Is it wrong that I already feel mom guilt over the fact that I started writing this article six months ago, but didn't finish?
There's nothing like a global pandemic to pile on an extra sense of guilt for both moms and dads who feel like they're just not cutting it. Throw in virtual school and an extra-large dose of curated perfection on social media, and the sense of mom guilt is enough to make anybody crazy!
But as we all learn to enjoy this season of motherhood, there are ways to lessen feelings of guilt and replace them with feelings of accomplishment.
Sometimes we feel a sense of mom guilt even before we have a new baby. Our diets aren't quite clean enough. We might have had too much coffee or sugar during the pregnancy, and we're not even sure if we'll be any good at parenting even after the baby comes!
And of course, at a time when we feel like we've gained way too much (or not enough) pregnancy weight, we just so happen to scroll through photos of perfectly edited pregnant moms who are absolutely glowing.
It would be nice if the feelings ended once you held your perfect baby in your arms, but often questions of your self-worth continue. Will you be a good mom? Can you breastfeed? Will the baby ever stop crying? Will you ever stop crying? How will you cope with everything?
Guess what: You don't have to cope with everything! And you don't have to feel guilty about everything! That's not your job! Everyone feels some degree of mom guilt from the get-go. But that doesn't mean feelings of guilt have to define your motherhood. Here are a few tips to focus on the important things and letting go of the guilt.
There are things you can control and other things you can't. As hard as it can be not to dwell on those things outside your control, don't waste your mental energy there!
When my oldest child was a preschooler and having some now long-forgotten issue at school, I started to go down a negative spiral and feelings of guilt. I was talking with my mother, who had successfully raised 5 children, and she stopped me after my first complaining sentence.
She reminded me that the situation would change soon. But if I couldn't get those fears in check with a preschooler, I'd have even bigger fears and problems as my kids grew up.
Switching my perspective was definitely a process. But when those negative thoughts come sneaking back, I'll often reframe the temporary situation and focus on how I can be thankful within it.
You don't need to suppress your feelings as a mother, but if you have people in your life or someone you follow on social media who makes you feel like a loser, you might need to widen your social circle. A 2017 Norwegian study indicated that women's self-esteem tends to take a hit during pregnancy and right after a baby comes so all the more reason to surround yourself with positive influences!
Especially when it comes to scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, if there's someone whose highly-curated feed makes you feel bad about yourself, unfollow or mute them! You'll be amazed at the freedom that little action provides. And while you're at it, you can purge your feed of people who tend to annoy or anger you in general.
The comparison trap can be especially harmful when a working mom compares herself to a stay-at-home mom or vice-versa. Parenting is tough, no matter the circumstances, and there are plenty of trade-offs. You don't need to feel guilty because you enjoy your full-time job or shame because you feel like you're "just" a mommy. Even menial and stressful tasks can have extraordinary long-term value. So relax and hang in there!
There are many great and different parenting styles and plenty of moms and dads who share similar parenting values to you. Surround yourself with those who will build you up and don't tear you down.
You don't need friends who will pile on the mommy guilt or who always try to one-up you. Instead, you need a community of other moms and dads who will support you and help make you better parents.
Some kids need extra help, and that's okay. But it's so important to let your kid develop self-reliance and resilience. That way, the pressure's off you.
It will also help make your kids more respectful, responsible people to know that their mom won't just bail them out when they miss a homework assignment.
This could mean having a little emotional buffer between yourself and the neighbor who drives you crazy with their child prodigy children. Or even your own close relatives who might make you feel "less than."
If you haven't already unfollowed the perfect mom who makes you feel guilty on every level, do it now. Do what you need to do to protect yourself from negative influences that rob you of joy.
Find what makes you happy, and do it! Especially when you're a mother spending time with infants or toddlers, it seems like everything you do is temporary. So set small achievable goals, like making your bed every day. So instead of feeling guilt at the things left undone, you can feel pride in some of the things you're able to do.
Editor's note-- if you have a bathtub, I would highly recommend adding "take a therapeutic Epsom salt bath" to your weekly goals. It's amazing how soothing this ritual can be.
Your child is like a little sponge- and they soak up so much, including any feelings of shame or guilt we might have!
This might mean you need to take a "mommy time-out" when you're feeling overwhelmed and might say something you'll regret. Or find other ways to channel your emotions, like journaling or exercising. And no-- you don't have to feel an extra sense of guilt because you're not writing or working out as much as you'd like to!
For some people, talking with a good therapist or counselor can provide incredible healing and catharsis. Whatever you do, just make sure you have a way to work through some of the negative emotions apart from your children, so they don't have to bear that burden, too.
Remember-- there's no such thing as a perfect mom. And you don't have to feel guilty because you don't live up to some impossible standard. Focus on what you can control-- like loving and bonding with your kids. No matter what, you'll always be the best mom your little ones will ever have.
**If you are having extreme feelings of guilt or anxiety, you don't have to go through it alone. Look for a trusted counselor or therapist who can help you navigate this difficult time. Take care of yourself!