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  • Writer's pictureDr. Alex Gard, DMFT, LMFT, PMH-C

Why We Have Mom Guilt And What To Do About It

Why We Have Mom Guilt And What To Do About It

I was struggling to talk about mom guilt without using the term “mom guilt”, because it seems like a popular term that gets thrown around a lot. So I got to thinking, what is mom guilt? We hear trendy phrases like this, and sometimes I feel like they lose their true meaning.

Mom guilt, is simply the guilt that exists for mothers when they step outside of their role as mom and nourish the other parts of themselves; which innately requires them to stop “doing”.

We have somehow learned and adopted the idea that we can’t stop doing in order to be good moms. It has been both directly and indirectly told to us - that we are only good mothers “if”…

How we fill in the blank depends on our culture, our upbringing, our relationships with our spouses, the relationship we have with our own mothers, and so much more. These are the kinds of things that I explore with my clients in therapy.

In order to really understand “mom guilt” we have to take a step back and ask ourselves what guides our definition of being a good mother.

How would you fill in the blank?

If you are like many of my clients, the list is long, and oftentimes unrealistic.

But it all points to one thing; you care about the kind of mother you are. You want to be respected and to feel like you’re doing a good job. You want other people to notice how hard it is, and that you’re doing your best.

And yet …most of us don’t get that. So we keep doing more, adding more to our plate, because maybe that’s when we will finally get the validation and approval we are looking for. Maybe that is when we will finally feel like we are doing a good enough job.

We are freed when we realize that being a good enough mother has nothing to do with how much we are “doing”, or with how perfect our houses look, how elaborate our children’s birthday parties are, how well dressed our kids are, or if we have lost the baby weight. If this is how we define “good enough”, we are setting ourselves up to fail.

We will never stop feeling guilty, until we redefine what it means to be a good mother, and realize that the validation we are seeking must first come from within.

Here are some helpful tips to minimize mom guilt and to feel more at ease in your role as mom.

Stop Comparing Yourself on Social Media:

Social media has really great qualities, but can often be trash for our mental health. Social media often perpetuates a perfect idealized image of motherhood; that would require a full staff to actually make happen: Perfectly clean house at all times, both yourself and children dressed impeccably, home cooked meals every night, running a successful business, 27 kids and smiling from ear to ear.

Yet here you are, scrolling, telling yourself, “ Why should I need a break? I am not even doing 1/4 of what she’s doing!” Completely minimizing your experience and reinforcing the idea that what you are doing isn’t worthy of a break. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Check Your Shoulds:

Mom guilt often sounds something like “I should be spending more time with my kids”, “I should have brought my little one with me”, “I shouldn’t need time away”, “I should be cleaning up not taking a nap, I have so much to do!” Sound familiar?

The Shoulds are a judgmental and critical voice. When you notice it- replace it with a statement like “I choose” instead. It helps you stop comparing and helps you take your power back. Ex: “I am choosing to nap so that I can rest and be in a better head space to tackle the rest of the day”.

Connect With People That Get It:

Talk with your other mom friends about how you feel. Keeping things to yourself only perpetuates guilt and shame. If you are feeling mom guilt, talk about it! Talk to people that get it, who can offer reassurance and support. If you don’t have access to any of those people, this a good opportunity to reach out to a maternal mental health therapist that can help you work through your feelings and connect you with helpful resources.

Remember That You Can Only Give What You’ve Got:

This one is simple, straightforward and incredibly powerful. You can only give of your overflow. Find ways to fill your cup, often and intentionally. Remind yourself that your kids need you at your best, which requires you to step away and nourish yourself from time to time. Find a mantra that works for you to ground you when you feel guilty, ex: “My kids benefit from me being at my best, in order to be at my best, I choose to prioritize taking time for myself”.

Being a mom does not require you to abandon yourself, or the things that made you “you” before having little ones. Mom guilt can often be a huge barrier in connecting to ourselves in a genuine and meaningful way.

If you need any assistance with stepping out of mom guilt and into your true potential, please don’t hesitate to reach out for your complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305. I offer counseling for moms who are pregnant, postpartum and in all stages of motherhood at our beautiful Fort Lauderdale and Plantation, Florida offices as well as online for moms throughout the state of Florida on our secure telehealth platform.

Together, you will say goodbye to mom guilt and learn to tend to the most important relationship you have; the relationship to you!

For more information about my approach to therapy for moms or my services, click here.


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