What is mom guilt?
Whether you’ve never heard of mom guilt or can’t escape its steady grasp, it simply means that nagging feeling of not doing enough as a parent, not doing things right, being absent or fear of missing moments with your child, feeling like you do not give them enough attention when it is very clear to everyone around you that you do, All in all it can be primarily explained as just having that unexplainable fear/ feeling of making decisions that may “mess up” your kids in the long run.
Mom (or dad) guilt may be temporary and unnecessary , like how I feel about my kids watching to much TV this week. Or it may be longer term, like whether we’ve enrolled them in enough activities, should put them in daycare or get an at home sitter.
Some moms feel a dread or a weight on their soul, and some get anxiety— like they need to adjust everything right now. Mom guilt is am i there enough? am I even doing this right? I know i told my kid I loved them three times today but what if they don't feel loved? And let's not get into the other moms opinions … clanking around in your head as you try to make it through the day.
Mom guilt has many origins, from personal insecurities to outside pressures from family, friends, social media, and other sources.
A quick scroll through Instagram will show hundreds of posts of what other moms seem to be doing so well, from educational activities to perfectly groomed toddlers posing sweetly.
Even formal recommendations, such as those from doctors and organizations, can create feelings of urgency.
Limit screen time, but show educational apps.
Let the kids get tons of exercise outside, but also keep a spotless house.
Take care of yourself, but not at the expense of getting on the floor with your kids to play.
The contradictions and expectations are limitless.
While both moms and dads can experience the characteristics of what’s come to be known as mom guilt, there may be some differences.
For example, based on one 2016 study of 255 parents, working moms may feel more guilt associated with work interfering with family than working dads do. Of course, each family’s experiences are unique.
What can all this internalized guilt lead to?
There is a tiny dose of mom guilt that can be productive. If your child really is eating total junk all day every day, and you start to feel that little inkling or gut feeling, that it may not be the best choice, that can be something to pay attention to.
But when mom guilt starts to inform your decision that you previously thought to be correct — based on what’s right for your own child and family — it becomes harmful.
When these feelings pop up, it’s possible that mom guilt is becoming a more all-encompassing issue in your life that needs to be addressed.
Take care of you so you can take care of them
Sometimes mom guilt is so pervasive that it inhibits your ability to parent, or function. If you feel your mom guilt is creating high levels of anxiety, it’s worth bringing up to your doctor, as it may indicate a more serious mental health condition such as postpartum anxiety or depression.
For many moms, it’s a matter of stopping the subconscious comparisons and regaining confidence in your own decisions for your family.
Overcome Mom Guilt By…
Letting go of guilt has to start with a commitment to stop beating yourself up over your choices and circumstances. Guilt gone awry turns into shame, and it is emotionally painful to constantly feel like you are a bad mom, a bad employee, or a bad friend. Instead, remember the reasons behind your choices. Every time you think to yourself, “I feel bad about ” replace that with, “I made that decision because _” and then move forward.
Revisit your values.
For years now, I have worked with parents who experience guilt over their parenting decisions or their hours at the office (or now, the hours plugged into work at home). One of the most grounding exercises people can engage in is getting clear about what their values and priorities are in life and then living life in accordance to them. So often people say one thing matters to them most, but they don’t live into those values.
For instance, if family time is at the top of your list but you don’t feel like you get enough of it, rid yourself of guilt by consciously finding ways to spend more time with your family. Practice saying “no” to unnecessary commitments, like volunteering at every school fund-raiser, going to a regular happy hour with coworkers (even virtually), or sitting on your neighborhood HOA board. Involve your children in tasks you already do, like completing chores, making meals, or taking the dog for a walk. Or use your weekends intentionally, dedicating blocks of time for family, rather than errands. This will likely entail setting clear boundaries in other areas of your life and constantly revisiting (and updating) your family values statement so that you are in integrity with what you want.
Ask for help.
One of the hardest things for many women to do is to ask for help. Instead of asking for help, a working mom may just be fueling her stress by trying to do it all herself — then realizing that it is just impossible. Asking for help takes practice, but once you take a vulnerable step in doing so, others around you will start doing the same. Reach out to neighbors, personal friends, parents of your kids’ friends, your own parents, your in-laws, the aftercare program at school, or carpool parents. Before you know it, no one has to feel bad for asking, and it becomes a reciprocal relationship in which everyone benefits.
Be “good enough” at home.
The idea of the “good enough parent” goes back decades. Attachment researchers, such as John Bowlby, discovered that parents need to be emotionally present, to comfort their child, attune to their child’s feelings, show delight when seeing their child, and support their child in order to have a healthy and secure parent-child attachment. In other words, they are caring for and connected with their child, without sacrificing their personal needs and health. We need to follow this example and lower the bar from the perfect mom who can do it all, who does everything she “should” be doing, and is praised for her selflessness to the mother who reclaims her own life and takes care of herself. Rather than putting additional pressure on yourself, remember the basics. Realize the connection you can still have with your children by simply being “good enough.”
Unfollow those that bring you down.
Watching other people vacation, share their family photos, or publicize their latest promotion on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram is enough to drive a working mom to tears. The time you take to scroll on social media for connection is a time that needs to lift you up. If you find that a person or group’s posts consistently bring you down, unfollow them.
Last, remember that guilt is inherently tied to empathy. Feeling guilty means you have compassion, care, and concern for those around you. Getting rid of your guilt does not mean that you are not a loving or kind mother. It means that the empathy behind the guilt will be realized. Instead of feeling stuck, the power of compassion can motivate you to connect with your work as well as find the joy in being a mom.