My son turned 11 months when I stopped breastfeeding. For some moms, this would be a profound accomplishment. A astounding success. A true victory.
For me, it felt like a failure. My goal was to make it to a year. I was so close. But for several reasons beyond my control, my nursing time ended and my son switched to formula full time. Crap.
Time heals all wounds. With time, I’m sure I’ll get over the piece of me that misses the bonding experience of nursing, the feeling of the latch and suckle, and the deep calm that came over my son when he was feeding. But the guilt, mama. This guilt thing is a trip.
Every day I self-declare myself a failure at motherhood. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. A fail is a fail. Trip to the ER? Fail. The kids watched too much TV today? Fail. Dinner burned on the stove. Yep, fail.
Why do I do this to myself? Do you do this too? I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here. Every day I see posts going viral because women lose their shit and take a selfie to capture the moment. It’s a bona fide #momfail moment captured for the world to see. And all of us moms breathe a collective sigh a relief. We are not alone. There are other failures out there.
Growing up, my mom gave a rat’s ass if she was running 10 minutes late to pick us up from soccer practice. She had zero fucks to give about which of us was nursed and who she gave formula to. She had bigger fish to fry, and she knew what was important and what wasn’t worth her energy. Was she a bad mom? Hell, no. I would pay a pretty mommy to follow that woman’s shadow. The difference is she followed her heart, common sense, and the law, and let God take care of the rest. I think she raised me and my siblings pretty damn well, in fact.
So why don’t I follow in her footsteps? Why don’t I focus my energy on what matters. What really, truly matters?
I was talking to a friend the other day who was bemoaning her C-section. She really wanted a “natural birth.” She felt like a failure for not delivering vaginally. I thought she had lost her mind. Talk about wasted energy, right? But then I thought about my epidurals for both my kids. I cannot count how many times I’ve wondered if that was cop out. Was that the wrong choice? Did I fail before I even started motherhood?
Pot calling the kettle black. And that guilt, mama. That goddamn guilt.
My therapist tried to get to the bottom of my guilt over the end of breastfeeding. She asked me why I felt guilty. I told her that studies show babies should be nursed for 12 months. It’s best for the baby, I huffed. She smiled and said, “Your body is different than my body. Your baby is different than my baby. And everybody’s needs are different.”
A peace came over me. How is that any different in motherhood? In parenting? My parenting style looks different than your parenting style, and that’s ok. My achievements in motherhood may feel different than yours, and it’s fair to say our goals will look pretty damn different too. It’s cool.
I can’t whisk the mommy guilt away. That shit’s here for life, I fear. But I can make peace with myself a little. If every day I’m loving my kids, keeping them safe, going outside on occasion, maybe sneaking some veggies into a meal or two, and staying sane all at the same time? Hot damn, that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.