I am steadying myself on a yoga mat but my mind is far from yoga. It’s on the mom guilt rising up inside of me. I can feel it tickling every inch of me and although I came to this class to give myself a break, all I can think about is my kids. Why can’t I escape it? And why is just ONE hour of self-care so elusive?
This isn’t anything new: We mamas are hardwired for guilt
I had hoped that a yoga class could ease the nag. You see, I’m real good at guilt. I grew up Catholic, so I’ve got that down pat, and with a people-pleaser personality to boot, guilt comes naturally. Slather on top our society’s pressure for maternal perfection and you’ve got a real foundation for self-doubt. So here I am silently wondering if my two year-old has stopped screaming since being peeled off my leg as I plopped him into the gym’s childcare with his sisters. Turning into downward dog, I cringe at how stained my 5 month-old’s sleeper is. Will anyone notice? Curling up into cobra, I scold myself for neglecting to put an extra package of crackers into the diaper bag. Our preschooler watches too much tv, I lament. It’s been ages since I dusted their bedroom. I don’t feed them enough vegetables. They should be skipping at a park instead of a gym playroom while I flop into forward fold.
The famous psychologist Albert Ellis once coined the phrase “musterbation” to describe the phenomenon where people live by a set of absolute and unrealistic expectations that they place on themselves, others, and the world. It can easily become a pattern of behavior that although unpleasant, is very difficult to quell once we get our “should’ve” thoughts going. My musting over the kids’ tardy bedtime was suddenly silenced by a memory of my daughter falling asleep the night before. “When I grow up,” she had said, rubbing her tired eyes, “I want to be a mommy!” (I know, so cute, right?)
It was then that my mind’s runaway train screeched to a halt. Would I want her to be this kind of mommy? A mom plagued by the guilt of not being good enough and allowing self-induced shame to cloud her worth? Of course not. I want my daughter to be a confident mother; a mother who sees not only the good in herself, but feels the beauty in bringing up babies.
It’s not a pretty profession in some regards, but it’s worth its weight in gold. I want her to enjoy being a mother, and when her cup is empty, I want her to know that she deserves to replenish it. With a hug, a hot bath every now and again, or a quiet yoga class.
My love cup
In our home, when one of the kids is feeling sad or hurt, I ask them where their ‘love cup’ is at. My son or daughter will then draw an imaginary line on their body with their hand to show me, how full, or empty it is. Naturally, we use hugs to fill it up to the brim. Not until it is spilling over, sending giggles and smiles out of their little bodies, do we stop hugging them tight or kissing their cheeks. Last night I didn’t sleep because my infant daughter struggles to sleep for more than two hours at a time. My son ate my breakfast. I can’t remember the last time I shaved my legs. I don’t think I’ve worn real pants in the last month. My love cup is empty. Despite the onset of mom guilt, a yoga class is something I need. Why? Because I need to fill my cup and show myself the same love that I gift my children every day.
Goodbye guilt, hello me
So with 10 minutes left in the class, I focused. I sailed into star pose and let my body be free. I dismissed any nagging thoughts and committed to the present moment. Laying down in the final breaths of class, I feel my breast milk begin to leak, forming Regina George style spots on my athletic tank, but hey, who’s got time for mom guilt when your love cup is full, right?