Guilt. It’s a universal emotion amongst moms. Moms feel guilty for all sorts of things, whether we work or stay home and whether our aim is a household that looks as idyllic and balanced as Joanna Gaines’ or to just get through the day with our kids in one piece.
We tell ourselves if we were a better mom, the house would be clean, laundry folded and a home cooked dinner on the table every night... or a better mom would have a messier house because she’s so busy spending time playing with and reading to her kids... or maybe a better mom would have a clean house, played with kids and never be on her phone, with her friends or on Facebook. Mom guilt tends to be a no win situation because to meet our expectations as a mom, there are usually sacrifices somewhere else. And we can’t sacrifice what makes us “us” if we want to be the best moms we can be.
The reasons and degrees of guilt vary greatly from mom to mom. Personally, I think I feel a comparatively low amount of mom guilt, but then I feel guilty admitting that. Like maybe if I were a better mom, I’d expect more from myself and feel worse about my shortcomings.
While it’s common to view guilt as a virtue, the truth is that guilt really just sucks our emotional energy, which is our most valuable resource for this mothering business. So let’s focus instead on moving past mom guilt.
That said, I should point out that there’s a difference between conscience and guilt. As moms, we can make mistakes that are damaging to our kids. So, when your conscience tells you that you have done something harmful, yes, make amends rather than push it aside. But I’m talking about the guilt over things that if we had to redo, we’d probably do the same thing again... or that really won’t negatively impact our children’s wellbeing.
If you’re not sure if it’s conscience or guilt, try this. Force yourself to feel as guilty as possible for a full minute. Set your timer and question... “What kind of mom would xxx? My poor family did not deserve to have me xxx! Why did I xxx?” See if after a minute it dawns on you that it’s absurd to waste any more energy feeling guilty about the circumstance. Maybe it’s really more about you and your feelings than the actual impact on your child, or maybe you do feel the need to address a mistake. Decide, and then move on.
Here are a few other things I’ve used for combatting mom guilt.
· Think about the strong example you’re setting, whether you work or stay home. Isn’t our hope that our daughters do whatever makes them happy and fulfilled (and that our sons will be supportive of their wives’ desires)? So the best thing we can do is unapologetically model that by pursuing our dreams, taking time to fill our own cups and balancing our priorities the best we can.
· Share your why. If you work, if you volunteer, if you are going on a girls’ trip, or if you are pulled away or distracted from your family for whatever reason, share that reason. Talk about your goals and desires and how you need to do your thing to, in turn, show up as the best mom for them...or how your work provides for them or makes family goals possible. Then, see if you can find a way to help them feel a part of it, whether it’s practicing your work presentation on your kids, having them hang your guests’ coats at your direct sales party, or letting them help you pack your suitcase for a girls’ weekend.
· Know that not always having you there for everything is good for their independence. Of course, it makes us feel sad if it’s the nanny who sees our child take their first step or their dad is the only one home the weekend they get their first kiss, but not always having the protection, oversight and shoulder of Mom can be a good thing to help our kids grow and feel confident.
· Decide if your mom guilt is actually trying to tell you something. Are you not really happy with your job? Do you want to cut social media out for a couple hours in the evening to be present and enjoy life more? Do you need more help around the house? If so, work on the solution.
· Know your best is good enough. It’s okay to not be on the PTA and volunteer at every classroom event. It’s okay if your floors aren’t swept and laundry is piled to the ceiling this week. And it’s okay if your child has to entertain himself for a couple hours. You can’t do it all so decide what you are okay with today and let the rest go.
· Doing things for you is a gift to yourself, and in turn your family. Moms sometimes make the mistake of falling into a martyr role and thinking they need to sacrifice for everyone else’s gain. But we have to realize that when we do this, we tend to not be so enjoyable to be around. So take time for your workout, eating right, your nail appointment, and buy yourself those new shoes and tell yourself you deserve it.
· Shift from guilt to gratitude. We are blessed to have our families, and they are blessed to have us. Take a step back and appreciate all you get from and give to your children and the unique experience your family has growing up in your household.
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