A Letter to Me on Mama Guilt and Bungee Cords

Feb 3 2012

Dear Me,


You’re leaving on a business trip today.

It’s time to review what happens when you go away, Beth. As part of your effort this year to talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend (instead of, you know, calling yourself stupid a lot, which is stupid), you’re going to sit yourself down, crisscross on this couch, and hear me out.

Let’s just have a quick chat about Mama Guilt, shall we?

Beth? Knock it off.

It doesn’t help anyone when you feel guilty. It’s not proactive. It’s not productive. It hurts mostly you.  And there’s no fun, pretty Guilt Badge to sew on your Mama Sash for proving you can do Mama Guilt as righteously as the next mom. Besides, Mama Guilt is over-priced. It charges you emotional energy and chunks of time, and the show is SO not worth it.

Seriously. You’re going to be away for two nights, mama. And two nights does not a crappy mother make. Neither does three nights. Or four nights. Or five nights in Mazatlan with Greg which you really should consider.

Sure, you feel like there’s a gigantic elastic bungee cord tethered between your gut and your kids that gets stretched tighter and tighter the further you go. And you imagine it, pulled to its full capacity, suddenly flinging you home with just the power of your great longing. And you think it would be funny to wave at the cars on the highway on your way by, grinning at the stunned faces who see the self-propelled mama flying home, gut-first. Except that some mamas riding in those cars wouldn’t be stunned, of course; they would recognize this power that moves you, and they would nod at you in understanding and solidarity.

That power? That pull? It’s not guilt, mama. It’s longing. And the longing to be with your family is a gift. Accept it as beautiful and move on without the self-flagellation. Ripping yourself apart is SO last year.

Furthermore, I think you need to hear that it’s OK to be excited at the prospect of sleeping in a gigantic hotel bed with clean, soft sheets and freshly shaven legs. And to be giddy about not wondering how many times you’ll be elbowed in the head or kneed in the bladder or have to fish under your pillow for a lone earplug that you hope to God will provide just enough sound buffer to let you sleep amidst your household’s fantastic snoring. Live it up, Beth! This hotel room comes along once each year. Do not squander it.

Just because last time you were alone in a hotel room you were awake half the night because you were convinced that a robberrapistmurderer was hiding under your bed (Is that breathing? Oh crapcrapcrapcrap. He’s breathing…) – and, just because the time before that, you were in a room next to very enthusiastic honeymooners named MATT and OhYeahBaby who only needed very occasional rehydration breaks – does NOT mean that you won’t sleep this time. You are not cursed to never sleep again. Give yourself the benefit of the sleep doubt, lady. You can do it!

Finally, as disheartening as it is to face the annual reminder that your kids don’t actually care whether you leave – and, in fact, that they’re more excited that they get to have dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s house than they are dismayed by your imminent departure – please do not make them each kiss you forty-five times and then lie to you that they’ll miss you terribly. It’s an embarrassing display of neediness and you’re better than that. You really are.

Really. You are.

Oh, geez, Beth. Seriously?

Stop crying.


OK, fine.

You can force them to kiss you and pledge their undying love. But that’s my final offer.

Also, I hope you have a great time.