So, why mom guilt? A few weeks ago a sweet reader on my instagram commented on a candid pic I snapped of the 4 kids and I on our way out the door to the gym. Whenever I let my laziness get the best of me, the KIDS will whine for me to take them to the gym. Let me tell you, it’s super annoying in the cutest way. They make great accountability partners <wink wink>. This gal commented that she wanted to be healthy and active and workout in the gym but her guilt for leaving her kids in the childcare was too much. She said, “ugh, mom guilt”.
You know that feeling too, right? Maybe not for taking your kids to the gym, but maybe if you’ve snapped at them. Or maybe if you haven’t been consistent with feeding them healthy foods or allowing too much screen time. Guilt may creep in if you’re divorced and afraid that your kids are suffering in various ways from what “damage” you’re telling yourself it’s causing. Or maybe it’s guilt from past mistakes that you just. can’t. shake. You could feel guilty for not feeling like you enjoy playing with your kids. Or maybe you feel guilt for not getting to spend enough time with them if you’re a working mom. Or even the opposite, maybe you feel guilt for not contributing financially to the family. We all know this type of guilt, right? I think the root of why we can see so much guilt is because we place such a tremendous pressure on ourselves since we value motherhood so much. We give so much meaning and love to this calling that we make a point to take every opportunity to notice just how much we’re doing a terrible job. Right? We tell ourselves that all our efforts are wrong. And not enough. So, this guilt we feel is simply from noticing the tension of the gap from where we are compared to perfection. Which perfection is a joke for us mamas. We know this. (I’ve absolutely loved listening to Jodie Moore’s podcasts for the last year. If you want to change the way you think and believe by becoming a happier and healthier woman then she’s your girl!)
Let me chime in here, I don’t struggle with mom guilt very often. I make a lot of decisions that cause me problems and I struggle with guilt in other areas of my life (like social media! How the photos I share might cause women to expect they should be the same. Another topic for another day?) but not so much mom guilt. I wasn’t raised in a perfect home and I have a tribe of women who’ve offered me a real sense of perfectly flawed motherhood. But, I sometimes still find myself struggling in my mind with embracing ALL of my inadequacies as a mother. Let’s jump back to my sweet reader’s problem with her choosing to not exercise at the gym because of the mom guilt she feels with leaving her kids in the gym’s childcare. I obviously don’t have this type of mom guilt while exercising. So why does 1 great mom struggle with it and another great mom doesn’t? It’s because each mom has already made leaving kid’s in the childcare to be good or bad in their mind. Guilt is feeling apologetic for something we feel is wrong. Morally wrong. And nothing is morally wrong until we’ve mentally assigned it as “good” or “bad”. This reader is telling herself, “I’m not with my child therefore I’m not a good mom“. Right? Have you done this too? I’m giving my child chicken nuggets for the 5th time this week, therefore… I’m not a good mom.
We notice something that’s not the perfect scenario and we make it to mean something by defining ourselves. Basically, we turn guilt into shame. And shame has never served a positive role in my life. It actually does quite the opposite for me. Guilt can help me see that I can make an improvement, like not giving chicken nuggets to my kid the next day. But when I turn that simple situation of what’s already happened (which isn’t morally wrong. The kid is alive and being fed. Things are actually fine.) into shame, and meaning that I’m not a good mom is where things need to stop. Shame makes you feel small. Shame causes you to feel worthless. Shame does not serve you to be your best self. Shame doesn’t cause me to feel encouraged.
But it’s because we value this gig of mothering so darn much that we are constantly worrying that we’re doing it wrong. It is a good thing to see areas that we can improve in mothering or in life, but it’s not okay to feel shame for not being good enough. When I feel like a failure, I literally tell myself that it’s fine- I still love you anyways. Have you tried that? Telling yourself that you loved you. I cried the 1st time I said it and meant it. I wasn’t used to self-love. I was great at self-awareness in all the destructive ways. Not in the “you blew it-but I love you anyways”. It never ended there, I was great at connecting all the ways that I was failing. This is where the guilt for 1 lack in my ability turned into shame for all of my worth and value. Our brains like to stay in self-pity when we’re already there. It’s hard to distract that loop of thought once we’re in shame, right? So how do we climb out? Notice if you’re in guilt(encouraging) or in shame(discouraging). And then allow yourself to feel love and forgiveness in response to the guilt. If you make this effort every time, the shame never comes. What a happier and more confident place to be and I believe that’s the best thing I can offer my children. A mom who feels true joy for who she is. I’ve decided that going to the gym to exercise, spending nights out with my girlfriends, leaving for a a week on vacation falling in love all over again with their father, all these things help me be my best self and mother. I whole-heartedly believe that as I take ownership in meeting my own needs and find responsibility in creating my own happiness that my kids will learn one of the best lessons I could teach them. I want to raise independent, courageous, and self-loving children. And when I take care of myself, I’m giving them permission to do the same.