MMYFB: Messy Couch Edition

Mama Makes You Feel Better Tonight with a glimpse of her messy couch. It’s well established that I am a mess. But we have reached new heights in my home this week. In fact, my husband just said, “Nooo, don’t post it,” with a look of real concern when I told him I took a picture of the couch. He has some sense of shame. I, clearly, have none.

So, here it is in all its glory.

messy couch
The messiest couch in America.

That’s laundry that needs folding, stuffed animals, toys, and a book bag from school that I’m quite certain was supposed to be returned yesterday. It’s shocking even by my low standards. So, naturally, I did what any good mom would do–I gave my kids the iPad, ordered pizza for dinner, shoved that pile over, and starting watching a true-crime documentary on the OWN Network.

Happy Friday fellow moms!

Super(Bad)Mom: The World Traveling Mom

When I was thirteen years old, I went sledding at a local golf course with a friend. We were meeting a group from the all-girls school that I would be attending the following year. I was the outsider. Middle school girl politics being as they are, I was a bit nervous. As soon as I reached the top of the hill, a blonde girl I’d met just once before grabbed my arm and ingratiated me into the group by inviting me to ride on the back of her sled. I hopped on and went for a ride that’s still going on twenty-three years later. Whether it’s convincing me to ride a zip line, stay in a grass hut in Panama, or start a non-profit, I’m incredibly grateful to still have this blonde girl by my side, convincing me to take a plunge.

Now it’s my turn to make her take one, as I forced nominated her to be Mama Tries Blog’s very first Super(Bad)Mom!

My friend Lea is the ultimate supermom. She’s also incredibly humble, meaning she answered only three of the questions for the “super” portion of Super(Bad)Moms, and only with one to three word answers. The “bad” mom portion was much lengthier. It’s a good thing my first featured Super(Bad)Mom is a friend I can call out on her BS, because the joke’s on her — instead of writing the supermom portion in the question/answer format I planned, I am writing a narrative about how fabulous she is (which will make her cringe to no end).

A quick glimpse of Lea’s Facebook page reveals an enviable life and family. She is a gorgeous mother of three ridiculously adorable little boys, all under age 6. She and her husband not only manage to dress and feed the boys everyday, but also make sure they are all enjoying life to the fullest. On a Saturday, she’s likely to invite our family on a hike when we are still in our pajamas and trying to figure out how we can stay like that all day. Seriously, they go on hikes – a lot – with three energetic little boys, one of whom is a baby!

When she’s not taking advantage of local offerings, Lea is bringing her family on a boatload of vacations. I have low-grade anxiety for at least a month before taking my kids on a trip an hour away, but she takes her boys on incredible vacations at least four times a year. They have passports for God’s sake! I don’t even have the patience to bring my kids to get passport photos taken, let alone travel outside the country with them.

How does a full-time teacher and mother of three children continue traveling the world? In Lea’s case, it means taking on even more responsibility. Lea excels in everything she does. Determined to continue living her dream, she became a consultant for Rodan & Fields. In less than two years, her “side hustle” is not just giving her some extra spending money. She has built a thriving team, won awards, and has even created training videos for other consultants around the world – all while continuing to teach and raise an amazing family. On top of all that, she saw a need in her community and proactively filled the void, starting a local chapter of the Lady Project, a non-profit women’s social and philanthropic group.

Whether it’s work, her family, entertaining, or supporting her friends, Lea is the epitome of a supermom. Her drive and ambition are inspirational and have made me a better person. Without her encouragement and example, I never would have taken the steps to start this blog.

She had a baby three months before this was taken. It’s not right.

Because here’s the thing – Lea isn’t perfect. There are no perfect moms. Just perfect Facebook pages. Lea is just like every other mom begging her kids to eat breakfast and stop fighting each other. As I’ve written before, that’s where the inspiration lies. If we know women like Lea also struggle with day-to-day mom life, we can certainly work our mom asses off and accomplish some of the great things she does, too. When I saw her ability to juggle chaos, a full-time job AND a side gig, I was out of excuses. It was time for me to be proactive in making my writing dreams come true, too.

Now that I’ve made Lea seem like the ultimate Supermom, I’ll let her tell you about her Bad Mom moments.

What is the most embarrassing thing one of your kids has ever done or said? My five-year-old, Eamon, recently announced to a table of guests that his mom LOVES spicy foods, but sometimes it gives her diarrhea.  Really I had just gotten over a stomach bug, but thanks for that Eamon.

Tell us about one of your kid’s worst meltdowns. Not really a meltdown, but when Eamon was two his eye swelled shut from a bug bite. We brought him to the ER and they gave him steroids.  The doctor warned us that the steroids may make him a little hyperactive, but we poo-pooed it and went straight to a restaurant for dinner. Big mistake! Eamon became delirious at the packed restaurant and was laughing extremely loudly and then proceeded to throw his food. He nailed another table across the restaurant with his corn on the cob. We took our food and bottle of wine to go!

Restaurant dinners with kids are always more exciting when one of them spills his milk.

What is something your kids do that drive you crazy? All 3 repeatedly asking for refills of drinks at the dinner table.  We keep a gallon of milk on the table now.

What is something your kids have done this week that has annoyed you to no end? I caught one sitting on my bed pillow with no underwear on. *editor’s note: I really wish there was a photo of this one.*

What is something you have allowed your kid to do this week that you know you probably shouldn’t have. Bought Pokemon cards as a reward for expected behavior.

What is an unhealthy food you feed your kids? We frequent the Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru for munchkins more than I’d like to admit. I also let my kids eat jars of salsa con queso — so I can eat it, too.

Are there any dangerous activities you let your kids participate in? The boys love to jump off the couch onto a pile of pillows, topped with a dog bed.

These boys like to keep playtime safe.

What is a typical morning like at your house? I pretty much have a panic attack every weekday morning trying to get all of us out of the house by 7 AM. Maybe once every two weeks it goes smoothly, but most days you would actually see me and Jerry sprinting around the house getting all the things together that we should have the night before. Add an uncooperative kid (or two or three) and I pretty much lose my mind. It takes me the entire car ride to work to calm back down. Sometimes I worry that I am creating anxious children and that they will have childhood memories of their mom yelling “Eat! Take another bite! Eat faster! We are going to be late!” As of now they do not seem concerned at all though! They could not care less if they’re late, and I think they just wonder why Mommy goes mad every morning.

“Why Mommy goes mad every morning.” We are not alone, ladies. We are not alone.

New Blog Series: Super(Bad)Moms

Moms so rarely get the recognition that they deserve. Moms get shit done on a daily basis, yet rarely receive any accolades. At the same time, we try to hide our faults for fear of judgment or that our facade of perfection will be shattered. This leaves moms feeling isolated, defeated, and inadequate. Not anymore!

Mama Tries Blog is thrilled to announce a new blog series: Super(Bad)Moms. Super(Bad)Moms will feature incredible, inspirational women who are perfect on paper, but beautifully flawed. These amazing women are not superhuman. They are real.

For me, that’s where the inspiration lies. Because if we can share lows, we can certainly work our mom asses off and accomplish some highs along with inspirational women whose lives we often see as unattainable.

Remember – there are no Supermoms. There are just moms who hide their “bad” side better than others… until now!

Our first Super(Bad)Mom will be featured this week!
In the meantime, if you are a Super(Bad)Mom and/or know someone who is, and would like to be featured contact me at: contactmamatriesblog@gmail.com.

What to Know Before You Compare Yourself to A Photo on Social Media

alb lady project launch

This is a picture of my friend Lea and me, taken two nights ago. As of right now, it has received over 140 likes and around 30 comments. I can’t recall if the photos announcing my children’s births got that much action. As the accolades were pouring in yesterday, a vain part of me was a little thrilled, but that bigger, empathetic mom voice in me was stronger. “You are contributing to an unfair Facebook highlight reel. This is not your real life.”

Except, it is. But it’s only a part of it. A tiny part of it.

This was taken at the end of an incredible night that we’ve worked hard for and a post to celebrate our success was warranted. We have been working for months with a team of incredible women to launch a local chapter of Lady Project, a nonprofit women’s group celebrating awesome women doing amazing things. This was the night of our sold out launch event. We’d just hosted a room full of inspirational, driven, passionate women excited to support one another and our community. We had reason to celebrate with a selfie. But, before anyone feels deflated upon seeing a glamorous snapshot in their news feed, they must know that none of this came easy.

A picture might speak a thousand words, but this one speaks a thousand lies. Let me tell you the real story.

  1. I did not wake up like this. While my husband took my children to run errands, I spent an ungodly amount of time on my hair. We’re talking hair dryer, straightener, and two different types of product – neither of which was dry shampoo. It was excessive.
  2. I am wearing about 13 pounds of makeup in this picture. I used foundation primer for God’s sake! This was covered in actual foundation and two different types of concealer. There were then roughly 17 other makeup items piled on top. I think Kylie Jenner would have told me to tone it down if she, you know, hung out with moms in their late 30s.
  3. Lea and I both hate shopping, yet spent two full hours at the mall days before this picture was taken in order to find perfect ensembles. I ended up wearing a blouse I bought in desperation, and she ended up wearing an old one of mine because she’d left her brand new, steamed blouse at home in her rush to leave a house full of kids. She realized she wasn’t wearing a bra when we got to the event.
  4. Shortly before this picture was taken, I was standing barefoot on a city street because I could not tolerate wearing my stiletto heels for one more second. I literally ripped them off my feet on a freezing, dirty sidewalk so that I could rummage through my bag to find a pair of flats I had packed for such an occasion. Sophisticated.
  5. Two Words: Photo Tricks. I don’t really look like this! Are you kidding me? First we found a spot out of harsh light. We then worked on the angle. Several shots were deleted until we settled on this one. And then, the piece de resistance – Instagram filters. After that process, I could make a picture of my elbow look hot.

And then there’s the event itself. We bombarded our Facebook pages with event teasers and advertisements. We used words like “excited” and “thrilled” but we left out the ones like “terrified” and “freaking out.” We didn’t put up any posts bragging about letting our kids watch two straight hours of YouTube so that we could figure out how to sell tickets on Eventbrite. There were no pictures of the pile of laundry that was accumulating at the top of my basement stairs posted to Instagram. I most certainly did not tweet about the amount I sweat the day leading up to the event or the stress dreams I had about speaking in front of a crowd. Nope. To the world of social media, we seemed like two confident working moms doing it all. Ha!

So, before you go comparing yourself to pictures and posts you see floating around your social media page, it’s best to know the truth. Sure, I might have a special evening once in a while, but most of the time, I’m rocking dirty hair and jeans I’ve worn two dozen times without washing. And you better believe that those special evenings mean that I’ve dropped the ball somewhere else.

If you don’t believe me, allow me to share a video my daughter took of me literally licking wing sauce and blue cheese off of a plate – taken less than 24 hours after the aforementioned photo. Also note that I didn’t post this one to Facebook, even though it’s more “me” than a night spent in stiletto heels.

Video

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make that first photo my profile picture in case any ex-boyfriends happen to search my name…

WMDW: Fast Food Edition

Listen, no one’s nominating me for Mother of the Year. I let my kids watch way too much YouTube. I bribe them with treats in order for them to listen to simple directions. And we all know I feed them too much mac and cheese and myself too much wine. I have sung our bedtime song at warp speed for the last week and I didn’t even know my older kid had a day off from school yesterday until the night before. The one area I could feign superiority was fast food.

I can count the times my kids have eaten fast food on one hand. Three of those times, all they ate were a few fries. Each trip to a fast food joint was done out of pure necessity while finding ourselves in no man’s land on a road trip. I have never stopped at a local fast food joint on a whim and I have certainly never, ever brought fast food into my home.

Until tonight.

I have a lot of work to do. And the girls had dance class just down the street from a local hotbed of fast food restaurants. And I bribed my kids with their first Happy Meal. “If you get dressed immediately after class without argument, we can get a special treat.”

And now this is sitting on my dining room table.

wine and mcdonalds

I literally have nothing left to make me feel a false sense of superiority over any other mother. Well, I did read a story about a mother putting root beer in her baby’s bottle… I’ll hold that image close tonight. Cheers!

MMYFB: Another Mac and Cheese Post

Tonight, I changed into my running clothes in order to stand in front of the stove and eat my kids’ leftover mac and cheese.

I had good intentions. I really did. I was totally going to run. I put on my running clothes, fit my newly short hair into a little pony, and laced up my sneakers. Then I just checked Facebook “really quickly” and gossiped on the phone with my mom “for a bit.” The next thing I knew, my kids were whining about me feeding them because it was apparently past dinner time.

I still told myself that I’d run. Then, because apparently tonight we are living in an alternate universe, no one wanted any leftovers. Far be it from me to let leftover mac and cheese go uneaten. Seriously, has any mother in the history of boxed mac and cheese thrown out leftovers? No! Good mothers eat that shit directly from the pot while their children aren’t looking!

And since I am a damn good mother, I literally just found myself standing in front of my stove, eating mac and cheese from the pot, in running clothes I never ran in. Let’s be honest, this means I’m not wearing running clothes at all. I’m wearing stretchy, comfy clothes that I don’t have to pretend “shrunk in the dryer.” I’m also quite certain that the eating of the cheesy carbs has negated any last whispers of athletic motivation I had left.

leftover mac and cheese
What mother in her right mind would toss this?

Are you feeling bad that at 6:30 on a Friday night you’re already starting to drift off on the couch? Feeling guilty for ordering pizza yet again? Feeling lame that your wild Friday night consists of drinking wine and catching up on the latest episode of This Is Us (I’ll be right there with you in about an hour)? Well, Mama Makes You Feel Better tonight. Just think of a sad, delusional mother wearing running gear in order to shove cheesy carbs down her throat. I guarantee, whatever you’re doing is more glamorous.

 

Perfect on Paper

supermom

I have a friend who once dated a guy who was perfect on paper. Attractive, athletic, grew up in Europe, was Ivy League educated, and was working for an impressive firm in New York. He also turned out to have serious problems with communication and an internet browser history that was more than questionable.

The moral is, lots of people look fantastic on paper, but resumes, social media pages, or a friendly chat at the playground don’t tell a complete story. Still, we constantly make unfair comparisons. This was true when we compared boyfriends in our 20s and it’s even truer now as we compare ourselves to other moms in the carpool lane.

When we look at highlight reels of our peers, we can feel inadequate. As a woman and mother of daughters, I want to build other women up. I want to celebrate their accomplishments and provide other moms the accolades they deserve. But I’d be lying (as if I’ve never done that before) if I said that a little green monster didn’t infiltrate my thoughts now and again.

It’s totally natural to feel jealous. At least, it is for me. When I look at a mom who has it all together, I want desperately to feel happy for her, to acknowledge how hard she’s worked to get where she is. Many times I do. Sometimes, though, it’s just easier to feel deflated. Instead of looking at these successful women as an inspiration, I look at them as superhuman, someone I shouldn’t even strive to emulate.

And then, just the other day, I thought, “F*@k that!” I’m pretty damn good on paper, too. I work full time, write a blog, have had my writing featured in international publications, and am about to launch a local chapter of the Lady Project, an amazing non-profit women’s group, in my city. At the same time, I am raising two precocious, spunky daughters, volunteer at school once in awhile, run (okay, jog) pretty regularly, and try to get to a hot yoga class a few times a month. I have a circle of friends who are more like sisters to me and, with the help of incredible grandparents, my husband and I get more date nights than most. Also, my husband’s a stud and we genuinely love spending time together.

Maybe there are people out there who think I’m superhuman! I mean, on paper, that all sounds pretty impressive. If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you know there’s more to this story. So much more.

Yes, I am successfully maintaining life with several balls in the air, but I’m also the epitome of a mom fail. I am a complete slob, I have anxiety about nearly every decision I make, I snap at my kids more often than I’d like to admit, and I might love wine and bourbon a teensy bit more than I should. If anyone takes a look at the “on paper” Teresa, they might feel inadequate.  If they were to see me right now, laying on my disgusting couch (seriously, one cushion has a smell), with my greasy hair up in a messy bun (not the cute kind), while I allow my children to go into their second hour of YouTube video watching? No one’s jealous. Maybe they’re starting to feel a little better about themselves (and a little sorry for me).

I am happy to announce the official mission of Mama Tries Blog:

To make all mothers feel empowered, supported, and inspired through life’s accomplishments and utter failures.

I want to celebrate women, both in their successes and in admitting their defeats. We are all part Supermom, but we are also all part Bad Mom. By admitting both, we can be inspirations and support systems to one another. Isn’t that what every mom needs? Well, that, a bottle of wine, and some sleep…    

Please stay tuned for a new blog series that brings the mission to life!

Liar Liar: Lies I Tell Myself

I’m a liar. I’ve admitted it before and I’ll admit it again: I am an equal opportunity liar. I lie to my kids. I lie to other adults. And today, I’ll publicly admit that I lie to myself. Hey, I may be a liar, but at least I’m fair. Here are my 5 most frequent offenses.

liar

I’m not drinking any wine tonight.

At 7 a.m. I am ready to face the day. I’ve got a cup of earl grey in my hands, the day is set before me, and neither of my daughters has sobbed because their sister is looking at them. I think to myself, “You know, maybe it’s good to take a night off once in a while. I think I’ll skip the wine tonight.” Come 5 o’clock and I’m trying to prepare dinner with one of my kids screaming in time out and the other crying on the couch because her sister just hit her for knocking over a block tower, and the only solution is sauvignon blanc. Then I tell myself that my dry day will be tomorrow.

mommywine

Organic mac & cheese is healthy.

Dehydrated cheese in any form probably shouldn’t be considered a healthy option, but the word organic is like a glorious invitation to lie to myself. You slap the words “organic” or “natural” on a box or wrapper and I’m willing to set everything I know about health and nutrition aside, if only to mitigate my guilt. If a company’s marketing department plays their cards right, I serve up mac & cheese or cheddar snack mix to my kids with the confidence of Jamie Oliver serving his kids kale chips and hand-battered baked fish fillets.   

mac n cheese

I can give my kids a haircut.

You know what happens when you mention homeschooling to a teacher? They start asking about parents’ teaching certifications or master’s degrees in the field of education. Well, guess who else has specialized training in order to learn their craft? In my time as an amateur children’s hair butcher stylist, I’ve transformed luxurious locks into an uneven bob and may or may not have given one of my children a mullet after a particularly unfortunate attempt to trim some bangs. Every single haircut I have given my children has ended in tears – there’s and mine. Yet, every six months, when their hair is getting a little long and ratty at the ends, I think to myself, “Well, I could probably manage a little trim…” And the cycle continues.’

mullet kid
You’d cry too if your mother made you look like a medieval page boy.

Someday my house will be clean again.

I have a friend who has been impeccably neat since birth. When we were in high school, her bedroom was immaculate while you couldn’t even see the floor in mine. She had a system to organizing her CD’s, while I once spent the better part of a week sleeping next to a pile of clean laundry on my bed. Now that she has three children, she has let her house go a little bit. Meaning – the horror – you might find a stray dish in the sink when you enter her kitchen. Someday, when her boys are older, her house will be clean again. Mine won’t. This does not, however, stop me from constantly  blaming my messy house on my kids, and crying that old mom lament, “Someday my house will be clean again.” Not if it never was in the first place, it won’t.

messy room
The kids are, truthfully, only about 60% to blame for this.

I’m not going to get upset if I read the comment section.

Yes I am. I most certainly am. Comment sections on the internet are where the world’s sociopaths like to come and play under the shroud of anonymity. They judge, they spew venom, they hurt, they enrage, and then they go on about their daily business while their innocent victims cower behind their computer screens and wonder what kind of world they are raising their children in. Every article I read on the Internet turns into a game of Russian Roulette. I hover my cursor over the comment section, thinking “maybe this time I’ll find some like-minded people and some mature discussion.” I won’t. It’s a bullet every time.

internet comments

You may be thinking that five lies isn’t so bad at all. That’s the life of a realist, not some delusional freak who lives in a fantasy world of her own creation. You’re right. Five lies isn’t bad. But I’d clearly be lying if I claimed that these are the only ones I tell myself. If I were you, I’d be pretty confident that a “Lies I Tell Myself: Part 2” was in the works…

Secrets of a Successful Mom: How to Manage Family Life Smoothly

By Guest Mama: Zara Lewis

If you’ve ever met a successful mom who hasn’t struggled,  she’s either not actually a mom or she’s in absolute denial that she, in fact, isn’t holding it together. And that’s okay – we’ve all got our coping mechanisms.

Taught that failure is the ultimate embarrassment and asking for help a sign of weakness, we tend to stumble and fall. Sometimes we fall so hard that our whole bodies and mind hurt when we try to get up. But once we do – the rise is as sweet as a Magnolia cupcake. But it’s hard, it’s so darn hard.

For all of you amazing moms out there, we get it – I get it. It sometimes feels like you are continuously failing, despite doing all in your power to make things happen. But, you are not failing. There’s no such thing as smooth operating – not when it comes to a family.

You are not alone; we mothers are in this whole jam together. To help you and your journey, we are giving you a few useful tips that will definitely have an impact on your family life.

Remember to Love Yourself

While you may think that you are doing just fine, you are probably not. If you spend more time convincing yourself that “I’ll be okay” than you spend actually being okay – it’s time you change something.

Remembering to love yourself is crucial. If you don’t, you won’t be fit for a functional life and your family will be affected.

Go back to what you used to love doing – writing, painting, DIY, drawing, singing, yoga, etc. – whatever has been relaxing. Go back to reviving your business, and do it from home. Renovate your home office, move from a standstill. You’ll be happy that you have.

What I did was buy one of those electric cargo bikes to blow off some steam and channel stress while working out. I’ve also reached out to my freelance employer and asked for my job back. I’m now 10 pounds fitter and much happier. On my way from work I can do all the shopping, while exercising and contributing to our family budget (again). It’s been only three months.

Establish Boundaries

Yes, you are a wife and mother and, somehow, it goes by default and without saying that you will be the one taking care of everything. Nobody’s denying your strength and capacity, but that’s not the point. The point isn’t to break – the point is to be fulfilled and happy about things that you do.

Don’t let anyone intervene with your “me” time. Ban the kids from your office, have a set workout time, or make a regular coffee date with friends. Let your husband take over while you go “away,” and do the same for him. If you set the rules early on, you’ll actually manage to have some time for yourself.

Know Your Family’s Rhythms

The key to properly designing your day is going with your family’s rhythms. Consider your children’s needs, your peak work hours, your husband’s meetings for the week, etc.

For instance, as I usually take a nap after lunch, I schedule all the work that doesn’t require too much focus for the afternoon and do everything that requires the most mental energy before lunch. If your kids are little, try to get them to sync with you to make your life easier. If, however, they’re already grown, consider all their habits and yours and make a schedule for the upcoming week.

Get Help

These are not the ‘60s and there’s no rule that says spouses, children or hired hands can’t help a mom out.

If you can’t go to your parents or in-laws for help, hire a student, or arrange a babysitting swap with neighbors. Use this time to get focused on your work, your leisure time, or fitness. Ask your spouse and the kids to help with housework or hire someone to come in and clean. You don’t have to do it all yourself.

Embrace Routine but Stay Creative

Staying on a routine is very important for both kids and parents. A healthy morning routine is crucial in starting everyone’s day right while other daily routines contribute to an efficient day. Nap time, leisure, self-improvement, work, hobbies, bedtime, dinner, after school, homework – they all benefit from routine.

However, don’t get too attached to routines, otherwise your life will start looking dull and suffocating. Be flexible. Routines change, naps go away, meetings get cancelled, kids become more proficient at chores. Shuffle things around so they benefit your personal, inner routine of, finally, loving yourself.

Dear fellow moms everywhere, your power is grand – don’t ever doubt it for a second. Your kids already believe in you, so it’s time you start believing in yourself. We’re in it together!

Zara Lewis (Twitter: @ZaraELewis) is a mom, fitness & yoga enthusiast and a regular writer for High Style Life. She is devoted to implementing healthy life habits in every aspect of life of her family and friends. She loves to share her parenting tips and is always open to learning some new skills, because for her parenthood is like going to school forever. She enjoys traveling, hiking, cycling and baking.

Mom Guilt: There’s Only One Solution

guilt
There’s only one solution.

I have spent my entire day feeling guilty. All encompassing guilt that has seized control of my every thought, making me second guess every decision I’ve made within the last 24 hours.

What, you may be wondering, did I do? Cheat on my husband? Nope. This Mama digs her guy way too much to do that. Plus, what parent on earth has time for adultery? Book a solo spa vacation for myself? That seems fun in theory, but I hate being alone. I’d be bored after the first hot stone massage. Rob a liquor store? Please, as if they wouldn’t recognize me. So what was I agonizing over all day?

Staying home with my sick child.

My 6-year-old daughter had a fever last night. I knew we were in major trouble when she didn’t want dessert and actually requested we bring her to bed. After the kids were asleep, I hopped on the computer to request a substitute for work the next day and got to work on my sub plans. That’s when the guilt started in. My students have an assignment due the day after tomorrow. What if they have questions? Will some of them have anxiety because I am not there to answer them? Will their parents complain that I wasn’t there the day before it was due? Nevermind that it’s 2016 and my students can always email me questions and that they’ve had a week to work on this with me present. Still, I felt guilty.

I woke up and checked my email to discover that they were unable to find a sub for me. I now pictured the stress my absence was causing other people at work. Who was frantically trying to get people to cover classes for me? Who was giving up their much needed prep time so that they could fill in for me? Whose day had been disrupted because I didn’t go to work?       

Then there was my daughter’s after school club. The one I had no business volunteering for, yet I was supposed to teach that afternoon. I couldn’t meet with the other volunteers last week in order to plan because I had a meeting when they were getting together. Plus, because of my work schedule, I will have to arrive to every session 15 minutes later than the others. And now I wouldn’t be able to attend the very first session. I emailed the volunteer coordinator and one of my fellow volunteers to explain the situation. My daughter was sick, I’d have to stay home with her. I got a nice reply letting me know that they would find coverage and sent well wishes to my daughter. It should have been done, but guilt had other plans.

I spent the entire day agonizing about missing a single one-hour session of Arts and Crafts Club. How will they cover for me? How many people will be put out by my absence? What will my fellow volunteers think of me? I fantasized that my daughter would be well enough by the time it started at 3:30 and that I’d be able to fulfill my commitment. A mid-afternoon fever took care of that dream. I seriously considered making arrangements for someone to come watch my sick child so that I could go to the school and help out. Leave my sick child so that I could volunteer at an after school club. Thankfully, common sense prevailed on that one…eventually.

Guilt is an evil mistress. Because no matter what decision I made today, she would have been there, whispering in my ear. No matter what I did, I’d be letting someone down. No matter what I did, I would be causing someone extra work or hardship. If I’d gone to work, I wouldn’t be there to care for my sick child. I’d be asking my in-laws to expose themselves to pungent kid germs. I’d have felt guilty. But I didn’t do those things. Today, I made the right choice.

Today, I felt guilty for doing exactly what I needed to do as a mother.

Guilt comes easily to a gal like me. A people pleaser who has a crippling fear of saying no to people, a person who will subject herself to anxiety and massive inconvenience just to make other people happy,  I care what other people think. I care about other people’s feelings.This is never going to change. I never want it to. Sure, I could do without guilt and anxiety, but all of that comes in partnership with an intense sense of empathy. I don’t ever want to take on a “screw it” attitude. I don’t want to think that my problems are more important than anyone else’s. I never want to lose my connection with the world around me. So what’s the solution when even doing the right thing still results in crippling guilt?

Stop imagining that the world is full of assholes. Profound, I know. Today I realized that my guilt is rather insulting to the very people I am concerned for. Am I not assuming the worst in people by feeling this guilt? My guilt is telling me that my co-workers, family, friends, and neighbors are incapable of empathy and understanding. Haven’t I given up prep time to cover a co-worker’s class? If I had received an email from a volunteer, wouldn’t I instantly reply that I hoped their child felt better and not have given it another thought? Wasn’t it pretty goddamn arrogant to think that no one else would give me the same courtesy?

It takes a village, and today I realized that guilt makes you the village idiot. Have faith in your fellow villagers. Do your part when others are in need, and they will step in for you. The next time guilt tries to whisper in your ear, you tell her that your village is too good for her. And if any of the villagers prove guilt right, kick that asshole out of town.