If you are a mom, chances are you have felt the pangs of mom guilt. The extent to which we have felt it differs from person to person. Some of us feel the guilt like a small, annoying insect buzzing around our ear. Some of us drown in it. Wherever you are on this spectrum, read on to hear about how you can put mom guilt back in its place and move on with the more important stuff.
Some of the most common things moms feel guilty about: giving baby formula, using TV as a babysitter, feeding kids junk food, being environmentally unfriendly, leaving kids with a caregiver, yelling or losing one’s temper, and not being able to afford the luxuries, according to this baby center article. It doesn’t matter what it is about though- mom guilt, like all guilt, can be reduced or even removed from your life, here’s how:
The first thing we have to do to reduce or remove the guilt is to pinpoint where it comes from. The reason we have mom guilt in the first place is because we care so dang much. We really want the very best for our child and are therefore obsessed with finding out the best way to do things. We read books, articles, listen to the advice of well-meaning relatives, friends, and even total strangers. It can be confusing, and can lead to self-doubt, which leads to guilt. So the first step is to realize that you shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling guilty. Just recognize that it is a reaction to wanting the best for your kid, and that in itself means you are a good parent. You can listen to the guilt, but I also suggest you look at it squarely in the eye and calmly, but firmly, tell it to pipe down, we’ve had enough from you for today thank you.
Next, distance yourself from people and parenting articles that offer criticism or tell you there’s only one way to raise your kid and claim their advice is “support”. Criticism isn’t support. Telling someone how to raise their kid isn’t support. Find positive people to surround yourself with- people that ask how you are, listen to you, and remind you just how great you are at parenting. No judgement, just love.
Now you have to put more faith in yourself. You know your child, yourself, and the needs of your family better than anyone (doctors, parenting experts, and random strangers included!). You have informed yourself of the options, you have chosen a path you think is best, and even better, it’s working. Great! Don’t let yourself be swayed or bullied. If the path you chose isn’t working, understand that that is bound to happen, too. The needs of our children change as they grow and one technique probably won’t work forever. Have faith in yourself that you will be able to adapt your parenting style to the changing needs of your children, and that you and your partner will be able to make it work.
I read a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, which helps me when I’m feeling the mom guilt welling up. Inside each of us, we have the Judge and the Victim. The Judge judges us according to our set of beliefs, and the Victim holds all the guilt and fear. Know that justice is when you are judged once, feel guilty, resolve to change, and then move on. True injustice is when you judge yourself dozens or hundreds of times for the same mistake, not allowing yourself to move on. Refuse to let your Judge berate you endlessly for something that happened in the past.
Do your best, not more or less. Recognize that your best will change in response to your physical and mental state. One day you feel sick, worn down, and stressed. Your best on this day will be less than on the day you feel happy and well-rested, but it is still your best. To quote The Four Agreements:
Just do your best— in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment. By always doing your best, you will break a big spell that you have been under.
Lastly, realize that you have needs, we all have needs. These have to be met as well. Don’t feel guilty about incorporating the meeting of your needs into your parenting style. Heck, parenting is hard enough as it is without feeling bad about taking care of yourself, too. Your child wants the best version of you, and by finding the balance that works for your family you can give them your best and are also teaching them that self-care is important. Win-win.
On a related note, if you find yourself scrolling through social media, at the ‘perfect’ moms and families, extravagantly planned parties, endless adorable outfits, and gorgeous pictures, and feeling bad that your life doesn’t look like that, check yourself. Do not compare your blooper reel to someone else’s highlight reel, ok? Nobody has the same set of circumstances, or is dealing with the same set of issues, but trust me, we’re ALL dealing with issues. It’s terribly unfair to judge yourself using a completely unrelated metric.
Go easy on yourself, friends 🙂
The Four Agreements (Ruiz, Miguel. The Four Agreements. Amber-Allen Pub., 1997.)
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