struggling with depression and despair over the gap between what they think other mothers pull off effortlessly and what happens in their own homes.
If she didn't have money to buy athletic supplies for her son, said one client through her tears, she would be depriving her child of enrichment, exercise and all the opportunities she thinks every other child has. Another is convinced she is the only mother who raises her voice to her children.
Yet another is certain she's a horrible parent because she dreads dealing with her mercurial toddler. And they have no idea that mother after mother who sits on my office couch claims that all other women are great parents, while they are not. They would not dare to share with these other mommies what they see as their shortcomings.
Stop the mommy guilt.
Not everyone will agree with your parenting. Revisit your values and priorities. Allow for imperfections.
If you're worried about your quality of parenting, I've discovered, chances are you're doing fine.
Most important, research shows that women who report the most happiness have a solid network of other females. When you're losing it, hearing another mom admit to the same feelings is so powerful. When my friend with two small children told me her cleanliness goal really only entailed raking a path clear enough the toys that EMT workers could make it to her if she ended up running amok and breaking a limb, I felt so much better. "Lousy" mothers – unite!
Choose your battles. Apologize when you make mistakes. And should you find that stress is overwhelming, get support through your network or friends...or access a professional counselor like me who can help you take care of you so you can take better care of them.
Throw off your shackles, Mom. Know that whether they admit it or not, every mom is imperfect just like you and me. Say it loud: My floor is crunchy, my elbows are sticky and I'm proud!
Eliska Counce lives in McKinney and is the mother of three. She is the clinical director of counseling services for The Samaritan Inn and the founder and director of Transforming Tomorrows Counseling Center in McKinney.