A Guide to Overcoming Mom Guilt
Can you imagine being a 35-year-old mom of two, ages 2 and 7 weeks? Congratulations on our new baby by the way! Your two-year-old is currently on her 10th episode of Peppa the Pig and you finally are able to sit down after feeding your colicky baby.
Luckily, you are able to finally put the baby down for a nap in his crib! Sitting on the couch exhausted, you decide to scroll through Instagram just to see the neighbor posting homeschool lessons that include puffy paint, sidewalk chalk, and sight words. You continue to scroll and see other moms posting about educational activities, healthy breakfast options, and other #momgoals.
Overwhelming feelings of guilt surface, you begin to cry and you feel sorry for yourself and your kids. You start questioning yourself, your abilities, and your parenting. “Mom guilt” is coming on strong, but it doesn't have to be that way. Read on to discover a few tips you can use to overcome mom guilt.
What is mom guilt (or dad guilt, yes - it happens to dads too)?
We all know we aren’t supposed to compare ourselves to others but, let’s face it, that is human nature. Whether you have heard of this term before or maybe too often you feel paralyzed by its relentless grip, it simply means having pervasive emotions and thoughts that you are not doing enough as a parent, doing the “right” things, or making good choices that could “mess up” or hurt your children in the long run.
Mom guilt can be temporary or it can be long-term. Some moms feel that they are carrying around a big weight on their chest, shoulders, and heart. Others feel anxious and panicky like “I need to fix this problem right now”.
Mom guilt is all the “should haves,” “supposed to” and “ the other moms are” banging around in your feelings and thoughts that are all playing out in your head. Mom guilt means you feel you just aren’t good enough.
The Origins of Mom Guilt
Mom guilt has many origins. The long history of mom-shaming, the impact of social media, advertising from companies profiting on parental fears, formal recommendations from doctors and other organizations, and outside family pressures turn into personal insecurities (mom guilt) associated with raising our children.
The expectations of being a good mother are limitless. As moms, we internalize these expectations, feelings, and thoughts. Then they resurface as we are making decisions associated with what we thought was right for our children and family.
This is when the mom guilt is harmful when it overrides your decision-making and causes you the inability to function as a parent. Both the working mom and the stay-at-home mom can experience mom guilt; it does not discriminate.
How do I overcome mom guilt?
1. Identify your sources of guilt.
Dive into the true reasons for your guilt. Maybe it stems from your childhood or family history. I suggest taking a quick note in a journal, pad, or even the notes section of your phone, to write down your thoughts centered around guilt when it occurs. The hope is to see a particular pattern on the theme, which provides you insight into where the guilty feelings begin. Once you are able to identify the areas causing the emotions, then you are able to watch for these triggers.
2. Take a look at your circle of friends (and sometimes family).
“You are the sum of who you surround yourself with” is a quote we often hear as we are establishing our inner circle. When you are analyzing your inner circle ask yourself these questions:
● Does this person share my values, beliefs, and vision?
● Is this person an energy producer or energy zapper?
● Is this person respectful towards self and others?
● How does this person influence others?
● Does this person have my back?
If the answers to these questions are negative and toxic, it may be time to have a conversation with this person to allow them to address and communicate their emotions and thoughts. It may be that it is time to move on from the relationship.
Unsolicited advice, comments, or judgment are not appreciated by any mom or dad and can be presented from time to time within our inner circle. We often do not know how to respond to these comments without feeling some form of guilt. If you need to respond to unsolicited opinions here are some helpful statements you can use:
● Ignore and smile.
● “I’ll keep that in mind.”
● “ I know, right?”
● “We are working on that.”
● “We're following the doctor's advice on that.”
It is important to MOVE ON from this conservation. The key is to deflect and not engage in discussion! It is time to PUT YOUR FEELINGS FIRST.
3. Create a personal mantra or family mission statement.
Self-doubt can present itself as an annoyance or as a harsh inner critic that creates negative ruminations, and feelings of inadequacy which in turn surfaces as GUILT. If someone, yourself, or social media outlets are contributing to this by unwelcoming comments or judgments, decide whether or not you can ignore it or address it.
It is important to show compassion for yourself and for others. I think creating a personal mantra or mission statement could be useful during this time. Anytime these emotions and thoughts surface, you would insert this mantra or statement and repeat it over and over in your head or out loud. The idea is to change the negative thought into a more positive one. Some useful mantra or mission statements could be:
● “It’s okay.”
● “We are doing the best we can.”
● “We are doing what’s right for our family.”
● “Just breathe. In and out.”
4. Listen to your children.
Children are great sources of information to identify if the decisions we are making as parents are good ones or not. Children do not intentionally make you feel GUILTY. They just are honest and, quite frankly at times, too honest.
For example, if you are working from home and your 3-year-old asks for you to read her a book. You should not feel guilty for working, but perhaps maybe you should schedule a time to read to your toddler.
Let's focus as moms on building one another up for doing a job well done rather than creating a space of mom-shaming. Mom guilt has a long history of coming from other moms. We can dissolve mom guilt by not spreading it (in person or on social media) and instead encourage and love one another in their mom journey.
I want you to know that you, mama, are doing a GREAT job with the best version of your MOM SELF. Try not to focus on worry, but most importantly how amazing little human beings your children are.
However, if you feel that you are struggling with mom guilt or any other area of your mom life, please reach out to me at 954-391-5305 for your complimentary consultation to discuss how I can help.
I provide counseling for moms and parents in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as well as via telehealth on our secure platform. For more information about my services, click here. I look forward to hearing from you.