Mom guilt…that nagging voice in the back of your head that makes you believe that no matter how much you do, it isn’t enough. It’s the thing that makes you feel absolutely awful anytime you do anything for yourself, no matter how small. Mom guilt is what keeps you up overthinking any and everything in the middle of the night instead of sleeping.
What causes mom guilt? My guess…the unrealistic expectations that are put on moms. People call us super moms and being able to do everything is supposed to be a compliment and a given. We see examples on TV and on social media of women who seem to be perfectly balancing their lives and we buy into the fantasy or more accurately, the lunacy of it all.
Step One: Stop comparing yourself to other moms and your child to other children. I know that this is easier said than done. Just today while out with my daughter, I ran into a baby who’s 3 months younger than her that apparently is ready to potty train. The first thought that came to my mind was that I should be doing more to help my daughter get ready to potty train, which is ridiculous. She’s showing absolutely no signs of being ready to potty train and she’s only 18 months old. She has plenty of time and there is absolutely no rush. As moms, we want to do what’s best for our children and don’t want to think that our child is falling behind the curve so when we meet other moms and children who seem to be excelling at something that our child isn’t, its only natural to compare. It's important to know what milestones your child should be able to reach by certain ages, but try to compare your child to the ranges of what’s normal as opposed to one-off experiences that we have with other moms. They all develop at their own pace and for every mom that you envy because their child does something faster or better than your child, there’s a mom out there that feels the exact same way about you. Unless, you really truly feel as if your child is delayed and intervention is needed, encouraging your child and helping them to hit milestones is enough. Trying to force a development that isn’t ready to happen, is really just setting yourself up to feel like a failure.
Step Two: Stop worrying about being judged or how you will be perceived. I started my own business recently and decided that I should enroll my daughter in daycare 3 days a week. She’s down to one nap a day and getting anything done with her in the house started to feel impossible. When I went to enroll her, of course, I felt guilty for leaving her, but it was only partly because of the separation anxiety we would both feel because I knew that she would thrive in daycare and enjoy the daily activities and playtime with other kids. What really was the driving force for those guilty feelings was how people would perceive me enrolling my daughter at daycare even though I didn’t have an official job. The thought of other people questioning my decision or possibly thinking that I was a bad mom, made me question my decision and feel like I was a bad mom even though no one actually said anything to confirm my crazy thoughts. I’m sure there were some people that didn’t agree with my decision but I did what I believed to be best for my family and at the end of the day, the only people who have a say in what is best for my family are the people in my family! If there really is a reason to feel guilty, then go ahead, but don’t feel guilty about things that you can’t avoid or if the time away from your child is going to improve their lives in some way (this includes time for yourself so that they have a relaxed mama instead of an anxious one or a mom who isn’t resentful because she feels as if she has nothing left for herself).
Step Three: Lower your standards! This sounds absolutely awful at first glance, but allow me to explain. Stop trying to be perfect and do it all! There are only so many hours in the day and you can only realistically do so much. For me, not trying to be perfect meant that if my daughter had pizza for dinner a couple of nights a week instead of a healthy, balanced and home cooked meal, then it wasn’t the end of the world. If at the end of the night, her toys weren’t cleaned up and she woke up in the morning to the mess that she left, her childhood wouldn’t be ruined. Prioritize the things that need to be done daily that are most important to you and do them on a best efforts basis starting from the most important and working your way down the list. If you don’t get to a certain task today, resolve to do it tomorrow instead of beating yourself up for not getting it done today.
Step Four: Take comfort in the fact that all moms feel guilty. You are not alone. You are not the first mom to think that you’re inadequate and you won’t be the last. In fact, based on conversations I’ve had with other moms, I have yet to meet a mom that doesn’t have mom guilt. The very fact that you care enough about being a good mom to let it torture you with guilt means that you probably already are a good mom. Bad moms don’t worry that they’re bad moms. Having friends that I can honestly talk to about my feelings with has been helpful for me as well as belonging to different mom communities where I know other moms feel the same. Find your mom tribe, your support system, the ones who rather than judging you for doing something, tell you “me too girl; me too!”
Step Five: Repeat! The key to success in anything, whether it be exercise, doing well in school or at work is repetition and practice. The same way, you can’t expect to jump on a treadmill one day and expect to run a marathon the next day, you expect to ditch mom guilt without some work. It is possible that mom guilt will never completely go away but with practice, that voice will become quieter over time and you will have less doubt in yourself as a mom and feel confident that you really are doing the best job that you can.