There is no denying it. If you are a mother, you have experienced a dose, or maybe even a daily serving, of that not-so-tasty mom guilt. There are so many ways this pesky little nuisance can strike and make you feel inadequate. Honestly, it can start from the moment you find out you are pregnant. It did with me. I vividly remember finding out I was pregnant and immediately thinking about the alcoholic drink I had the week before; that sick feeling set in followed by a dose of guilt. Or when I wasn’t feeling well during my pregnancy and didn’t eat the healthiest foods and wondered if it would affect my baby. It progressed to the struggles I encountered when trying to breastfeed and still manages to manifest itself in new ways as my children grow.
One thing is for sure, mom guilt does not discriminate.
There is no immunity to the trials and tribulations of the shame game. Whether you work, stay at home, are single or married, mom guilt should be defined as an equal opportunity employer because it affects us all. Why do so many of us let it knock us down? It does not, and should not, define who we are as moms.
When I think of my own mom, I think of the person that continues to this day to put her children and grandchildren’s needs above her own. She shows unconditional love and is caring and considerate. She is encouraging and uplifting, but I bet there have been many times she has been torn down by a dose of mom guilt, even in the present day. Through my own eyes, I have never seen her as anything but selfless, but I wonder if she sees the same.
What can we do to help alleviate the mom guilt? How can we kiss the mom guilt goodbye?
I think there are a few simple things we can do to help us get in the right frame of mind to win the battle.
First and foremost, STOP comparing yourself to other moms. There is no one right way to parent. No two people are the same; your children are unique along with your parenting style and your circumstances. Comparison is not healthy, and it is a no-win situation. When you start comparing yourself to other moms, you are setting yourself up for pure failure. No mom is perfect; we all have shortcomings, face challenges, and encounter disappointments. Quit comparing and turn the spotlight inward and focus on the accomplishments you have made since becoming a mother.
Next, make time for yourself. As moms, we tend to put ourselves last. When we do take time for ourselves, we feel, say it with me … GUILTY. I’m here to tell you that you should invest in time for yourself. Make time for your girlfriends, take a bubble bath, go to the gym, and have date nights with your husband. Investing time in yourself isn’t selfish; it is going to make you a better friend, sister, wife, and mom. Everyone needs time to unwind, if you are experiencing excess tension and stress, it will only filter down to your children.
Finally (I think Elsa was on to something when she uttered the words), “let it go.” As moms, we have to realize there are certain things that are out of our control. You might miss the first words or steps because you had to work or because you made a trip to the grocery store. Maybe you couldn’t have the type of birth you wanted or couldn’t breastfeed your baby. Those are no reasons to harbor guilt. Some things are just out of our control, and once again, that does not define if we are a good or bad mom. Stop beating yourself up. Quit thinking about the things you have missed or those things that didn’t go as planned, and let them go. What about all the positive things you have done as a mother? It is easy to focus on the negative, but don’t lose sight of all the things you have done right as a mom.
My life changed the instant I found out I was pregnant. Trust me, I have had no shortage of mom guilt over the past four years. I’ve lacked patience, felt like a failure on numerous occasions, and even felt guilt just for dropping my kids in childcare to go workout. Now, I realize that comparison is the thief of joy, some things are out of our control and need to be let go, and that having time to unwind is essential for the well being of my entire family.