Even if you haven’t heard of this, you probably have felt this if you are a mother. Mom guilt is the thought and pervasive feeling of “I’m not good enough,” “only if,” and “supposed to.” It’s the guilt about your shortcomings, weaknesses, and failures that have or might have affected your child in some way. The guilt of not being enough as a parent, not doing things right, and making bad decisions.
Mom guilt may be temporary, like how you let your child have too much screen time, or leaving the store with your kid crying because you can’t buy the toy they want. But guilt can also be long-term, such as having doubts regarding the school you enrolled your child in, or for being so busy as a working mom that you rarely have time to play with your toddler. But why do you feel guilty? There are reasons for this, and below we’re going to discuss two of them.
The first reason for mom guilt is because you love your family. You love your family so much that you don’t want to compromise. You want the best for them, and if ever there is a greater word for best, that should be it. And often, because of unavoidable circumstances, anxieties, postpartum depression, and stress that creates havoc in your emotions, this negative feeling is getting the most out of you and hinders your “best” from happening.
Secondly, you often take the blame. Whenever something happens to your child, you take it upon yourself. You blame yourself for not being a good mother, for not paying attention, and for not making a good decision. It is easy to just place the burden on yourself than to point it out to your loved ones. You feel guilty even if you take a nap after an exhausting day that the time you spent for yourself could have been time spent cleaning up your home.
All of these things can cause self-doubt, lower self-esteem, guilt, and shame that might bring you down and eventually lead to negativity and despair. That is why guilt doesn’t bring any good. It keeps you on edge, giving you a nagging feeling of contempt and being useless. You feel like you’re being judged when you fall short, which might lead to depression.
However, there is a guilt that can be productive. It’s when your guilt starts to tell you that what you’re thinking is actually the opposite of what is right, and starts to motivate you to change for the better. For example, seeing your child eating too much junk and not eating greens may give you a gut feeling that it’s not the best for your child, prompting you to take note of it and provide your child with a well-balanced diet. Guilt can be good if it is used for something good. It has the potential to change you and help you change things for the best.
How to Overcome Mom Guilt
Mom guilt shouldn’t hold you back from enjoying motherhood and giving your family the best you can. Be intentional in setting yourself free, and follow through with these steps to help you overcome mom guilt.
1. Acknowledge your guilt. Be honest and admit that yes, you are feeling guilty. This is because, in the first place, you cannot be set free of anything that you don’t accept to be keeping a tight rein on you.
2. Examine the guilt. If you can, be specific about the things you are guilty about, whether you are feeling guilty for raising your voice at your toddler for spilling the milk, or when your son got sick, or not talking to your child. What is the reason behind your guilt? Does the guilt come from external factors, or is it filling your heart with despair, dragging you down?
3. Ask yourself, “Is the guilt bringing me well or not? Can this guilt be used to something good, or is it dragging me down to despair?” Does the guilt make you want to change or make you hopeless?
4. If the guilt is pointing you to change, start the process now. You don’t have to wait for tomorrow. The perfect time is now. You may apologize now and then create a plan to change your parenting style. It might be a long process as you accept true forgiveness, but a little progress is still progress as long as you use your guilt for improvement.
5. If the guilt is leading you to depression, let it go. Letting go is easier said than done, but it is a critical element in overcoming mom guilt. But how can you let go? First, feel the guilt. Experience the emotion because you cannot let go of anything that you haven’t fully experienced yet. To heal, there has to be a wound to heal. While it seems difficult, you will survive from that emotion. And as you are experiencing the guilt, lean back from it. Remind yourself that guilt doesn’t define you. What you are feeling right now is not who you are. It is just an emotion that shouldn’t negatively affect your well-being. Lastly, letting go is a process. It is a choice you have to make over and over again.
Think about what things could be like if you aren’t feeling that way. Think of how you would feel if you aren’t carrying your burdens. Doesn’t it sound far better than holding on to the heavy burdens that you cannot change and do anything about? Imagine the feeling of release, and choose to let go. To keep you from experiencing mom guilt, here are some of the barriers you can put up so you can hinder it from coming to you.
1. Stop comparing yourself to other mommies. What you see on social media and the movies is not what everything there is. Don’t compare your credibility as a mother and parenting realities to those superficial things. You won’t ever find a mother that has it all figured out. Instead of comparing yourself to others, why not spend some quality time with your children?
2. Focus on your wins. When a feeling of inferiority starts to creep on you, remember your accomplishments. Think about what you have gone through, and pat yourself on the back. You have your unique, effective way of parenting.
3. Clean your trusted circle. Are you surrounded by people that have the same values as you? If not, narrow down the people in your group with whom you asked for advice and made decisions with. Whether you like it or not, the words of the people around you affect your decisions as a parent, your emotions, and your well-being, so surround yourself with trusted people.
4. Listen to your intuition. Mother’s instinct is true, and you can prove it. This intuition can help you in giving the best for your family and be a source of wisdom in times of trials, especially when your little one can’t convey their feelings yet in words.
5. Listen to your children. Children know best if you have to be guilty or not in any aspect of your parenting. They are the only ones that can tell you whether you are making good decisions, if you have to change, or to stay exactly as you are.
6. Guard your heart. Expect that there will be arrows going your way, questioning your decisions and beliefs. Challenges may come, but stand your guard and believe in yourself. Sometimes, these arrows are healthy and may help you be the best mommy. You can also guard your heart by avoiding situations that will make someone criticize you.
Motherhood is such a blessing that nobody else can ever take from you. Don’t miss a single moment by worrying whether you are doing things right. The only way to know the right things is to experience everything. And to experience everything, you need to make mistakes at some point. But don’t let this define you and hold you back from being the best mom you can be. Guilt is just an emotion, and emotion is nothing if not turned into action.
Mom, you are doing better than you think you are. You are enough. You are appreciated. You are loved. And you are the best mom your family can ever wish for. Only you can love your kids the way you are doing right now, so don’t let anyone or anything put your parenting fire out.
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