"Mom Guilt" is a real thing.
Moms, you already know about mom guilt because you've likely experienced it. Even expecting mothers like myself have felt pressure from other moms to do things a certain way, because that's what everyone else is doing.
In some cases, mom guilt is caused by hurtful, judgmental comments coming from other moms. In others, it's self-imposed. Deep down, we're self-conscious about our decisions as mothers. Regardless, mothers are often left doubting their natural instincts in order to fit in with some external standard of what makes a good mother.
I've experienced it over the nine months I've been pregnant, and once baby is born, I'll enter a whole new world of mom guilt. I'll wonder if she's getting enough to eat or sleeping safely as an infant. In the blink of an eye, she'll be five years old, and I'll wonder if I've done enough read-alouds or sensory activities to prepare her for kindergarten. And suddenly, she'll be off to college, and I'll question everything I ever taught her. Did I do this right?!
Recognize Mom Guilt When You See It
I know mom guilt because I've seen it. I've stood in conversation circles where some women talk about the parenting strategies they'd never do while other moms shrink back in embarrassment. I have overheard (and received) unsolicited advice about the best ways to care for a newborn. Go on Facebook or Instagram and see for yourself in all the pictures and comments! You're sure to find some mom who seemingly has it all together, while another mom feels like her house is a hot mess express in comparison.
Mom Guilt is Sneaky... and Often Internal
You know that nagging feeling you felt when Karen over there was *so blessed* to have an overstocked breast milk supply, but you formula fed because you couldn't get it to work for you? That's mom guilt.
Or that subtle feeling of embarrassment when you tell people you're a stay-at-home mom, because you feel like you're not contributing enough for your family? That's mom guilt.
Have you ever been too ashamed to ask for help when you desperately needed it, because you're afraid your other mom friends will think you're lazy? That's mom guilt.
Sometimes, mom guilt is a rude comment or judgmental glance that was intended to sting. But usually, it's a deep-seeded, internal doubt that we're not good enough as parents. And the best way to overcome our doubts is to recognize them when we see them.
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Getting Out of Your Own Head
You might be imposing mom guilt on yourself, simply because you doubt your own ability to be a good parent. So how do you get out of your own way and become the rockstar mama you totally can be?
Trust Your Instincts
If you constantly look for other people's approval on your parenting strategies, you'll never feel like you've done a good job. Take every piece of advice you get with a grain of salt. Sure, most moms out there are simply offering tips that worked for them! But you know your family, and what works for other people might not work for you. Don't allow mom guilt to make you feel inadequate!
Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations
Part of getting out of your own head might be letting go of an expectation you had for yourself as a mom. If you're like me, your type-A personality needs everything to thoroughly organized, planned and executed. (Because we know how well children love to plan ahead and follow directions the first time, right?) Of course there will be times when you hold firmly to your expectations - that's called being a parent. But you may need to let go of the perfect picture you had in your mind to make space for reality.
I may not be a parent yet, but I've been an elementary school teacher. Sometimes I felt like my job was to repeat myself all day long, and I'd get upset when a fun class activity completely flopped. For the first year of teaching, I constantly wondered what was wrong with me. But the reality was that I needed to find my voice as the teacher, use strategies that worked for me, and run like the wind with whatever worked.
Do What Works For You
What works for Susan's family is great for her - but don't let Susan's success make you feel mom guilt because it didn't work for you. Trust yourself and your ability to know and love your kids the way they need to be loved. Cut loose any expectations that just don't align with your reality. And for the love of all that is good, leave the guilt behind.
Believe You're Awesome! (Your kids already think you are.)
Being a good mom doesn't mean you're perfect. Even mothers that appear to be perfect fall victim to mom guilt!
You know who doesn't think you're a failure? Your kids!
Kids are extremely forgiving - another truth I learned from teaching. Even though you'll fall short, your kids will still think you're the best thing that ever happened to them - because you are. (Even those middle-school complainers wouldn't trade you for anyone else!)
When you're trying your best and you feel like it doesn't measure up to someone else's standards, remember that your kids aren't playing that comparison game. They're not concerned that your house isn't Instagram-worthy enough for an impromptu photo shoot. They don't care whether you breastfeed or formula feed, just as long as their tummies are full.
Babies don't need all the gadgets on your registry. Kids don't need the latest toys or name brand clothing to feel loved. They need a mom who loves, provides and protects. These are the qualities they'll thank you for one day.
Stop Giving Mom Guilt Your Valuable Headspace
Clear your headspace from mom guilt. Brush it off when another mom feels it's necessary to compare stats - you don't have to play her game. Stop allowing your own doubts to creep in and make you feel less than someone else. Know that you are what's best for your family, exactly how you are - and that's why they love you!
You got this, Mama!
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Mom guilt is the worst! For me it’s the absolute hardest thing in the world to turn off. I guess it takes lots of self care and time to retrain the brain.
LOVE this – I’ll be giving birth to my daughter in about three weeks and I did a lot of work around mitigating these types of thoughts with my therapist before I got pregnant, because it’s so pervasive in our culture. Your advice is spot on! When are you due?
Valentina Chirico says
I couldn’t imagine that mons and new mom can have this guilty sensation so easily. It makes me think… 🙂
Thanks for sharing and stay safe!
It really is so important to recognize mom guilt and stand up for yourself when you experience it! It took me so long to set boundaries with people when they gave me those issues. So glad I stopped letting it get to me!