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Letting Go of Emotional Baggage

Forgiving Others Is Easy, What About Forgiving Yourself

By Chris Jordan

I grew up as a quasi-Catholic. I spent lots of years in Catholic schools with nuns for teachers, but my family wasn’t actually Catholic. We didn’t go to church except for weddings or funerals. We were more the Santa Claus and Easter Bunny type of Christians.

I always liked Lent; I remember it being a time to have a redo of your New Year’s resolution. It was a time when you could choose to do something or sacrifice something for 40 days. And 40 days was a lot more appealing than 365 days. Even now as an adult I still use Lent as a time to reflect and maybe make some changes that will stick around after the 40 days are over.

This year I am going to let go of the things that I feel guilty about and forgive my own shortcomings. Guilt is an enormous burden to carry around. I have a lot of it. Most of it over things I manufacture in my own head. I think some of us are more prone to carrying around guilt, and some of us are so comfortable with it that we wrap it around ourselves like a warm blanket. I do a lot of things “right.” Even so, I dwell on the things that I do “wrong.”

I know that I am a good mother in the ways that really matter. When I was a teenager I hated living at home. I could not wait until I graduated high school so I could move out and never look back. I told this to anyone who would listen. And I did just that shortly after my 18th birthday. My children don’t want to move out. Even my teenagers who are only a couple years away from college and freedom don’t want to move away. They talk about moving back home when they graduate from college. And I tell them how I will be changing the locks on the doors.

It is all in fun and who knows how things will actually turn out 6, 8, 10 years from now. But the fact that they have never once said, “I can’t wait to get the hell out of this house!” makes me feel as though I have done something right.

And so for Lent I will forgive myself for the little things that eat at me.

I forgive myself for not being a cook and not having the desire to learn how to be a better cook. But my children are not adventurous eaters and when I do make something new and exciting no one wants to eat it anyway and then I am stuck eating enough leftovers to feed an army. Because I am feeding an army.

I forgive myself for yelling when a kind word and some compassion were probably the better choice. Actually anything is usually a better choice than yelling. And yet I just can’t stop myself.

I forgive myself for not staying in touch with people I care about.
I really hate the telephone. I said to one of my friends last week that in the event of an emergency she should text me. She agreed that I should do the same. Perhaps that is why we are good friends, we don’t need to actually speak.

I forgive myself for putting work ahead of my children.

I cringe at the number of times I am buried behind the computer screen and shush my children as they talk to me. Or the times I look up and sigh heavily as they excitedly burst into the room to tell me something. Only to have their faces fall and one of them say, “Did you lose your words, Mom?”

I forgive myself for putting my children ahead of my work.

How many times I have I gotten involved with my children when I should be working. When going outside in the sunshine to watch them perform their latest death defying skateboard trick, or basketball shot, or help with a chalk drawing seems more exciting. What isn’t exciting, however, is running out of money before the month is over.

I forgive myself for not achieving that elusive work-life balance, something I am not sure even exists. What would be a perfect solution is if I could give up sleeping. I just haven’t figured out how to make that work yet.

I forgive myself for not ironing on my daughter’s girl scout badges in a timely manner. In fact I passed the task off to someone else. I will admit that when my daughter told me one of the girls in her troop had her badges stapled onto her vest I felt a strong kinship with that girl’s mother. I wanted to grab two glasses, a bottle of wine and head over to their house and shout, “We can be friends!”

I forgive myself for never sewing any buttons back onto any clothing even though I save them all, including the extra ones that come with some clothes, with the delusion that this time will be different.

I forgive myself for hiding in the pantry and eating snack food. But I do it for the children. I am only thinking of them. And their teeth. And the obesity crisis in America. Honestly.

I forgive myself for not changing the sheets on the children’s beds weekly, every other week, until the sheets are able to walk to the laundryroom of their own volition, until a stomach bug hits the house.

I forgive myself for not always checking over my children’s homework before they hand it in. Or making sure they do their homework. I do make sure that they go to school so that counts for something, right?

I forgive myself for the dust bunnies, the weeds, the houseplants that never got watered, and the toothpaste splattered mirror. For the sticky bits on the counter, the crumbs on the floor, the tupperwares of mystery food in the back of the fridge. For the jeans with holes, the mismatched socks worn to school, and the shoes that suddenly are two sizes too small. For not being perfect.

I encourage all of you to forgive yourself too. Because as I was typing this I came to the conclusion that no one else even cares.

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, the...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is almost 6.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.

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  • Fabs

    March 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Love it! Thank you for helping me feel less guilty (for a little while anyway). It’s always so reassuring to me to know that there are others out there who do the same things I do. I’ve never understood the whole change the sheets every week.

  • lucy

    March 16, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    i thank God that there are other people like me out there…text me in an emergency I get it.

  • natalia

    March 16, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Thank you ! I needed to read that ! It feels so good to know that you are not the only one struggling with those issues . the blog world is sometimes a little bit to polished and perfect it ‘s good to hear the truth , we are far from perfect and that’s ok !

  • liz

    March 17, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Thank you so much. I really needed this today.

  • LNBE

    March 17, 2011 at 1:35 am

    What? This is silly. How are we ever to spur ourselves to be better if we don’t have an actual knowledge of and desire to overcome our own shortcomings? To “forgive yourself” (which is not what this “I’m okay, you’re okay” post is) doesn’t take courage. To soldier on in the fact of shortcomings and adversity without being overcome by despair does. 

  • Jamie

    March 17, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Thanks, Chris, this was really good to read and use as a reminder. Most of these apply to each and every mom out there. And if any mom wants to deny it, she’s a lying bitch!

  • meredith

    March 17, 2011 at 7:00 am

    You are so right, we hit ourselves over the heads for stuff other people don’t even care about anyway. But it’s like a bad habit, hard to let go of. If you popped in for a visit today, you’d see dog hair and muddy footprints on the floor, wet towels hanging off the banister and piles of papers I need to go through on the kitchen counter. But I would have a bottle of wine I could share 🙂

  • Bobbie

    March 17, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Ha!  My 17-year old has already warned us that he would have “no problem” moving back in after he finishes college.

  • Deb

    March 17, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Great post! I am with you on the yelling. My kids are grown now, but I had an “aha” moment when the oldest two were 8 and 5. I took them to a music camp by myself for a week, and left my husband home with the two youngest. I realized the first day there that I could not just bellow their names when I wanted them to come to me. Thank god I had a week to “practice” not yelling. It took me that long to get used to it. It really did change the way I parent.

    I think I’ve managed to forgive myself for this.

  • Billie

    March 17, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Too bad you live in Texas because I think we could really be friends. 🙂

    My best friend here in Ohio was appalled when I told her how often I don’t wash the sheets & pillowcases. I came from a family that was raised to accept the faults in others as well as ourselves. Not saying that we weren’t taught to fix those faults as well though. 🙂 Whenever I feel guilty that I don’t clean/do laundry/etc as much as I should I tell myself, my kids are healthy and happy and having a clean house is not as important as that (because if I cleaned that much I would likely yell even more than I already do).

  • Jo

    March 17, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I know if I lived in Texas or you lived in Minnesota we’d totally be best friends.  The kind that finish eachothers sentences. Or texts:)  

  • kate

    March 17, 2011 at 10:20 am

    awesome! i am so glad to know i am not the only button collector out there! I currently even have a button that came off my coat, in that coat pocket. it has been there all winter and has yet to be sewn back on!
    there really are not enough hours in the day to be 100% there for our kids, 100% there for work and 100% house chores done. when you figure out how to get by with out sleep, please share. Maybe then my soon-to-be 5 year old’s baby book will get done, buttons sewn, and zillions of other things that just don’t make the cut on a day to day basis!! (though, let’s be honest, we will probably use that time take a long shower, read a book, or *gasp* relax)

  • AngstyJen

    March 17, 2011 at 10:23 am

    We could definitely be friends…I love wine and hate the telephone. And I live in Dallas, so I’m not too far away! I totally understand about needing to forgive yourself…I need to just accept that I’ll never be as good at keeping up the house as my mom was. But I play with my kid more than she did and I refuse to be a martyr to the chores when there are fun things to do with my familiy.

  • Katherine @ Grass Stains

    March 17, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Chris, I’ve been reading NFTT for years, since Miles was born, I think. (I know I read for a long time when it was still Big Yellow House.) I have long valued your perspective on parenting, and the more children I have (I’m expecting #4 now), the more I agree with you. 🙂 I think I’ve commented on NFTT before that my greatest comfort in parenting is that my children desire more time with me, not less. That’s the main reason I feel like I’m doing a good job with my boys. When I was their ages, I was already plotting my escape, already hiding from my mom in the bathroom or the laundry room, just to avoid being AROUND her. Miserable. And I’m so glad I’ve broken the cycle, that my kids love me. I am blessed.

  • Kate from ohio

    March 17, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I couldn’t agree more. I am doing the best that I can. I am a good person, my kids are fed and clean and loved. So what if my laundry is spewing out of the laundry room. So what if I hid the Girl Scout Cookies. So what if I super glued the patches on the cub scout uniform? If it is strong enough to hold a man to a beam high above the earth, surely it is strong enough to hold the pinewood derby participation badge in place.

  • Lisa

    March 17, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I’m soooo happy that I’m not the only one who changes the sheets only when a stomach bug hits!

  • Michele

    March 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I am really relieved about the sheet thing and that it’s not just me who does that!

  • Lynn

    March 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    I’m with you on the buttons. Sometimes I will look at them in the drawer and think why do I keep those. I hate changing the sheets let alone washing them. Love your writing.

  • Sarah

    March 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    You know, this one is so good, it might go up on my refrigerator too.

    And when I put it up, I will forgive myself for never cleaning out the fridge, or taking anything off of the fridge, or eating ice cream for dinner. 

  • sara

    March 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Hahaha! I am so glad I’m not the only one who does not change sheets, except in times of emergency!

  • Marie

    March 18, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I do the same thing with the stupid buttons. Most of those buttons end up glued to various craft projects…and my kitchen table in the process. This post hit so close to home. Thanks.

  • Lbh

    March 18, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I’m in Austin and my husband is a sommelier. Hit me up if you ever need a good glass of vino. We’ll be over here not caring about our sheets or houseplants either.

  • Lori

    March 18, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Thanks for helping us all remember that we aren’t perfect, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up because of it. But this – “I forgive myself for not always checking over my children’s homework before they hand it in.” Yay for you – I don’t think forgiveness is in order, here. No way should you be checking their work before they turn it in. It’s their grade, not yours. Homework should reflect what they’ve learned, and if there are mistakes, the teacher needs to know what they kids aren’t learning the first time around.
    That said, my son is not yet in Kindergarten, so I suppose I have yet to be tested on this particular parenting principle. I may yet eat those words.

  • Navhelowife

    March 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Good for you. I’m the worlds worst scout parent. Could not care less about the uniform. Badge Magic, however, is a gift from GOD. Better than stichwitchery or whatever you call it. 

    I have tried really hard to forgive and forget things that are huge..but you’re right, its the little nitpicky things I remember about myself that get me in the end. 

    When my oldest was little little I read in a book “The best you can do (right now)  is good enough”. 
    I need to remember that more often. 

  • Jo Anne

    March 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Chris, forgive yourself today. RIGHT NOW. Before it is too late. I am 61 and have yet to forgive myself. I tell others to forgive self as they would forgive others, but am unable to do that for me. I fear I am too old to change at this point. But, you are young — do it now.

  • Nancy

    March 21, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Oh, I really love it! You make me laugh out loud, which is something we should all aspire to – making another person laugh out loud now and then.

  • Tracey

    March 21, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Right On! And to think I was the only one who forgot to change the sheets regularly. Or forgot to sew buttons on.