Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mommy Guilt – Who Knew?

I distinctly remember within hours of having Hannah in my arms that I owed Norma a long overdue apology. 
For years I had secretly (and sometimes not so secretly – sorry Norma!) thought that Mommy guilt was an option and one didn’t have to feel it.  Hannah was in my arms for mere hours when I knew how wrong I’d been all those years.  Mommy guilt comes with the title of Mommy.  Sometimes it’s justified, other times it happens even when you do the right thing. 
I still remember standing in our hotel room in Changsha having met Hannah only hours before, with her sleeping in my arms, feeling overwhelmed at all I had missed.  I had missed the first 8 months, 5 days of Hannah’s life and I felt guilty that I hadn’t been there and that I had no virtually no knowledge of this time in her life with the exception of the treasured words contained within her referral information and a letter from the SWI Director when I’d sent a care package to her. 
Could I change anything about this time?  No.  Was it out of my control?  Yes.  But still, the guilt was there full and strong.  Guilt that I had already missed so much of her young life.  I vowed then and there within my heart to make the most of every single moment we have together and treasure each aspect of the life we are blessed to share as mother and daughter!
This past Friday night, even though I still believe I did the right thing when the incident happened and I would do the exact same thing next time, I was once again overwhelmed with Mommy Guilt.
Scenario:   One night two weeks ago (actually the night before we started car snacks and the night I realized I had to find some sort of solution to our meltdown challenge) I had put Hannah in her high chair while I finished making supper.  I put her princess plate on her tray as I went to the stove to get her food.  She didn’t know how to express her frustration of being hungry and supper not ready at that exact moment so she tossed her plate onto the floor.  Unfortunately this time with the way it landed it broke and we had to throw it away.  At 2 years old, Hannah is well aware that she cannot throw food, dishes, cutlery or sippy cups from her tray.  If they accidentally fall (which happens on a daily basis) I don’t mind at all.  Normally when they accidentally fall she’ll say ‘uh oh Mommy’ and I reassure her that it’s all ok and that accidents happen, pick them up and give them back then we go about our meal.
When she purposely pushes or throws things from her tray it’s a different story and she knows it.    Our routine is that I silently remove everything from her tray (knowing that we’re normally just moments from the next item being tossed) and turn her high chair around so that she is facing the wall rather than me.   I don’t leave the room but don’t engage with her for about 1-2 minutes.  I normally walk a few feet away and either tidy the kitchen or do some dishes.   Hannah may try calling out but when she’s in timeout I don’t interact with her.   Once the couple of minutes have passed I go back to her, turn her around so that we’re facing one another, get down on her level and explain that she was in timeout because she threw something from her high chair.  I ask for an apology and she’s normally very good about saying she’s sowwy and giving me a kiss and/or hug.  Once the timeout is done it’s done and I don’t bring it up again.  It’s been dealt with and it’s over.
(When not in her high chair, if we need to deal with a persistent problem we do ‘time ins.’  We sit together on the floor, both facing the wall with Hannah sitting in front of me.  We do the same thing in that I look straight ahead and don’t make eye contact with her even though her adorable little face may twist around and try to catch my eye and the sweetest little ‘sowwy Mommy’ can be heard.   Once the 1-2 mins. have elapsed she stands up and turns around and we’re now face to face.  I explain why she was in timeout, ask her to say sorry and then with hugs and kisses it’s done.  Once again, once our timeout is complete so is the problem.  I don’t bring it up again.)
Fast forward to Friday night when I was getting ready to put supper on the table.  Once again I put Hannah in her high chair and asked, ‘Hannah do you want to use your Mickey plate or Princess plate?’  I was shocked when I heard a quiet ‘Princess broken Mommy.’  I was surprised that she even remembered!  I quickly and calmly agreed that yes her one princess plate was broken but that we had another little one that we could use.
This is the conversation that followed.   You can almost see the wheels turning in her sweet little head.
Even though I still believe I did the right thing last week in how I handled her throwing her plate, it breaks my heart that she remembers it so vividly.  Yet, when I think about it, not one single thing has been tossed from her high chair since the plate incident over a week ago.  I guess it was effective after all. 
Yes, Mommy guilt is inevitable and it’s yucky but it comes with being a Mommy which is the best job in the whole entire world….even on the hard days!!


  1. Oh can you not cave with that I sowwy in that little voice!!! she is sooooo cute!

  2. She is very articulate! And she gets the connection between behavior and consequence. Good work!

    What is the guilt piece? You taught a moral lesson.

  3. I agree with Anonymous. Very good lesson learned, my friend. She will thank you later for your consistency. I promise.

  4. Oh my gosh, that video is so funny! I love it. Hannah's sweet little voice is so precious. You must be an amazing mom to be so thoughtful, loving, consistent and grateful to be able to experience the good and the bad of being a mom. I know the guilt...oh boy!...You're right; it comes with the job.

    BTW, I bet string cheese would work as a car snack if you kept it in one of those insulated lunch boxes. That way, Hannah would get some protein into her little body before dinner. My babies have also loved kidney beans. Weird?

    I love reading your blog. Your enthusiasm is infectious!

  5. Hannah is a very understanding girl! good parenting!

  6. wonderful parenting example :-)
    hope its always that easy!
    she's is just precious.


  8. Oh yeah, struggling with the Mommy guilt here too. It's toughest being tough when Meigan is smiling or laughing at me (I have to turn away sometimes). I give her the occasional time out (usually for throwing food on the floor too!). Yesterday she gave herself a time out, sat against the wall, sang the "calm down" song from Kai Lan then went on her way. :)

  9. I just had time to see Hannah's video now and OMG, the way she keeps saying "time out" totally cracked me up. She's so adorable Catherine!

  10. Time out!! TOO CUTE! She has the sweetest little voice!

  11. I love how she says "time ouT"...she has the sweetest little voice to match her sweet little face so I am really not sure how you can make her sit in "time ouT"

  12. Guilt is the accessory I am never without. It is hard but I have to trust in the things I do. And so do you. You are amazing and so is Hannah. Her little voice is precious!

    Keep smilin!

  13. There is so much sweetness in this video, I would beg you not to feel the guilt. Guilt accompanies a violation of a moral standard, and you did exactly the opposite!! If anything, you showed mercy. You had the "power" to implement a response, and you chose a path that taught and showed compassion at the same time. To not respond at all should have brought "guilt" because as Hannah's mommy you need to give her guidance for such behavior, but the brief penalty fit the incident, and obvioiusly was effective!!!!! Why do we fall? So we can get back up again!!! I think Hannah "got back up" with a new appreciation for keeping her "Princess Plates" in one piece!!


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