I am a guilt sponge. I feel guilty about just about everything. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember, and becoming a mom didn’t exactly help my situation.
The mom guilt just about destroys me on a daily basis. But it’s not just the typical guilt that comes with bringing human beings into this world. It’s rare that I take a shower without thinking about homeless people and how they don’t have the luxury of nice hot water after a long day. And then I feel guilty that I get to shower. I have the exact same thought when I climb into my warm bed at night. When I see commercials on television for restaurants or any ads selling food, I think about children with empty cupboards and empty tummies, sitting in their living rooms, watching the same commercials, and desperately wishing they had something to eat. Then I feel guilty about our full fridge and my own full stomach.
There are very few situations in my life that do not leave me feeling guilty in some way. And before anyone feels the need to point it out, yes, I do realize this isn’t healthy and that I need to work on it. I’m trying.
As we head into the holiday season, it will get even harder. Christmas is the time of year when I feel the guiltiest. I scroll through social media and it quickly consumes me, leaving my chest tight and a knot in my stomach. But I don’t feel guilty because of the pressure to do more. I feel guilty because of the pressure to do less.
I love Christmas. My family and anyone who has known me for approximately five minutes would confidently tell you that I am a Christmas fanatic. I love the magic and the warmth. I love baking and trimming the tree. I can’t get enough Christmas music and watching Christmas movies over and over and over again. I have countless Christmas traditions that I have passed down (forced upon) my husband and our four children. And I love shopping for gifts for my children. The things that they only dare to dream of asking for at Christmas time. I always promise myself I won’t overdo it, but inevitably I do. And then social media tells me what a terrible person I am for doing so. Guilt comes charging into my happy little Christmas world, like that giant abominable snowman with the sore teeth. He proceeds to sit in my living room and growl at me, totally draining the fun out of my holly jolly time.
I am filled with thoughts of the children who have nothing. I beat myself up about buying more plastic, and consumerism, and how many people won’t even have a roof over their heads this Christmas. I feel awful about the gifts and the food and so many things that we simply don’t need.
And I’m sick of it.
When I was a little girl, we didn’t have a lot of money. I’m pretty sure there were many times that we simply had no money at all. There were no extras. No extra treats or special trips or extra visits to the toy store. But every Christmas was filled with magic. Somehow our mom always made Christmas the most joy-filled and incredible time of year, and I do not honestly remember a single Christmas where my heart wasn’t bursting with happiness.
Now I’m the mom. We are not wealthy people. We live paycheck to paycheck and often find ourselves stretching to that next paycheck with great difficulty. We are fed and have a little home where we are bursting at the seams, but it is warm and safe and filled with love. Throughout the year there are very few “extras.” The children all know that large and otherwise unattainable gifts are reserved for Christmas. Christmas is the time when I tell them to dream big. And somehow, some way, we make it happen.
Do they receive more gifts than they need? They sure do. Do they need yet another kind of Barbie or a pair of designer shoes? Nope. But if I can make those things happen, you can bet your derriere they will be under that tree on Christmas morning. Does buying them all of those presents at Christmas time make them spoiled and entitled? Absolutely not. Because it only happens once a year.
I take my children with me when I donate groceries to our local food bank. They are with me when I drop off extra hats and mitts and other warm clothing for charity drives collecting for children who do not have enough to keep them warm during the winter. And they help pick out a couple of items to donate to the local toy drive. They know that they are fortunate to have what we have. And they are also well aware that many others go without.
In a world that is often so filled with darkness and sorrow, if I can provide my children with memories of at least one truly magical day every year, I am going to do it. And I refuse to feel guilty about that anymore.
For at least one day out of 365, I am going to make guilt a ghost of Christmas past, and finally allow myself to truly enjoy the present.
About the Author
Jesica Ryzynski is a highly caffeinated writer and mom to four children ranging in age from pre-school to teens. Her work has been featured on Sammiches and Psych Meds, That’s Inappropriate, Savvy Mom, YMC and Her View From Home. She can be found sharing her adventures in parenting and the occasional honest rant on her Facebook page: facebook.com/chocolatepoop