Being a mom can sometimes feel like navigating a minefield. We are constantly bombarded by warnings, opinions, advice, and judgement about everything from our appearance to our child’s behavior. It can feel impossible to make the “right” choice or miserable trying to please everyone but ourselves. We so badly want what is best for our kids that we worry that whatever we do is somehow lacking. I understand those deep feeling of love for our kids and wanting to do right by them, but I’ve come to see how “mom guilt” works against those goals in so many ways. Here are five things you can stop feeling guilty about right now:
- Asking for help. I’m starting with the obvious. How often do we hear about the importance of asking for help, and yet how hard is it to actually do? When I feel resistance to asking someone for help, I remind myself about how I would feel if that person asked me to do something for them. We are often happy to do something for another that feels hard to ask for for ourselves, but it gets easier with practice. Asking someone for a favor can also help them to feel more comfortable asking you for something they need, which can lead to a richer and more satisfying relationship.
- Needing a break. Our society has an expectation that moms be superhuman. There are all sorts of standards we are expected to meet, with little to no built-in support. And when we fall short of this impossible task, it feels like our fault. Don’t forget that moms are people too. Sacrificing our own health and well-being is not required to show our love and care for others. Taking care of yourself is good parenting. Not only does it allow you to be there for your kids both now and in the future, it also sets the example for them in how to live their lives going forward. Our children will see us figuring out ways to nurture ourselves, even in the midst of chaos, and draw on those lessons as their own lives get more complicated.
- How you take care of your baby. Breastmilk or formula. Work or stay at home. Cry it out or bedsharing. It seems like every parenting decision is a loaded one. There are many reasons you might feel pressured to chose one over another, but they all exist because they have worked for somebody at some time. It’s ok if something that worked for someone else doesn’t work for you. It’s ok to not follow a baby expert’s advice if you don’t like it. It’s ok to try something, change your mind, and try something else. You are the expert on your baby and your situation. Do your best to find out accurate information and be safe, but don’t feel bad if a choice isn’t working for you. Your baby needs that loving connection with you more than they need any particular method of child-rearing.
- Letting your child do (fill in the blank). This is a variation of the previous theme. The judgement doesn’t go away as you baby grows into a child. The more we can focus on supporting each other and understanding that other people are dealing with life circumstances we can’t even imagine, the better it will be for everyone. It’s easy to seek out other’s flaws to help you feel better about yourself, or to see a perfect picture of someone else’s life and feel worse. Make it a daily practice to trust that other people are doing the best they can, and you are too, even when it doesn’t feel that way. I love this quote from the book How to Keep House While Drowning by K.C. Davis, “And that’s the funny thing about doing your best; it never feels like your best at the time. In fact, it almost always feels like failing when you’re in it.”
- Your mental health. Did you know that emotional complications such as depression and anxiety are the most common complication of the childbearing year? Even if you don’t experience these symptoms, the challenges of parenting can bring up uncomfortable emotions in all of us. Past traumas and current stressors make them even more difficult to deal with. Shame is quick to come by, but it doesn’t make anything better. Feeling overwhelmed is a normal response to an overwhelming situation. Having unmet needs doesn’t mean you are unworthy of having your needs met. Stop waiting until you have it all together to feel better about yourself. The fact that you exist makes you worthy of care and compassion, even if the only person giving it to you is yourself. Things won’t always be this hard, but blaming yourself for struggling makes it a hundred times worse. When those feelings of guilt start creeping in, take a deep breath, imagine you were talking to a sister or friend, and give yourself the same compassion you would give them.
Want more practical suggestions for responding to unwelcome advice? Check out this blog post! Ready to explore more options for connection and well-being? Learn more about my services or book a free virtual coffee chat.