Have you ever felt “mom guilt” while raising your children?
I know I certainly have!
Whether you’ve never heard of mom guilt or can’t escape its relentless grip, mom guilt is defined by being an invasive, all-encompassing, persistent feeling of not doing enough as a parent!
It is the fear of falling short of expectations or making decisions that may “mess up” your kids in the long run.
Mom (or dad) guilt may be temporary, like watching too much Peppa Pig this week. Or it may be longer term, like whether you’ve enrolled them in enough activities over the past few years. Some moms feel like it’s a weight on their shoulders and some feel panicky, like they need to fix the problem right now.
Mom guilt is the shoulds’, the supposed do’s, and the other moms are… clanking around in your head as you try to make it through the day.
A quick scroll through Instagram will show hundreds of posts of what other moms seem to be doing so well, from educational activities to perfectly groomed toddlers posing nicely for the camera. While these are all sweet, keep in mind you don’t know the full picture of their reality. Maybe that perfectly groomed toddler posing for pictures doesn’t show you the full-blown tantrum he had just seconds before or after that shot.
Let go of the comparisons. NO ONE…and I repeat NO ONE is perfect!
So, you may wonder what drives mom guilt in the first place. It can strike at any time based on the enormous expectations from society, media, family and friends about what mothers “should be like” and what we “should do.”
You can feel guilty about screen time, breastfeeding, or whether or not you’re teaching your infant sign language.
Even formal recommendations, such as those from doctors and organizations, can create feelings of inadequacy. You’ve been advised to limit screen time, but told to only show educational apps. Let the kids get tons of exercise outside, but also keep a spotless house. Take care of yourself, but not at the expense of getting on the floor with your kids to play.
The contradictions and expectations are limitless!
We’re not here to tell you that mom guilt isn’t real—it is—and sometimes it’s overwhelming. The good news is there are some things you may feel guilty about that you shouldn’t and there are ways to get through those negative feelings when they inevitably arise and that’s what we are here to help you with!
So, lets first dive into a “handful” of scenarios that you shouldn’t feel guilty over by being a mom.
–Needing time for yourself. Flight attendants deliver wonderful parenting advice when they remind you to secure your oxygen mask first before assisting your kids with theirs.
After all, if you can’t breathe, how can you possibly help anyone else? Schedule time to take care of yourself. As much as we take care of others, we need to take care of ourselves so we can continue to give.
Setting aside time for self-care activities, such as time to read a good book, exercise, a nap, or whatever it is that makes you feel relaxed and rejuvenated, is necessary.
When you set aside time to rejuvenate yourself, it is easier to deal with the everyday stresses of being a mom.
–Reaching out for help. Here’s the truth about motherhood: you need a little help to get by. Whether that’s from your partner, a babysitter, a daycare, your mother, or any combination of the above…don’t feel bad about asking for it.
There is a limit to how many things you can do in a day. Stretching yourself too thin has repercussions for your physical and mental health. So, take the time to ask for it and tell the guilt to take a hike!
-Thinking your kids are annoying. Sometimes, kids are annoying…and you shouldn’t feel guilty for thinking that. It’s okay to wish your toddler would stop repeating the same question three hundred times in a row even though you OBVIOUSLY ALREADY ANSWERED IT. Don’t sweat it!
–Being bored. Why don’t people talk more about how boring parenthood can be? Of course, it’s a blast to play with your kids, watch them master new skills, and conquer new games. But sometimes your child asks you to read Goodnight, Moon for the tenth time in a row and you just find yourself feeling a little…bored.
Especially in those infant days, it can be hard taking care of a little being who is so completely dependent on you but so lacking in social skills. The feeling of relief when you get to have an adult conversation…priceless!
–Not breastfeeding or not breastfeeding long enough or not enjoying every single second of breastfeeding. This one is a doozy especially because people love to throw in their two cents about how your child should be fed. Your mother-in-law says you should breastfeed until 18 months because she did and look how great her son is! Your friend says breastfeeding is torture and you should give it up as soon as possible – or not even start!
Here’s the thing: You have to make whichever choice is best for you and your baby…and you shouldn’t feel any guilt about it. Because FED and THRIVING IS BEST!!!
–Having a bad day. Sometimes, you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Other days, it’s hard to leave work drama at the office and you come home feeling heavy. Then the guilt sets in and you try to shame yourself into having a better day.
We’re here to say shame doesn’t work. What does work is compassion! Be gentle with yourself when you’re having a bad day because yes, even moms have bad days.
–Going back to work…or not going back to work. How is that no matter what decision you make, you’re going to feel some guilt? You’ve heard it before – if you go back to work, you’re missing out on precious bonding moments with your little one. And if you don’t go back to work, you’re setting a bad example. Just like with every other decision you’re making for your family, you’re doing the best you can.
–Letting your kids be bored. So obviously you start to feel the mom guilt creep in when your kids whine that they’re bored. But guess what? It’s okay for them to be bored! They have toys, books and imaginations. They can figure it out themselves sometimes…it isn’t always your job to entertain them!
–Letting them have extra screen time. Because you just need ONE MOMENT to hear your own thoughts. Yes, limiting screen time is ideal. But some days that plan has to be thrown out the window.
As you can see, there are TONS of ways moms feel guilty on a daily basis and it’s impossible to share them all. Keep in mind that it takes time to unlearn what to not feel as guilty about anymore as a mom. It’s equally important to have the tools necessary to help you process the negative emotions when they inevitably arise.
Below are 3 great tips on how to handle mom guilt when it creeps in unexpectedly.
– Acknowledge and Accept what you’re feeling. Notice where your body feels tense and try to relax that area. Allow your vulnerable feelings of guilt, shame, and sadness to rise to the surface. You may notice the tears begin to well up- let them come. Remind yourself that your feelings are normal, given the stress of being a mom!
– Change Thoughts. Instead of focusing on the thoughts associated with guilty feelings like “I should stop working”, replace the negative thoughts with something like “I am a better mom because I work”. Consider what you are contributing to your family rather than what you may be missing.
– Build Resilience. Building resilience in the face of guilt, shame and other difficult feelings is crucial. Have the courage to be real – not hide.
So, now that we’ve identified some of the reasons you may be feeling guilty (but shouldn’t) and some tips on what to do when the guilt creeps in, I hope you can now see that it IS possible to be a great parent through all of the pressure you are feeling to be perfect.
Becoming a mother is one of the most profound transitions in life. It takes time to adjust! Know you aren’t alone as every single mom feels mom guilt from time to time as they simply want what’s best for their children.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember to take a deep breath and give yourself a mental break because raising little humans is hard!
If you find yourself needing support navigating the anxiety, guilt and struggles of motherhood, Solid Foundations can help! Learn more at solidfoundationstherapy.com or give us a call at 630-633-8532 today!