Mom guilt can be paralyzing. It can leave us birthers of children stuck on a hamster wheel of trying to be superhuman, all the while slowly depleting ourselves of anything that resembles life outside of our kiddos. It’s time to cut out the mom guilt for good, understand why it’s a thing, how to manage it, and how to let it go.
Why Do Moms Feel So Guilty
Mom guilt starts before our children even have a birthdate. If you don’t believe me, then think back to your pregnancy. Did you ever grab a Starbucks coffee and get weird looks from strangers because you “shouldn’t” be drinking caffeine? Were you ever at the grocery store and got reprimanded for carrying a few grocery bags to the car because you aren’t supposed to be lifting? Oh here’s one: any runner mamas out there who were gawked at for running with a big old baby belly? All of these can make a new mama feel guilty, guilty, guilty.
And then the baby comes. Guilt over nursing versus formula fed. Am I interacting with my newborn enough? Did I read enough books and sing enough lullabies when they were infants? You let your little ones watch TV?! What kind of monster are you?! The opinions, suggestions, and judgments are never ending for moms and unless you have the resilience of a Marvel character, that usually ends up in a diaper bag full of guilt.
Moving along in life, like the door jam that marks the age and heights of our children, come the stacks of guilt. How many sports do your kids play? Do you cut your kids sandwiches into flowers (okay, I’ve been guilty of this a time or two)? What level of book is your second-grader reading? And the icing on the cake arrives when the college conversations come about. Is your kid going to a four-year school, a junior college, or going straight to work? Honestly, moms are kind of their own worst enemies by constantly comparing themselves to other families.
We are bombarded with commercials, TV shows, and even our peers who are always seemingly doing things “better” than us. It’s no wonder we can find ourselves toting around a big G word (guilt) next to the carseats in our oversized SUV. We need to understand that mom guilt comes from how we look at things. It’s up to us to realize how unnecessary and hurtful it is to be a guilt-laden mama. And then, we need to squash that guilt (and comparisons) like a bug on our minivan windshield.
How to Manage Your Mom Guilt
There are several ways to take control of your mom guilt. First off, you need to recognize where it stems from: primarily, outside sources. It comes from your well-meaning family and friends, your advice-giving neighbor, your favorite Netflix series, and definitely from Pinterest. I mean, how many Pinterest fails have you had trying to create a perfectly themed birthday party? I personally have lost count and I have literally tried to pull off the best Frozen-themed event to absolutely no avail. Even my blow-up Olaf figure slumped over with embarrassment. (Okay, that’s not totally true. I think someone turned off the light switch to the power outlet. You get my point.)
But here’s the other realization you need to understand: mom guilt may come primarily from outside sources but managing it is an inside job. It is up to us mamas to quiet the voices of guilt in our head. It is our job when someone questions what we are doing with our children to practice our inner knowing and confidence that we know what’s right for our kiddos. What might have worked beautifully for another child may be absolutely wrong for yours. And who would know that best? Mama knows best! Not just any mama, your kid’s mama. That’s you. So, instead of beating yourself up for making different decisions for your children, trust yourself that you are a smart, intuitive mom who knows what she’s doing.
Here are five other practical ways to manage your mom guilt:
- Be careful who you listen to – Find a few women who you really respect and who you think lead a pretty balanced life. Ask for their advice if you are seeking an answer. Make sure they are like-minded with you. If they aren’t, respectfully disengage with conversations that will leave you feeling guilt-ridden and like a loser mom.
- Read mom books – This might seem like a no-brainer but I’m not referring to the How to Discipline Your Preschooler book series. Those books are fantastic and helpful, but if you are dealing with overall mom guilt, then go for the books that make you laugh so hard you pee your pants a little. The stories of women who write honestly about both the epic highs and the lowest of lows of being a mom. Personally, #IMomSoHard had me belly laughing from the dedication to the epilogue.
- Find a tribe – This was something I wish I had learned a little earlier. I am just learning this now and my kids are 7 and a half (times two, since I have twins) and 4. I felt alone so often. I always had friends but I needed a tribe. The difference between a friend and a tribe is that friends can be people you have known your whole life. A tribe is a group that comes together because they are in similar places in life now. My life as a 20-year-old looked way different than it does now, so I needed a group that “got me” now. Like, today. Being able to call or text someone who completely understands what you are going through because they too are going through it can be so comforting and helpful. It can also give you a darn good laugh realizing that, in the big picture, it doesn’t matter that you just washed a huge load of clothes with your kid’s shorts that had crayons left in them. Been there, done that!
- Don’t take yourself so seriously – Honestly, you are doing a great job, mama! Let me tell you, if you are the mom who drops your kids off at school with your hair in a bun and a coffee stain on your shirt, then rock it! I was that mom until my kids could finally dress themselves and brush their own teeth and hair (which literally only happened in the last few months). Give yourself grace that every season of your life is different. Some seasons are a little more trying and others seem to be smooth sailing. So keep stain remover pens in your car, extra Kleenex in your glove box, and never leave home without baby wipes (even if your kids are potty trained).
- Let it go – No, this is not a reference to my previously mentioned Frozen-themed birthday party, but the slogan (and song) is fitting. Holding on to mom guilt will keep you trapped in a cycle of feeling bad about yourself. And when we feel bad about ourselves, we are not living up to our full potential. We aren’t being the best moms, the best at our jobs, and the best versions of ourselves when we are shackled by guilt. So take a deep breath, tune out the noise that you know makes you feel bad about yourself, and tune into what you know inside: that you are a rockstar mom, even if your car does not adorn a honor roll student bumper sticker. Actually, if your car does have one, please kindly remove it (sorry, I couldn’t resist).