One of my favourite pictures of my oldest daughter is from when she was two. It was the day she wanted to wear her favourite fancy dress outside. It was also the day we found a fantastic mud puddle.
I couldn’t say no. Not when I wanted to jump in it too.
She was so happy. And so dirty. And neither of us cared.
She could have a bath. The dress could be washed. I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about it.
Did I feel “mom guilt” about other things though? Of course.
Where do I start my list? Perhaps from day one, when I thought I wasn’t feeding her enough? Or feared that she was crying too much? Or too little? When I worried if she was getting enough fresh air outside?
I also felt guilty that I couldn’t remember ONE lullaby or kids’ song. I sang my baby TV theme songs to calm her down.
If you’ve been on social media, in a schoolyard, or even with friends or relatives, you might pick up on some feelings of judgment or “you shoulds” on many parental fronts—but you won’t get it from me.
Here are seven things I officially give you permission not to feel guilty about:
1. Your child arrives for school picture day in jeans with dirty knees
A dirty or worn-out knee in your kids’ pants could be a result of them playing outside, jumping in puddles, or digging for worms. They were probably having so much fun!
Maybe you didn’t get around to treating that stain or patching those pants because you were juggling playtime with mealtime, or staying up late getting some of your own work done. Consider photos like this to be treasured reminders of wonderful play memories.
2. You can’t teach your child a game or sport because you don’t know how to play it either
I’ve been that parent. I had a neighbour who knew every kids’ game there was, while my playbook consisted only of hide-and-seek and tag. Red light, green light? Those were only driving terms in my vocabulary.
When my youngest daughter chose to play basketball, I didn’t know my post moves from my pick and roll. But I did know how to dribble and pass a ball, and while I am no LeBron James, I could hit the occasional shot.
We watched a few teaching videos together, practiced the basic moves in the schoolyard, and when she joined her school team, the coach took over.
You might not be the mom who teaches her kid how to master a jump hook, but you can be the mom who learns the basic skills and practices with your child.
3. Your child is the only one of their friends playing (or not playing) sports
If your child loves a sport, wants to play it more than they already do, and you have time in your schedule to accommodate a rep level? Fantastic! If your child wants to play games without committing to more hours in that sport? Wonderful! And if your child doesn’t choose to play organized sport and plays with friends at the park instead? Hurray!
Your choices with regards to any level of organized sport comes down to you, your child, the time you can commit, and your family’s finances.
No child “should” be playing at a certain level of organized sports. So if you see the neighbours popping their kids into the car three evenings a week for practices and games, they’re doing them and you’re doing you. You’ve got this!
4. You haven’t washed your hair in a couple of days
That’s what baseball caps and hats are for!
If you didn’t get a chance to fit in a shower because you were too busy cutting orange slices for your kid’s soccer tournament, or spent the evening playing hide and seek with your kids in the dark, you’re doing great.
Unless you’re planning a modelling shoot, it’s definitely okay to prioritize a bike ride over an elegant updo.
5. The laundry pile is reaching mountainous heights
Our main laundry hamper sits in our upstairs hallway. If a kid is having friends over to play or a guest wants to use the bathroom, I used to feel MASSIVE guilt. I could have moved the hamper into our bedroom but then I’d be staring at it from my bed.
But if the choice is between cleaning my house or watching my daughter’s dance recital, or taking my kids skating, I’m happy to let it sit another day. Or three.
6. You can’t attend every tournament or recital
As much as we would like to be everywhere for everyone, life happens. If you’re juggling work functions, multiple kids, your own parents needing your attention, or the need for an hour for yourself, it’s okay to miss an event or two.
The last thing your kids need is a mom who has run herself in 72 directions and doesn’t have the energy to set up the sprinkler or join a dance party after dinner.
“It takes a village to raise a child” is actually a valid proverb. Set up a carpool with your teammates’ parents or send your child with a grandparent who would love to see their grandchild in action.
7. You have your own active pursuits
When my three kids were young, friends convinced me to join them in training for a half-marathon. I had always been a runner but after having kids, I had kept to 5 or 10K runs, so my training runs were relatively short.
The thought of leaving my family for longer hours, especially as the race got closer, sent me into crushing waves of guilt. How could they survive without me? Would they feel like I had abandoned them? Who would snuggle with them?
Fortunately I had a very supportive husband who assured me that none of the kids would go missing or join a cult while I was out. And he was right!
Taking time out to do the activities you enjoy is so important. If you don’t have anyone to watch your kids, consider joining a local moms’ stroller walk or run group. You’ll get in some movement and connect with other moms. Or sneak in a 30-minute online yoga class while your child naps. You could even have your kids sign up to “train” you: they can count squats for you or cheer you on as you finish the last five minutes of an online weightlifting class.
Not only will you gain the very important movement that you need to stay healthy, you’ll also be a wonderful role model to your kids.
At the end of the day, keeping yourself and your kids moving is a priority. How you choose to do so, when you choose to do it, and if you choose to do it with messy hair and unfinished laundry, is all up to you.
Put aside the “shoulds” and be proud of yourself for doing what you can. Moms are awesome!