A re you one of those thousands of mothers who is completely overtaken by mom guilt? Whether you’ve never heard of mom guilt or can’t escape its relentless grip, it simply means that pervasive feeling of not doing enough as a parent, not doing things right, or making decisions that may “mess up” your kids in the long run. It’s a really common feeling which many moms around the world have to go through.
There is a tiny dose of mom guilt that can be productive. If your child really is eating total junk all day every day, and you start to feel that little inkling or gut feeling, that it may not be the best choice, that can be something to pay attention to. But when mom guilt starts to inform your decision that you previously thought to be correct — based on what’s right for your own child and family — it becomes harmful.
Dive into the true reasons you have guilt, and they may stem way back to your own childhood. The severity of your mom guilt can depend on any of the following:
If you’re trying to improve on a parenting strategy that you feel your parents didn’t do very well
If you’re parenting with obsessive-compulsive disorder or other mental health conditions or
if you’ve had past trauma.
Working on letting go of this guilt should be at the top of your long to-do list. It eats away at you, disrupts your sleep, affects your mood, and gets in the way of being present. Mothers do still feel stressors, they also experience significant relief when they are mindful and intentional about their mindset and behaviors. Here are some strategies to start freeing yourself of guilt, starting today.
Try journaling or making a quick note in your phone when you feel pangs of mom guilt, and over time themes may emerge. Maybe, for example, you realize most of the guilt comes from involvement in activities: You feel it most when other parents talk about their kids’ adventures. Or perhaps most of it stems from feeding choices, or your child’s relationship to school and learning. Once you can identify the areas causing the feeling, it’s easier to watch for these triggers. It’s also a great first step to make a simple change in the right direction rather than a complete lifestyle overhaul.
Mother’s intuition is not a myth, but rather a strong source of wisdom and decision-making power that we, and women through the ages, have used to keep our babies safe and healthy. Children are excellent sources of information on whether your decisions are working, and what areas you should and shouldn’t feel guilty about. If you have a child constantly begging you to make a puzzle with them while you’re working, you don’t need to feel guilty for working, but may need to schedule a playtime later that’s all about them.
Letting go of guilt has to start with a commitment to stop beating yourself up over your choices and circumstances. Guilt gone awry turns into shame, and it is emotionally painful to constantly feel like you are a bad mom, a bad employee, or a bad friend. Instead, remember the reasons behind your choices. Every time you think to yourself, “I feel bad about __” replace that with, “I made that decision because ___” and then move forward.
One of the hardest things for many women to do is to ask for help. Instead of asking for help, a working mom may just be fueling her stress by trying to do it all herself — then realizing that it is just impossible. Asking for help takes practice, but once you take a vulnerable step in doing so, others around you will start doing the same. Reach out to neighbors, personal friends, parents of your kids’ friends, your own parents, your in-laws, the aftercare program at school, or carpool parents. Before you know it, no one has to feel bad for asking, and it becomes a reciprocal relationship in which everyone benefits.
Also have you ever thought of where mom guilt comes from? Usually its other moms. Don’t be that mom at the park needing to convince someone that pacifiers are the devil if you’re nursing (pssst… they’re not), or that a child raised on a daily diet of gluten-free, dairy-free kale salads has more focus than one who occasionally has ice cream and Doritos. Take care when you yourself are making social media posts that could seem like bragging or pushing an agenda on other moms. We can dissolve mom guilt by not spreading it, and instead encourage each other to follow our own mom hearts. (At the same time, if you have a proud mom moment to share, share away)