Saturday, September 3, 2011

::stopping the cycle of mom guilt::

This summer, I welcomed a friend and her young family to their first posting: Shilo! They arrived in sunny Manitoba from B.C. in June and quickly adapted to Army life: dealing with the unknown, sporadic work schedule; getting to know the neighbours; keeping the kids occupied while trying to settle into their house. I have to say, they have adapted like champs and have been so positive in their integration – it makes me love Manitoba even more to see their enthusiasm about their new home.

Of course, arriving in the summer is wonderful because of the beautiful weather, but for a four-year-old and a two-year-old who don’t know anyone, it can get quite lonely. I have heard siblings close in age often play well together (fingers crossed for when my little guy learns to actually “play” with his big sis), and these two little girls are best friends. But I also know siblings (especially sisters) can get sick of each other quickly. So my poor girlfriend finds herself refereeing the girls all day while hubby is working, because they have yet to really meet other kids of the same age.

I had them over recently to play with Heidi and over the course of a couple of hours, the youngest went from happy and energetic to sullen and clingy, and the oldest got a little bossy and forgot her manners once or twice, interrupting the grown-up conversation to tell her mom something.

Of course, this exasperated my friend and resulted in a few tears between all the little girls at certain points, but it was nothing we couldn’t move past with some soft-spoken explanation and encouragement from the moms.

Later that evening, I got an email from my girlfriend, in which she apologized for her kids’ behaviour. I knew she felt tired and overwhelmed, and would probably have liked some alone time, just like any other mom. But I realized that feeling the need to apologize for a two- and four-year-old’s behaviour is quite silly, and didn’t help her confidence. I certainly don’t expect perfection from little kids. They are, after all, just kids, and our job as mothers is to teach them, and correct them when they forget how to apply what they’ve learned.

I suggested to her in my reply that she and I should simply stop apologizing for our kids and their little outbursts, attitudes, and silly comments; we are both doing the best we can and learning as we go. So we agreed to just go forward with the knowledge that kids will be kids and we will be there to help them learn, no apologies.

This got me thinking about being out in public with little kids and dreading the inevitable grocery-store tantrum. While most of society has been a parent to a toddler at some point, why does it seem most people have parental amnesia in the public, sending annoyed glares in a frustrated parent’s direction when their child makes a fuss? Can’t we have some sympathy on the parents, instead of reminding them with a stern, annoyed look and heaving sigh that our shopping trip has been ruined by the shrieks of a strong-willed child?

So my suggestion is this: band together with the parents of your children’s friends and decide to be on the same team. Don’t expect perfection from your friends or their kids; don’t feel the need to apologize for tired, cranky, or otherwise “normally”-behaved bambinos (unless, of course, it’s warranted!); and please, offer a frazzled mom or dad a smile of reassurance next time you see them at the mall. Let’s stop perpetuating the guilt we heap on ourselves and work together to grow strong, sensible children.

Written for The Carberry News Express, published every Monday in Carberry, Manitoba


  1. Amen! I would like to join the team. :-)

  2. Agreed! I'm in! I had both girls in ran off and the other was screeching to get out of the cart to follow big sister. I grabbed her and ran after the other - only about 20 feet as she came back toward us. An older lady who had witnessed the harried moment says to me as I'm strapping both kids (who are now crying and screeching) in the cart: "you know, you shouldn't leave your purse unattended." Thanks for the tip, lady.

  3. I hear ya, I can't handle taking my two yeR old shopping anymore it's too stressful:)! And yes two of my best friends are because of how we parent judgment just love and letting two yeR olds be two year olds!!