Get off that mom guilt, please. Especially now. 2020 is a wash.
Mom guilt is 99% unnecessary.
You give the toddler your phone so you can sleep an extra 30 minutes? Fine. If it helps you not yell at them later, do it.
You leave the kids play in the living room with the TV on and a free range tablet on the coffee table while you hide in the kitchen for 45 minutes so you can get some work done? Fine.
You let them swim in the pool before bedtime because you just can’t deal with bathing them tonight? Fine.
You let them paint the outside of the shed and call it art class? Fine, hit that shit with the hose later. No big deal.
You gave up breastfeeding earlier than you wanted to because it was just easier giving them the bottle because you have other kids at home? Fine. You wouldn’t be the first. Baby is full and happy. Your other kids are happy. Everyone is happy! You can be happy about it, too.
What is Mom Guilt, and Why Does It Plague All Of Us?
Mom guilt is especially awful because it comes from the idea that you are not only failing yourself, but you are also failing your children. Most mom guilt is caused by feeling obliged to do things a “certain way” for your baby or family because of “tradition” or old and undated ways of thinking, whether it be judgements from FB mommy groups or overbearing in-laws. This is usually where unsolicited advice rears its ugly head. I see guilt as the beginning of a snowball. It starts small, then piles on. Rolls around until it gets bigger and bigger until you can’t fkn move it anymore and it’s stuck in the middle of the road and no cars can pass. (Ask my husband that story, lol)
Mom Guilt, for the most part, is useless.
It is, however, completely normal, and is a result of wanting to be the best mother you can be to your children. But you cannot let it take over.
Come to terms with the fact that you’re only human, and you WILL make mistakes. Life throws some major blows and you’re gonna mess up. What the hell, you’ll screw up even at the little blows. All you can do is correct it and move on. What is important is that you are aware of your mistakes and work to rectify them.
If you yell at your kid and feel bad about it, look back and examine your emotional state. What led you there? What did you do wrong? What did you learn? How will you apologize?
Guilt isn’t something to hold onto forever. It isn’t healthy! It will gnaw at you from the inside and just make you miserable.
Here’s the thing, though. MOM GUILT ISN’T ALWAYS A BAD THING.
It can be THE motivation you need to become a better person.
I used to think this way, that guilt was useless and there was no point to it. Well, for the most part, it is. But if guilt doesn’t help you improve yourself, then it is useless.
What Are Some Common Causes of Mom Guilt?
1. Rejection causes mom guilt by making you believe what you are doing is wrong.
– The source of this is usually mommy groups on Facebook or nosy relatives imposing their outdated opinions and unsolicited advice on what you should or shouldn’t be doing.
– Basically, knowing you did something wrong.
3. Obligation to others for the wrong reasons.
– The best example of this is when kids feel responsible for their parents’ divorce.
– When you said you were going to do something but you didn’t. Like the time I promised my 5 year old she could Facetime with her pre-school BFF but I forgot and then she forgot but I still feel bad.
The above four are pretty relatable as parents, but if you are looking for a full list, go here: Definition and measurement of guilt: Implications for clinical research and practice
What Do Moms Feel Guilty About?
Or lack thereof. Breastfeeding is hard. It hurts! And sometimes even our best efforts to continue don’t work. Sometimes supply is low. Sometimes it’s too time consuming, especially when you have other children (this was me with my second, we only made it to 8 months). Maybe the only way to get your needed rest is for your partner to do night feedings. Maybe infant jaundice requires your baby to be formula fed for awhile (also my first child). And pumping SUCKS. Is your baby fed? Good. You can relax. You’re doing fine. On the flip side, you might feel guilty for breastfeeding at all. Some people might try to shame you into stopping before you or your child are ready. I nursed my first child for 2 full years, but not without annoying criticisms or passive aggressive suggestions from people stop because they thought it was “weird.” GTFO mind your business.
I did not co-sleep. I was too scared. But if it works for you, do it. I wanted to with my first because she only wanted to sleep on me or next to me and I was so exhausted. Looking back, I wish I had tried it because we would have all gotten a lot more rest. My second, God bless, LOVES to sleep. Rarely argued at bedtime, ever! If you need something to ease your guilt over bedsharing, here are a few links: Internation Journal of Pediatrics – Is “Bed Sharing” Beneficial and Safe during Infancy? A Systematic Review LA Times – Op-Ed: It’s OK to sleep next to your infant child. It’s even beneficial. And if you don’t want to co-sleep, that’s fine, too. I didn’t. You do you.
Working mom’s feel guilty for leaving their kids at daycare, for not spending as much time as they’d like with their kids, or for actually ENJOYING working away from the home. But maybe you need to work. Maybe that’s what keeps you sane. Maybe working is what makes you a better mom.
Staying at home.
As a stay-at-home mom myself, the guilt collects like the pile of laundry on the recliner, spilling onto the floor when the kids knock into it and no one can be bothered to put it back because every time I do, it’ll just fall off again. I don’t bring in enough money from my side gigs, I leave the TV on to distract the kids so I can clean (or enjoy my coffee in peace). And still it feels like nothing gets done. But my babies get me all day, and that’s what I’ve always wanted. So why should I feel guilty? I don’t. You shouldn’t either.
not being pinterest-y enough
God, forget it, hahha! I LOVED crafting as a kid. But I don’t have time for all this “extra” that Pinterest can be, sometimes. I use it to collect ideas and recipes, but right now, it’s less stressful and less expensive to just buy the thing I need instead of making the thing I need. Time is money, and right now, I have none of it. If you can’t be bothered with being crafty, then don’t be bothered. There’s no need to Pinterest everything for the perfect birthday party. You don’t need to craft everything. Maybe let your kids pick the craft and you can do it together, but as for going overboard? You don’t have to.
wanting time for yourself
There is nothing I want more than a week long mom-cation all by my damn self. I haven’t spent one night away from the kids since becoming a parent (aside from a 2 week stay in the hospital for an emergency surgery + complications so that doesn’t count!!!). I was supposed to go on a cruise by myself this year. Just me, my earphones, and my paintbrushes. I didn’t want to talk to anybody unless I was ordering food. Then the apocalypse began and who knows when that will happen. I make up for it by staying up way too late and eating junk food while watching re-runs. As a parent of young children, I am “touched out” and “talked out” or just plain WORN OUT. I used to think that wanting anything for myself was selfish, but it isn’t. Time alone is a critical part of a mom’s self-care process.
being a terrible cook
Now I consider myself a pretty decent cook. My kids think differently and they tell me to my face, hah! My mom hated cooking. She didn’t care for it. As a full-time nurse and primary breadwinner, she also didn’t have enough time. The dishes she did cook were delicious but getting take-out was my mom’s way of feeding us. She didn’t care as long as we were fed. We ate delicious food all the time and everyone was happy. No dishes to wash. I never understood and appreciated that until I had to cook for my kids. Now I understand that not everyone has the means to go out to eat all the time, but there are a ton of easy and delicious recipes (a few here on my blog) out there. Dump Meals is a great book (and so easy!), and so is the Learn to Cook from Usborne which I just got for the girls. I find that my eldest daughter eats more if she helps me cook, so I try to let her help when I can. Not everyone is a Pinterest chef. Don’t worry about it. Hack it as best you can.
having a short fuse
I am so guilty of this and I feel guilty all the time. My temper gets the best of me sometimes and I end up yelling at everybody. It happens when I haven’t slept, or if I haven’t had any time to myself, or if the kids won’t stay out of the kitchen while I’m cleaning or cooking. This is the one thing that I allow myself to feel guilty about because it is painful for myself and my family. But the beauty of guilt, as I mentioned before, is that it can be the catalyst for change. I know my triggers (lack of rest, lack of alone time, overwhelm) and because I know what they are, I can bring myself back to earth quickly, apologize, acknowledge my wrongdoing and most important, correct my behavior.
The Pros and Cons of Mom Guilt
1. Your conscience is talking to you!
Guilt does not make anyone feel good, but it does tell you to look at your relationship with your child(ren) and examine whether or not you are meeting your own expectations as a parent.
2. Guilt makes you THINK.
It’s a shoulda-woulda-coulda emotion. Should you have done that? Would you have done that again? Could you have done that differently?
3. Mom Guilt is a motivator of change.
My eldest daughter and I are so much alike. We butt heads a lot, our tempers could light a thousand fires. After one particularly heated argument last week, I felt so bad. Here I was, screaming at my 5 year old for something so stupid that I can’t even remember what it was. My husband (angel that he is) calmly reminds me that she’s only five. I have been working on letting things go, releasing control, go with the flow a little more and I can already see an improvement in our relationship and how I speak to the kids when I am upset with something they’ve done. It’s a work in progress, but it’s all THANKS to guilt!
1. It may cause us to punish ourselves.
Sometimes, hanging onto guilt and making ourselves feel bad is easier than fixing the issue at hand. Repairing damaged relationships comes second to beating ourselves up.
2. It can be a tool of manipulation for the offended party to avoid asking for reparations from us.
Looking and acting like we feel bad manipulates the victim into feeling sorry for us, removing their right to ask us to fix the problem.
3. Guilty feelings sometimes replaces self-esteem.
When parenting standards are not met, feeling guilty can convince us that we are still good people because we feel bad.
How to Free Yourself From Mom Guilt
FACE THE TRUTH
Parenting is hard, so hard. You’re gonna screw up one way or another. Count on the fact that you will make mistakes, and be honest with your children when you do mess up.
When you forgive yourself, you are able to concentrate on getting yourself back on track.
REMEMBER, YOU’RE STILL HUMAN
Recognize that everyone makes mistakes. All you can do is apologize, correct and move on.
Instead of focusing on all your mistakes, turn your attention to what you are doing right.
Life is hysterical. Parenting is insane. We all do dumbass things and you just gotta laugh. Like the time my daughter and I were having an argument and she chucked her baby doll right at my head. I laughed (later, obvs) but I sure laughed. That was one hell of a throw!
Remember, mom guilt isn’t always bad!
Guilt can motivate you into correcting something in your life that needs attention. Peace will come when you reach your resolution.
LET THE LITTLE THINGS GO
We judge ourselves too harshly. Just take a deep breath, and blow it all away. Every moment is a chance to try again and do better.
FIND YOUR TRIBE
Cultivate your support system. Beware the Facebook groups! Only allow non-judgemental and supportive people in your circle.
IDENTIFY THE SOURCE OF YOUR GUILT
Try to understand why you feel guilty. What did you do wrong? Did you do anything wrong? Remember, some things are out of your control. Try not to feel guilty about that.
KNOW YOUR TRUTH
Identify your values and what is important to you and your family and stick to them. This will help you in making guilt-free decisions.
Don’t wait until you have a complete meltdown before considering therapy. It will give you the tools to navigate through your guilt and come out stronger.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries against those who question your parenting. Trust your intuition and listen to your children.
Remember that you are human and you will make mistakes. Acknowledge that with everything that life throws at you, you’re not always going to make the best decisions or behave in the best way. All you can do is correct your mistake, forgive yourself and move on. If you spend all your time worrying about what you aren’t doing right, you’ll miss out on everything you ARE doing right which is probably more than you realize.
My kids are 2 and 5, and I can tell you the guilt hits heavy, but I’ve learned to let it roll off my back. I am not perfect, but my kids know they are loved, and isn’t that all that matters?