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My Litmus Test for Mom Guilt

Mom guilt has taken up oodles of mental and emotional space in the six-plus years that I've been a parent. With the Internet and social media, we're subjected to a constant ticker tape of opinions on parenthood.

Whether we're talking about screen time or dealing with picky eaters, the pros and cons of being stay-at-home parents or working parents, or sleep training, the potential for mom guilt seems to hang out on every corner.

But recently, I've started asking myself two questions to judge whether or not the battle I'm fighting with myself is worth it. Here is my guilt litmus test:

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1. Would I judge my spouse for this?

I leapt into parenthood as a stay-at-home mom with a few work-at-home side gigs. Over the years, I've tweaked with the balance, and I'm preparing to tip the scales once more by adding a fourth day of day-care for my preschool-aged daughter. Despite the fact that we're only talking about adding one day a week, I've been second-guessing my decision.

Do I judge my husband for working full-time? Do I think he's sacrificing his relationship with our kids? Hell, no! I'm grateful to him for being a good provider. The example he offers to our children about hard work is invaluable. And he's a great, active dad. So why would I judge myself differently for deciding to pursue my career?

I realize it's not the end of the world that I can barely cook and my housekeeping skills are remedial.

2. Will this matter to my kids when they're grown ups?

Did you catch the Mother's Day parade of awesome "I learned (fill in the blank) from my mother" stories? I did. While enjoying the glimpse into what other adults appreciate about their moms, it occurred to me that I have no way of knowing now what lessons my kids will value as adults.

A common theme I noticed in those tales about lessons learned from mothers was that many of them had to do simply with who our mothers were. Maybe our moms were creative, and we learned from them how to make holidays magical. Or they were resourceful and taught us about making do with what we have. Maybe your mom, like mine, has a great sense of humor, naturally instilling in you the ability to laugh your way through the most challenging of times. These traits have little to do with the parenting choices I beat myself up over. They instead have to do with the positive qualities our mothers possessed, something more inherent than chosen.

So maybe the recent battles around attempting to get my 6-year-old to try new foods shouldn't be my mountain to die on. Chances are, when he's 30, he won't care that he mostly wanted to eat toast and fruit for dinner every night—and I let him.

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3. Are you mostly a good mom?

Do your kids know you love them and that you're on their side? Do you do your best to keep them safe, fed (even if it's toast and fruit) and healthy?

When I look through the lens of "Am I mostly a good mom?" I realize it's not the end of the world that I can barely cook and my housekeeping skills are remedial. No one can be good at everything, and I don't want my kids to think they have to try to be.

image courtesy of morgueFile user grietgriet

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