There are days when mom guilt grabs a hold of us and leaves little room for anything else. Every decision we make, the way we parent, and how we proceed with our day is impacted by the all-to-consuming feelings of guilt. A friend once described mom guilt as “having the ability to move mountains.”
As someone who has teenagers, I can tell you that mom guilt does not go away. Even when you think you have it under control and it no longer has power over you, it sneaks up and gently reminds you: it’s still there.
As women, we’re often our own worst critics. We don’t need to hear criticisms from others because we’re the first to condemn ourselves. What does your internal chatter sound like if you drop off your crying baby at daycare or you’re running late for your child’s baseball game? I’m sure it’s one negative critique after the other, giving the guilty feelings space to run rampant. Mom guilt permeates for several reasons, but we need to reframe the way we see it.
Moms Describing Mom Guilt
When talking to mothers, I ask them to describe their response to mom guilt. They share that they use positive affirmations and mantras. When guilty feelings start rushing in, they combat them with speeches that sound like this: Stop, I have nothing to feel guilty about. I am a good mother. I am not perfect, nor am I meant to be. I am enough in my imperfectness.
Beautiful! We should be armed with this type of speech because these statements are true. However, it doesn’t always work or quell the overwhelming feelings of guilt. In fact, we feel guilty for even having mom guilt. That’s how crazy mom guilt is! You can’t even have mom guilt and not feel guilty about feeling guilty.
I started to explore mom guilt, and I embraced a new way to deal with it. I reframed it since my pep talks didn’t have the long-lasting effect I was hoping for.
Here are the three simple steps I use every time mom guilt decides to come visit.
1. Name the Mom Guilt
Name it means you simply recognize that you’re feeling consumed by guilt. Name it and don’t jump in and try to change anything. Not yet at least. This is the hardest part but the most necessary if we plan to upend the constant feelings of guilt. Sitting with the uncomfortable feeling and naming it is a must.
For example, pretend you are five minutes late to your son’s baseball game, and you feel terrible. Don’t jump to fast-forward mode yet. Sit with this feeling; recognize what this is and what it’s saying. That critical voice inside can only be quieted when we sit and face it.
You are likely telling yourself things like, I should’ve managed my time better. Why did I say yes to that last-minute phone call? Ugh, I’m so exhausted. Allow these feelings in and just create awareness around them. No judgments or criticisms. Just observe it and name it.
2. “I believe this because…”
Once you name it, complete this statement, I believe this because _____. This is your chance to unpack the “why” behind these feelings and, more importantly, the subconscious beliefs you’re holding onto regarding what it means to be a “good mom.” We all have this rule book we adopted throughout our lives based on our unique experiences.
Consider: How did your own mother act growing up? Did she sacrifice everything, in the name of being a good mom? Did you have a mother who was distant, and as a result, you adopted the mindset that you will never allow your children to feel that same absence? How do you see other mothers? Do you applaud the mom who never complains? Is there reverence for the mom who always appears calm, cool, and collected? Do you compare yourself to this ideal? This moment of reflection will allow you to identify the root cause of your mom guilt. You will quickly see its origins.
3. “Is it true?”
And then ask, “Is it true?” Are these beliefs that you have unconsciously subscribed to true? Is it true that good moms are never late? Is it true that to be a good mom your needs should be secondary to others? Is it true that a good mom should never complain, or has that image been fed to you? Is it true that you’re experiencing overwhelm because you’re not doing a good job? Is the calm, cool, and collected mom a real thing? Asking, “Is it true?” after you’ve recognized these unconscious beliefs will allow you to see the mistruths you’re holding onto.
Putting It All Together
Walking through these three steps is a constant practice. I do it every time mom guilt grabs a hold of me. And each time, I’m surprised at what comes up. But as I continue to do the work and discover some of these deep-seated beliefs, the better I get at spotting mom guilt and minimizing its hold on me.
Mom guilt doesn’t serve anyone. When we’re consumed with guilt, we’ll either overcompensate in an attempt to make the hard feelings go away, or it sucks all the energy out of us and we numbly move forward placing one foot in front of the other. In either scenario, your children are not getting the best version of you.
Sit in the discomfort of mom guilt. Naming it, completing the statement “I believe this because ___“, and then asking, “Is it true?” can help you manage mom guilt. I don’t know that it ever goes away, but by learning to manage it, we can minimize its hold on us. The goal is to not be consumed by mom guilt so we can get back to the good stuff, parenting imperfectly and giving yourself grace.