The Self-Blame Shame Game: Game Over
Daycare was closing in 13 minutes. I had five miles left to go.
It was 5:47pm. I was sitting on 85 northbound, going 35 mph. There was a brush fire burning along Monterey Highway, forcing that traffic onto 101, and the bottle neck at 85 hadn’t yet opened up.
I pounded on the steering wheel. I prayed. Loudly. I called Gabe to see if he could get there faster than I (he couldn’t).
Sometimes I would get waylaid as I rushed out the door of my office at 5pm, trying to inconspicuously duck out the side entrance, so my coworkers wouldn’t see me leaving so early. I never felt like I was doing enough to merit my colleagues’ respect, not when they were there at the office hours after I had already arrived at home.
It was 6:02pm when I pulled into a handicap parking space closest to the entrance. The lone staff member who stayed late to sign out my child silently pushed a document in front of me, informing me that my two minute tardy would result in a fine. She handed me the diaper bag, and I plucked my toddler from the pile of toys in which he sat, apologizing profusely, trying to explain that there was a fire, and I had been driving for over an hour.
It didn’t matter to her. No matter how much I tried to explain, it would never be enough.
Feeling like a failure, and the shame of it, is the working mother’s uniform.
We are handed the attire the day we go back on the job. Whether we succeed at home, or succeed at work, it is rare, if not impossible, to succeed at both without help.
Considering that Mommy Island is, at times, it’s own Hall of Terrors, how sad that when we find other castaways we immediately put up our dukes?It’s a little bit Lord of the Flies, isn’t it? I’ve got a few scars from the drive-bys that have been hurled in my direction. Sometimes intentional. Sometimes not. My worst ever was the sweet, good-natured, kindly friend of the family who, upon meeting me in the parking lot of my son’s preschool/daycare, mentioned that she used to work in a daycare herself. “I always felt so sorry for those poor, motherless children.”I walked away from the conversation in a daze, to pick up my poor, motherless childWhy is it that, instead of banding together to support each other through truly, one of the hardest tasks of all humankind, mothers instead criticize, lash out, and accuse when others’ choices differ from their own?
For every one thing I succeed at doing, I still feel like I fail at five others. I managed to be there for my 4th graders first oral presentation, but my phone is so old that the video camera refused to work and I couldn’t tape it. I am taking the day off to chaperone a field trip for my kindergartner but somehow missed the memo that my 4th grader was speaking in chapel this morning. I found out after it was already over. I can’t be in two places at the same time, but yet I still feel as if I ought to be able to do so.
I’ll never make it to every milestone or event. I have to be resigned to that. (Ironically, my stay-at-home mom didn’t make it to all of mine either. Did she feel guilty about that? Probably not.)
Brene Brow, PhD and researching on shame defines it as this:
Shames is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.
Guilt is shame’s best friend, but guilt is something different. Guilt assumes we somehow have control over the wrong-doing. Guilt is the feeling that we’ve done something bad.
Shames is the belief we are bad.
My foray on Mommy Island happened nearly ten years ago, and I’ve had a long time to get used to being a working mom. I’ve seen my kids thrive in their environment. I know that I have great relationships with them both. They are not rebellious, they do not act out in response to my gross neglect. They’re good kids; and they cheer me on.
Most of the time, shame seems to be something we bring on ourselves. We gather it up and drape it over our shoulders, allowing it to define us, believing it to be the first thing others see when we’re coming and the last they see when we’re going.
A cloak, or garment we’ve woven out of our feelings of inadequacy and fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection.
My friend Juliet is the ONLY mom I’ve ever met who never met shame in motherhood. How? She decided her priorities and stuck to them. She learned to say “no” without guilt, without shame, and she is one of the most contented, serene people I’ve ever met. She sent me this in an email last week and has given me permission to share it with my readers:
After 29 years of marriage and 25 years of motherhood (26 if you count the being pregnant part) I was gifted time…time to unravel where I begin and end and where I stand with God today. People wanted to fill my being “alone,” I wanted to embrace it, and God came. I said “no” to people, and ministry, and service, because it isn’t often one is given the gift of undistracted time with God. God as friend, God as relationship, God as someone to hang out with, to be still with…and I had to fight like an offensive football player to keep the time and the focus, and God provided. I loved the gratefulness found in your post, a gratefulness that can be found even while experiencing meaninglessness and darkness. God separated light from dark…He helped Moses divide the Sea…He helped Joshua cross the Jordan…He will help us separate the noise from the quiet.
Isn’t it time for the Shame Game to end? The Mommy Wars are over, let’s all move on. No one person is right, no one person is wrong.
May you find the time today to unravel where you begin and end and where you stand with God, and may His voice help you separate the noise from the quiet.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,
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