Like most moms, I struggle to balance mothering, verb (to raise one’s children) and motherhood, noun (definition in flux as we debate the inherent inclusion of  cloth diapers and whether it’s essential to make ourselves crazier than our mothers did).

Once upon a time (last July), I thought I had the mom gig figured out. To prove it I wrote a tongue-in-cheek guest post for Scary Mommy’s hilarious blog about how much more relaxed I was with baby #3 compared to the nervous-wreck crazy lady I was the first time around. I was an expert. I’d hit my parenting stride.

Well, the nagging feeling I fought so hard to quell is back, and I can’t figure out why.  My kids are safe, warm, and nourished (the basics). And they’re loved and happy (the dream). Nevertheless, I feel pressure to do more . . . but more of what, I’m not sure.

I suspect there’s a correlation between the fact that I’m more involved with my writing than I was a year ago (hello blogzilla!) and the anxiety I’m once again feeling about my skills as a mom.

So let’s be honest, when I say I should be doing more, I suppose what I mean is, I should be doing less. Less work on the fiction, less blogging, less Twitter. Less of the occasional lunch or dinner with friends. Less exercise. Less of anything that takes me away from my little guys.

But there’s this:  If I focused 100% of my energy on the kids

  • I’d lose my mind.
  • I’d resent my husband when he wanted go for a 30-minute run or do anything outside of work.
  • He’d resent me for resenting him.
  • I’d lose my mind.
  • I’d yell at the kids. All the time.
  • And, say it with me now: I’d lose my mind.

Still . . . the nervous-wreck lady is back. When I see my youngest child turning small objects into imaginary phones, I panic about spending too much time on my Blackberry squeezing in “me time” in her presence. Similarly, I’ll gleefully TiVo the newest Sponge Bob movie for an hour of sweet silence from my 4-year-old and 6-year-old, but later feel disgusted with myself for not wanting to do a workbook with them or a puzzle or anything that won’t turn their brains to mush.

Essentially, I’ve paralyzed myself with the second guessing, and I want it to STOP. I’m sure I’m not the only parent out there with these images of other moms doing more, doing better.  And I wonder why I have so much trouble giving myself a break from the guilt. Especially since I honestly don’t believe in some magic elixir of parenthood or a foolproof equation. (Organic food + child’s participation in every activity available + mom’s presence all the time= perfect children). If only it were so predictable!

I think any derivative of the equation above pushed directly or indirectly by society or pushed mom-to-mom is ridiculous. We can only attempt to control so much for our children before we end up making ourselves miserable in the process.  So if I believe that’s true (and I do), then WHY WHY WHY do I STILL worry about failing as a parent every time I open my laptop?

I welcome both commiseration and advice!


(photo credit skenmy via Flickr)

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Nina Badzin is a freelance writer, a lead writing instructor at ModernWell in Minneapolis as well as ModernWell's book club director. She reviews 50 books a year on her blog, writes reviews for other sites, and has a friendship advice column at The HerStories Project. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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