Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced “mom guilt.” Everyone? Yep.
Mom guilt is that lovely feeling where you convince yourself you’re doing it all wrong and the consequences are sure to be detrimental when in reality, quite simply, it’s not that bad.
Anything can be turned into mom guilt and we all experience it. I even went to a conference recently with a session on this topic.
If you’re a working mom, the struggle is often in finding that work-life balance. “Should I take time off for this event or that sickness? How are my kids doing while I’m traveling every other weekend? Should I quit my job and stay home? But I love my job! But they’re only little once.” And on and on.
Stay at home moms don’t have it any easier. The struggle becomes finding a balance between home and kids. “I swear tomorrow we are going to get on a real schedule. Laundry on Mondays. Crafts after lunch.” And then the kids get up and chaos ensues and before you know it hubby is walking in the door and you have no idea what to make for dinner. So the next day you focus on the house, the kids spend time entertaining themselves, and now you feel guilty about that.
I’d venture to say mom guilt starts from the very beginning. I remember when I was pregnant with Liam and one afternoon I realized all I had eaten that day was a package of Starbursts and a Coke. Suddenly I felt like the worst mom ever because I was depriving my baby of essential nutrients. Then he was born and mom guilt went into overdrive!
I questioned just about everything I did, and I was convinced that I was the only mom on the planet struggling the way I did. I felt very alone.
Then as he got older we got into a routine and figured some stuff out together. My mom guilt has evolved from one thing to another, but it hasn’t gone away. I don’t think it will either. My grandma is going to be 90 in January and still feels her mom guilt from when she was raising her boys.
So, what do we need to know and how can we make mom guilt work for us instead of against us?
Most likely whatever your mom guilt looks like today, won’t be a big deal tomorrow.
So why does it feel like such a big deal? Because we love them and we want the absolute best for them. We want to be able to be everything for everyone and we want to be perfect at all of it.
Guess what? Ain’t happening, people. None of us are perfect. Not even that super hot Pinterest mom down the street. I promise she’s got issues, too.
As you sit there going over the day and everything you feel bad about, your kids have already gotten over it. The next morning they are going to wake up and be your happy crazy little people again. So breathe and move on.
Channel your inner dad.
Dads don’t seem to have the struggle of dad guilt. I’m sure they deal with their own inner monsters, but in my experience those things are different from mom’s. Dads don’t seem to be bothered at all that the kids have had macaroni and cheese three nights in a row or that he was 3 minutes late picking them up from school.
Meanwhile moms are over here like, “I know it’s that overload of orange cheese powder that has made the toddler so hyperactive lately and it’s probably stunting their growth! And now our kids have abandonment issues because he was late picking them up from school! We’re doing it all wrong!!!”
Take a cue from dads, ladies. Let the little things be little things.
Remember, crazy times are some of the best times.
How many times have you sat around the table with friends and family, sharing stories, and someone starts with, “This one time, the house was so clean and the kids were on their best behavior and everything was perfect…”
That’s probably not the way the story starts unless it ends with, “and that’s the first time I used a fire extinguisher.”
The truth is, no one is going to remember the times that life seems perfect. The best stories have some level of chaos in them. Those are going to be some of your kids favorite memories. And those are the stories that give the new moms around us a little hope and reassurance that if you can survive it, they can too.
Know the difference between feeling guilty and being guilty.
Feeling guilty for raising your voice is one thing. Being guilty for what you said when you raised your voice is another.
Most often our mom guilt is a result of just feeling guilty. But there are times when big things happen and we really do mess up. In those times, be honest and apologize to those you’ve wronged. Tell your kids when you’ve messed up with them and lead by example. Own up to your mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and do better next time. This not only reinforces that you love them, but also shows them the importance of admitting our mistakes.
Remember to forgive yourself as well.
The next time your mom guilt rears it’s ugly head, I hope you’ll remember some of these things and maybe, just maybe, you can laugh about your day instead of beating yourself up over it.