“Up, up, up!” my 1-year-old said to me the other day with both hands reaching to the sky. I was having a really bad day, and I was tired and achy from long coughing attacks and chronic pain. “Mommy can’t right now, buddy,” I said. The letdown on his face stung worse than my body did at that moment, as my heart jumped from my tattered shell and shattered across the kitchen floor along with my dignity.
I felt guilty because he deserves to be picked up and cuddled as much as he needs, but some days my physical limitations hold me back. Pain wins and, unfortunately, my mommy duties become secondary. Then, my mind wanders to images of the moms out there effortlessly scooping up their children with full breaths. Enter a strong rush of irrefutable mom guilt.
Mom guilt seems to be the plague of every millennial mother these days — and I think I know why. It’s everywhere: a constant source of conversation on social media platforms, in mom groups, and even in my stream of consciousness. The idea that moms should have it all together in every facet of our lives is not right, nor is it possible. However, you can’t escape it because comparison among moms is easier now more than ever because of our effortless connection through social media. Therefore, we beat ourselves up over the stupidest things because “Mama Molly” in Randomville, USA, seems like the perfect mother, and we are not. (Spoiler alert, she’s not either.)
Being a mom with CF, an extra thorny layer of mom guilt is added to the cruel collection. Truthfully, it can be a bit heavy some days. We are NOT perfect moms, and we DO have physical and mental limitations because of our chronic illnesses. I know, it hurts even to admit that.
I often wonder if my toddler son notices that I am different than the other mommies. Does he know other moms don’t do breathing treatments or spend weeks on home IV antibiotics? Does he realize his peers don’t mimic their parent’s coughs because they rarely hear that noise in their own homes? Is he aware that the only doctor’s appointments they attend are their own? I’m sure he doesn’t know there are days when his mom’s personal best doesn’t come close to his worth. I often question, if not now, when? When will he realize the differences?
More seasoned CF moms have shared stories of their preteen children asking, “Why can’t you be like the other moms?” That scares me as much as it hurts me. I’m sure teenage angst is partly to blame, but it is a valid question. CF will play a role in our children’s lives despite our efforts to control it. I hope that in my old age my children will look at me and say, “I know you did your best. It wasn’t easy, and I love you for that.” Until then, I am left feeling uncertain about how I match up to this abstract image of a healthy and complete mother.
The mood is easily mended when I bend down with a silent groan and hold him close, breathing in his undeniable love for me. Right now, he doesn’t care about my shortcomings. I bet your children aren’t bothered, either. Children love their moms. In their eyes, you are complete, even the tired and achy parts of the CF moms, and that knowledge assuages my feelings of guilt for the time being. If you try your best and fill your children with love, you’re a good mom. CF or not, your best is good enough. There should be no room for mom guilt to fill those imagined and insignificant gaps.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.