The Pit of Mom Guilt

Last week I promised my girls that I would attend the Thanksgiving Feast at their school. As a working mom, this was a big promise. A Mom Promise. It meant that I had to adjust my schedule at school and take the afternoon off, but lunch with my daughters at school is a rare treat and worth the extra effort. I'm their Mom, and Moms make promises.

And Moms mess up. I got the date wrong. I saw "Friday" on the paper that was sent home, so I programmed Friday into my mind. But the Feast was actually on Thursday (Friday was the RSVP deadline), and Thursday wasn't possible for me. I was going to miss the Feast after I had already made a promise.

After some tears and disappointment, I explained to the girls that I would still be there on Friday--bearing Chic-Fil-A as a peace offering. Ever the optimist, I explained that if I'd been able to go to the Feast, then we would have eaten the cafeteria food (which I'm sure is delicious, and I'm sorry I missed it.) But since I was coming on Friday, they would get me AND chicken nuggets. It seemed to be a win-win for everyone.

Friday rolled around, and I did my best to get away from school by the time that I had calculated to drive from Mesquite to Forney, pick up lunch, and get to the girls' school. Unfortunately, I pulled an Aim and thought I had more time, which I didn't. I was six minutes late to Peyton's lunch.

I flew into the cafeteria fueled on Mom Panic. I knew what six minutes seemed like to my six-year-old. I expected her to be worried but how I found her broke my Mama heart; Peyton sat alone at the table reserved for parents, her head buried in her arms and tears streaming down her face. I didn't expect this Peyton puddle. That's when I cast myself into the Pit of Mom Guilt, a horrible place that I know all too well.

I dropped the food bags on the table and swooped her into my arms and cooed in her ear, "I'm here. I'm here. I'm so sorry."

She looked at me with her sweet blotchy face and said, "I didn't think you were coming. I was so worried about you." And then the tears spilled out again. And the snot.

As I embraced her, trying to physically pull us both together, I felt the sting of tears and lump of hurt begin to swell in my own heart. I willed myself not to cry. Not here. Not now. I calmed Peyton down and spread her chicken nugget feast on a napkin before her. By the end of our short time together (I had missed six precious minutes of a very short lunch), she had scarfed down her food and forgiven me. At least she said she had forgiven me. But I had not forgiven myself.

I am guilty of being "one of those Moms" who tries to shield her daughters from disappointment. I constantly throw myself in the path of bad news, negativity, and unfortunate events to buffer the blow of reality for my girls. But when I'm the one who causes the disappointment, when I'm the one who lets them down in some way, I beat myself up about it, casting myself into the Mom Guilt Pit. I feel like the Worst. Mom. Ever. And it happens more times than I care to admit.

As I drove away from the school after a calm, tear-free lunch with Landry, I was ready to do my penance-- to let the guilt and shame consume me. But instead I heard a voice, "Stop this Mama madness."

Maybe we all need to stop casting ourselves into the Pit every time we fall short of the Perfect Mom Mark. Because the truth is that we will all disappoint our children. It happens and it will continue to no matter how hard we try to prevent it. Instead of beating ourselves up, maybe we need to focus more on teaching our children how to handle disappointment--especially when they are disappointed by people they love the most. Teaching our kids how to cope with all the messy BIG FEELINGS that life throws their way seems a practical approach instead of trying to shelter our kids from the blows of life. Most importantly, I think we need to teach our children how to forgive the people that they love when they do inadvertently dish out the disappointment.

We are Moms. And as much as we hate to admit it--as much as we try to deny it--we are human. And we will let our kids down. Time and time again. It's inevitable.

I will always do my best for the sake of my daughters, even when it's not good enough. I might miss a Thanksgiving Feast. I might show up six minutes late to lunch. I might be distracted and grumpy and impatient. But I will always love them. That's a Mom Promise.


  1. I can so relate to this! I try not to let my son down, but I do time and again and I too fall into "the pit of mom guilt". Thanks for sharing!


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