(Hint hint…it may not be your fault!)
Mom guilt is one of many silent struggles that many moms experience. It’s an unspoken guilt about all the things you believe you should be doing for your family, or even all the things you think you should be doing for yourself. Many moms, especially new moms, find themselves crippled by this, and it ends up sucking the joy out of motherhood if left unchecked. According to a study done by the company, Birchbox, 37% of mothers surveyed said they experience some form of mom guilt!
When we talk about why we experience mom guilt, I see many people put blame on the mom. They say things like “is the mom practicing enough self care?” “Is she connecting with her kids enough?” But I have a problem with that kind of thinking.
Moms who are right in the middle of a mom guilt battle are probably hyper-aware of their own shortcomings. Hence why they feel so guilty! In short, moms don’t need to hear yet ANOTHER reason why they’re doing a crappy job being happy!
As much as I am an advocate for self-care, there’s no amount of pedicures and bubble baths that can cure why a mom feels guilty. Instead, maybe we should take some time and analyze our influences.
Perhaps our influences are causing us to experience guilt.
You hold yourself to an unrealistic standard
A lot of people spend their younger years envisioning the kind of parent they want to be. They find other parents to look up to, they do their research, and even check out the parenting books in the library before welcoming their first child into the world. New parents know all of the rules and regulations of having a child, even if some of those “rules” aren’t really that important or accurate.
But when many parents have their first child, they realize many of those parenting books aren’t helpful when you’ve slept for 25 minutes and your baby wants to nurse for the 675th time that night. Some books paint a “unicorns and rainbows” kind of parenting experience, but you might feel like you escaped a war. When we don’t live up to the standard the parenting books gave us, we feel the stings of guilt.
The truth is, parenting is really freaking hard! Even if you only have one child, it’s hard! If figuring out how to mom is going over like a lead balloon for you, that doesn’t make you a failure. In fact, it makes you a human. It’s ok to feel guilty for not living up to your standard, but don’t feel guilty for changing your standard. If you need to change the bar for yourself, then do it!
If things aren’t coming together like the parenting books said they would for you, then give yourself a break. You didn’t fail! Having high standards is wonderful, but having impossible standards is toxic. Don’t poison yourself with impossible standards!
You compare yourself to other moms
Social media can be a powerful thing. It has started beautiful social movements such as the “Me Too” movement. But it’s also caused many people to compare themselves to others at a much higher level. Moms are especially vulnerable to this. Moms are bombarded with Instagram experts and Facebook mom groups started by mean people who make you feel like you’re not doing enough for your children. Once again, when you feel like you’re not living up to the standard of other moms, you feel guilt. When we spend our few free minutes taking in information about all the things we “should” be doing for our kids, we are left feeling inadequate in what we’ve already done.
The thing to remember when looking at these “perfect mom” Instagram pages and these “perfect mom” Facebook groups is that pictures only show a small glimpse of their reality. You don’t know if their toddler had a meltdown that morning, or if that mom was up all night nursing her newborn. You have no idea if that couple was arguing all evening, or if they’re struggling to pay their bills. Heck, that mom might have her own bag of mom guilt that she’s carrying! All you see if a picture. Pictures may say 1,000 words, but that’s not enough words to tell their whole story.
Beware comparing yourself to the perfect Instagram mom, because in reality, she doesn’t exist. All moms struggle, but most won’t share it on their social media accounts.
Related Reading: “3 Way To Be More Present In The Important Moments”
You’re trying to reparent yourself
Perhaps you were raised in a tumultuous household. Maybe you were abused as a child, or you grew up in the foster care system, or maybe your parents just disciplined you in a way you don’t agree with. Trying to instill completely different values in your children that you didn’t grow up with is very tough!
When someone is is trying to parent in a completely different way than how they were raised, that might mean coming to grips with some of your childhood traumas. For many people, this might require you to reparent yourself in some way.
What does it mean to “reparent” yourself? In short, you’re teaching yourself the things about life your parent’s didn’t do. For example, maybe your parents yelled at you relentlessly, and you’ve set out to not repeat that cycle. But as soon as your child does something to rub you the wrong way, you yell.
Oof. That could be really triggering for you! That could easily make you feel like you’re not doing any better than your upbringing. If that’s you, then that’s a perfectly valid reason to be experiencing guilt.
If that is something you are experiencing, remember that reparenting yourself can be a long process. It requires dredging up a lot of your past hurts, and practicing a lot of mindfulness. This is difficult work! If and when you slip up, give yourself grace. Also, if you find this to be an incredibly difficult process to do on your own, consider seeking professional help.
Our Mama Village is a WONDERFUL resource if you are in the business of raising your children differently than you were raised! She has a few wonderful Instagram posts on reparenting yourself that is so worth the look! I personally found this to be so profound in my own life, and I hope it is for you too!
Too many people have told you what you can and can’t do
Moms in today’s day and age are inundated with more information than ever! This can be amazing, but also damaging. I remember Google-ing every single newborn question during the middle of the night feedings. At one point, I had three pages of Google results with all the links clicked! You might think I must be a wealth of knowledge after doing that, right? WRONG!
I was mentally drained! I didn’t know what was the right answer for anything! One parenting site said I should only give my child organic formula, one site said the generic formula was fine, and yet another site made me feel like the devil for having to formula feed my son! Even with a worlds worth of information at my fingertips, I felt dumber than ever.
The internet can make you feel guilty for choosing one side, and just as guilty for choosing another. It’s as if no matter what you choose, you’re wrong! What the internet doesn’t tell you is that there’s nothing wrong with choosing!
There will always be a pool full of people with polarizing opinions. Some of them are anonymous people on the internet, and some of them may be your own family members! But at the end of the day, were they the ones who bore your child? Did they sign the adoption papers? Were they the ones who woke up in the middle of the nights for feedings? Did they sign them up for soccer, cook and clean up meals, wipe nasty butts, pick boogers, and cuddle away the tears? Nope, you did!
So when it comes to the polarizing opinions making you feel the stings of mom guilt, make the decision that sits the best with you, and let the haters hate. Mama, it’s your choice and nobody else!
Bottom Line: Comparison is the thief of joy
One thing all these points have in common is this: comparison.
You might either be comparing yourself to the perfect mom on Instagram, your messed up upbringing, your family member, that one mom at church who keeps giving you unsolicited advice, or even to your own expectations. When we fall short of those comparisons, we can find ourselves bombarded with mom guilt.
When we live our parenting years comparing to anyone and anything, we are in turn robbing ourselves of those subtle joys that come with parenthood. The mom that is feeling guilt for formula feeding her child could be robbing herself of the joy of bonding with her child. The mom that is feeling guilt for yelling at her kid, even when she vowed she would do differently than how she was raised, could be robbing herself of a huge growing opportunity.
I could just say “stop comparing yourself to other people” and be done with this, but frankly, that’s not helpful. Other influences will always be out there, and they can be of value to you. But don’t let your comparisons rob you of the joys of becoming the mom you want to be. At the end of the day, your kid doesn’t want the Instagram mom, or your family, or the perfect mom you made up in your mind. Your children want you!
Want more information on how to overcome mom guilt? Check out my blog post, “5 Ways To Overcome Mom Guilt”