I had 18 weeks of maternity leave before I went back to work. And though my daughter’s daycare was open until 6 pm, I felt so guilty that she was there I would rush to get her as early as 4 pm. Of course, she was fine, but all I could picture was her crying, looking for me all day and wondering if I was ever coming back. I was overwhelmed with juggling the new responsibilities of being a mom plus work and everything in between. And then I had to add managing mom guilt to the list.
What is mom guilt
Simply put, mom guilt is harboring feelings of inadequacy as a parent and insecurities about how you are raising your children. These feelings can also come from being judged by outside sources like family members, friends, acquaintances, or social media. While every mom has her own struggles, that little voice that makes you question your mommy skills can be the loudest when you think that…
You let your kids have too much screen time
You’re a failure because you couldn’t breastfeed your child
You don’t feed your kids enough healthy meals
You don’t keep your house neat enough
Your child isn’t hitting all their milestones
You don’t have your kids involved in enough activities
You want to enjoy some time alone
You’re not spending enough time with your kids
You are losing your cool with your kids too often
There are so many amazing things about motherhood. You get to experience a love so deep you didn’t even know existed. After becoming a mother, I saw the world totally different. I became more patient, compassionate, kind, and understanding. But a huge weight comes with being in charge of another human life. So you set high and mostly impossible expectations for yourself. Then when you don’t meet them, you feel like a failure as a mom.
Managing mom guilt
Rather than ruminating over what you could, should, would have done or comparing yourself to what other moms are doing, here are some tips to help you manage mom guilt.
Stay in touch with who you are
Being a mom can be all-consuming. It’s so easy to lose yourself. Spending all of your time with them, focused on their needs, and worrying about them isn’t healthy for you or them. While being a mom is a part of your identity, it does not define your identity. Before you became a mother, you were a woman with goals, dreams, ideas, interests, and hobbies. It’s important to make sure that you don’t forget about her.
I remember after I had Journey, my mom said that I wouldn’t be traveling so much anymore. Two months later, I was in Atlantic City for an overnight stay. And when Journey was 15 months, she took her first international flight. I didn’t let being a mom stop me from traveling, something that I enjoyed. I just had to do it differently. Sure, being a mom has changed you, probably in more ways than you ever imagined. But those other parts of you are still there. Take time to nurture them. You are many things. A mother is only one of them.
Give yourself grace
Just as you make mistakes as a person, you will make them as a mother. I spend at least 15-30 minutes a day picturing Journey as an adult on her therapist’s couch. What will she say about me and how she was raised? I’m so terrified of screwing her up! I know I’m a great mom, yet I still have these thoughts that I’m doing something wrong, or I should be doing more.
The next time you are beating yourself up for something you did or didn’t do, the house is too messy, you forgot the diapers, or the kids are eating cereal for dinner in front of the tv, make a choice. Choose to be patient with yourself. Choose to forgive yourself. Choose to be kind to yourself. Take a minute to see yourself through your child’s eyes. They have a gift for seeing the best version of you.
Ask for help
Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, you have a lot on your plate. And as much as you do for your kids, it never feels like enough. There’s this idea that no matter what it is, we should be able to handle it on our own. But the physical and emotional demands of being a mom are heavy. And there is no shame in asking for help when you are on the verge of losing it. Tap into your network of friends, family, and mom gang the next time you need a break. Outsource tasks like laundry, grocery shopping, and house cleaning to make your life easier without guilt, embarrassment, or judgment.
Having a bit of mom guilt is totally normal. But when it starts affecting your parenting and mental health, it may be time to speak to your doctor as it can indicate postpartum depression or anxiety. Asking for help does not make you a bad mom. It makes you a wise one.
Though you may not get rid of it entirely, managing mom guilt is possible. When you are worried that you are making too many parenting mistakes, remember that your kids need a good mom, not a perfect one. Be kind to yourself and remember that you are doing the best you can. And that is more than enough.