There are so many things moms can and do feel guilty about. “Will I breastfeed or use formula?” when our children are newborns to “What college should we choose?” when our children are beginning to leave home.
Does this describe you?
We feel guilty when we choose fast food instead of a homemade dinner with organic ingredients; and when we give our children popcorn and plop them in front of the TV so we can get the housework done.
We wonder if we should work and leave our children with another caregiver instead of ourselves.
We ask ourselves if we should home-school or send them to school. Public or private? Either way, we’re sure to find ways to criticize ourselves, thinking it wasn’t the best choice after all.
We regret when we yell at our kids, and when we aren’t giving enough study and homework help.
…And the list of guilt-instillers goes on.
What Should You Do?
And if we don’t guilt ourselves enough, there’s someone else to do it for us. I remember asking my husband for a day off to go hiking. It led to lots of guilty feelings. He incredulously asked, “You want to do what?” Someone else asked, “Won’t your kids miss you?” And when mom said, “You want to pay someone to take care of your children so you can play?” I was pushed into a fiery field of MOM GUILT.
Fortunately, my mentor told me, “Do it anyway. You need to take care of yourself.” That time for me, he said, was just as important. And you know what? I came home feeling so refreshed and renewed that I decided to have a me-day every month. That time spent away from all the demands, taking time in the quiet beauty and awe of nature, helped me be a much better mom for my children.
Society dictates that moms should give mothering their all and put children first. It’s easy to think we’re not being good enough, not giving enough, and not doing enough. It is so easy to become a guilty mom.
“We found that moms from all walks of life have mommy guilt, which blows the ‘grass is greener’ thing right out of the water,” say Devra Renner and Aviva Pflock, co-authors of Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids.
But at what cost do we stand in this place of guilt?
Dealing with guilt is never easy, but there is help! Strategies for feeling less guilty include time management, organization, prioritization, self-care, learning how to make good choices and trusting yourself.
Here are some other steps to help with guilt:
- Recognize that you know yourself and your children better than anyone else. My client said this about her nomination to become president of her local Rotary Club: “Everyone tells me I shouldn’t do it because I’ll have even less time for my family. But I know how passionate my teenage children have become about giving back to the world. This will give them more opportunities to do just that, and I’ll be an example for them—now and when they’re adults.” President Donna became a person with more excitement and passion and, as contradictory as it may sound, she had more energy. She was feeding her heart and mind in a positive, self-affirming way which resulted in having more to give her family.
- Be kind to yourself. Know that this is a Universal Mom Problem. There’s not a mom out there who hasn’t fallen into the “I can’t do things for me” trap at some point. Give yourself permission to pamper yourself. It’s OK to put yourself as the priority sometimes.
- Seek the support of others. A cup of tea with a good friend while your children play together can do wonders. A life coach who specializes in moms can be a tremendous resource. Join a support group or a playgroup where moms are with each other and someone else is watching the children. And, it’s OK to seek professional help.
- Focus on the positive things you bring your family. Remember that laughter, creativity, structure, cooking, flexibility, courage, independence and love are among your gifts.
- Trust yourself to make good choices. There is nothing stronger than a mother’s intuition. Have you experienced that feeling in your gut that comes with little explanation, but for some reason, you knew that your child needed you? That’s intuition—and it can be very powerful!
When we beat ourselves up with feelings of guilt, the weight of those feelings can push us into becoming angry, frustrated, resentful people. Take the steps you need to give yourself the freedom to be and do what is right for you, and in turn, you will be doing what is right for your children.