How to get rid of Mom guilt
We’ve all had moments we’re not proud of. You might have had two such moments before lunch. And that’s okay! Today, we’re talking about cutting out the guilt that often tries to walk hand-in-hand with being a mother. I know working moms who are guilty that they don’t see their kids 24/7. I know stay-at-home moms who feel they should be loving their days with their kids, but feel guilt because they yelled too much, didn’t clean anything in the house, and wished at least 6 times that they had the day all to themselves.
I have a policy that I don’t bad-talk myself about my mom skills. This didn’t happen overnight, but it’s one of the best choices I have made towards my sanity and happiness as a mom. I don’t beat myself up over what could happen, what I did that was so bad and why I didn’t do more of something else. I try not to dwell on the past with guilt, shame, or negative feelings. Whenever I notice myself falling into the habit, I nip it in the bud right away.
Mom guilt has similarities to other types of guilt
During a recent training for reducing racism in my community and building connections between people of all races, I had one of the most profound epiphanies about guilt- in addition to learning a ton about myself and our nation. If you live in the Asheville area, I highly recommend this program. The presenters were talking about ‘white guilt’ and it was acknowledged that a the majority of us in the room felt it. But who could blame us? We had just learned new things about structural racism, and it made all the white people in the room feel pretty bad. We felt guilty for not seeing hidden racism, guilty for being white, and guilty for not having done anything about it sooner. But what one speaker said made the biggest impact on me.
She said, “Your guilt doesn’t help anyone. Your guilt serves no purposeful action. If you’re stuck in guilt, you can’t help eliminate racism.” She was right. Sitting around feeling guilty doesn’t do me or anyone any good. Guilt makes me feel bad, which sucks, but that’s about it. It causes me to mope around and think of other things that I feel bad about. When I feel guilty, I’m inclined to hide from the world and not get things done. So in order to be of any help to anyone, I have learned to move through my feelings of guilt and into action. Since that workshop, when I feel instances of white guilt, I acknowledge the feelings and then ask myself how I can contribute to towards a better, more equitable future for everyone.
Could handling guilt with a open and observant attitude help address the underlying issue behind the guilt? I think so. Let’s bring this back to motherhood and mom guilt.
I was having trouble sleeping last night, and I finally realized it was because I was wallowing in mom-guilt. Once I realized it, I chose to do something about it. I follow these 4 tips to eliminate guilt.
4 Tips for How to Stop the Mom Guilt and Move On
1. Don’t bad-talk yourself. If you feel the urge, I want you to say to yourself, ‘that’s not true,’ and come up with one real, clear reason why it isn’t true and repeat it to yourself (out loud or internally). Negative self-talk is no good. One of my favorite thinkers, a zen Buddhist teacher Cheri Huber says, “If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago.” She is the author of There is Nothing Wrong with You; Going Beyond Self-Hate, which is a fabulous book.
Upon stopping the negative self-talk, replace it with Self-compassion. If you don’t show yourself the same compassion that you show your best friends or kids, I would like you to try. Listen…we are all tying to be the best moms we can be, charting new territory in this information age world that is radically different from the world of our mothers and grandmothers. Maybe you let your kids watch too much Netflix today. Maybe your kid had mac n cheese for the third time this week. Maybe you forgot to buy your kid the next size pants until all her pants were highwaters (or maybe I’m the only one who did that). Well, let’s just stop criticizing ourselves for what we wish we did and start accepting what we did and being OK with it. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have goals, but if you want to have goals, I want you to find a productive, kind way to achieve them.
2. Stop replaying & magnifying the event and let it go. Is there anything you can change now? Anything you will do differently. Oh well, accept it, choose your new action- if you need one, and move on.
3. Have realistic expectations for your day and your efforts. I know to many moms who hold themselves up on a pedestal of perfectionism. I am a recovered perfectionist (well, in some areas of life I’m still recovering). But in terms of being a mom, I don’t hold unrealistic expectations for myself. My expectations are unique to me- and I consciously redirect my thoughts whenever I notice I’m comparing myself to another mom. I do what I can do, not what the ‘average’ mom might do or what celebrity moms are doing. I am the only one who can truly judge what is enough and what I can handle and what I can’t. I don’t try to clean the house, have great quality time with my child, work in my garden and make a great dinner all in one day. Usually I accomplish 2 of those things and that’s it. I do what I can do and consider that everything else must have been optional or unnecessary.
4. Take action towards a goal that you have. When you are practicing self-compassion and feeling better, reflect upon this question: Is there a message in the guilt about something you truly would like to change in your life? Do you actually want to feed your kid healthier meals or carve out time on the weekends for self-care and me time so you’re not so cranky with your kids during the week? If so, then find one small action that you can take that is moving you towards your goal. The key is to remain kind towards yourself as you attempt something new and not to expect that you’ll get it all right the first time- who ever quit smoking or started running and kept at it the first time they tried? Very few of us can pick a habit and instantly we do it all the time perfectly. That’s just not how we are wired as humans. So be gentle with yourself if you chose to start trying something new. If healthy eating is your goal, start with trying out one new healthy recipe a week.
If your guilt is accompanied with anxiety, and it seems like both are overwhelming, you may need to talk to a professional. Postpartum depression is very real and very treatable. I’ve had it and it was not fun. The sooner you get it treated, the sooner you can feel better and live a better life.
Comment below and let me know which tip you are going to implement.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional and cannot give out medical or psychological advice. Seriously mama, if you are feeling a crippling amount of guilt or low self-esteem, please seek the help of a professional. Mental health is critically important. You owe it to yourself and your kids to seek a professional if your mental health is impacting your daily activities.
The information contained in this website or provided through our blog, e-mails, or services not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment that can be provided by your own physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, therapist, mental health practitioner, licensed dietitian or nutritionist, spiritual counselor, or any other licensed or registered health care professional.