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Every mom has it – that pang of mom guilt that makes you question everything you have ever done as a mother. Do I play with my kids enough? Are they falling behind? Am I a good mom? Do I ignore them too much? These are questions that every mom asks herself probably at least once per day. They can sometimes eat away at you, making you feel inferior or sad. They can sometimes make your heart hurt, leaving you to stay up at night wondering how Linda-down-the-street does it all when you are barely holding it together. As a mom who works from home, I get these pangs of guilt constantly. And like all good moms, the guilt eats away at me for a bit and then…well, I use these 5 ways to turn my mom guilt into something positive.
Why Moms Have Mom Guilt
Moms everywhere know the feeling of mom guilt. When they have that elusive “shopping alone at Target” day, they are rushing through the aisles to get done as fast as possible because they feel bad that they’ve left their kids with their partner. It’s because we miss our kids, and not because we don’t think our partner can handle Trauma Center 4, also known as our living rooms. It’s because society has made us feel as though we are the epitome of our children’s livelihood. And if we aren’t there, then we are doing something wrong.
It has been ingrained in us since we were young that mothers take care of the babies. Even though society has progressed significantly, it is no secret that mothers are still generally the primary caretakers of our offspring. Outside of evolutionary practices, social media has led us to feel as though we should be with our children 24/7. Their childhoods should be magical, they say. You’re not worthy of motherhood if you don’t create a Pinterest-perfect party for every child for every birthday, they imply. Motherhood is magical and wonderful and you should love every single second, they beam from their perfect smiles.
But we all know – even those of us that fake it on social media – that motherhood isn’t always fun. It isn’t always perfect. It’s messy, exhausting, and unbearably difficult. But we see all those pretty pictures on Pinterest and the happy, smiling faces on Instagram, and then we feel it: mom guilt. Should we be making homemade playdough instead of buying it at the store? How did she make that cake? Will my children have to have therapy because I put on Dora the Explorer instead of reading to them?
The good news is that if you have mom guilt, you’re a good mom. Only the good ones feel bad about things like too much t.v. and not enough veggies. Even so, those thoughts are not fun to think and the feelings don’t go away – probably because you’re too racked with guilt to think about anything other than not being good enough. But we are here to tell you unequivocally that you are good enough. In fact, you’re more than good enough. You’re a good mom by the shear fact that you actually feel guilty.
5 Ways to Turn Your Mom Guilt into Something Positive
Mom guilt can hit you at any time: When you’re shopping alone. Because your kids are watching t.v. The moment you say, “Yes” to the iPad instead of suggesting a book to read. All moms have mom guilt, but it’s time we turn that guilt into things that are better for our souls; Feelings like pride, mindfulness, and joy. I’m not saying we should get rid of mom guilt completely because mom guilt is something that helps keep us moms in check with what is going on with our kids. I think mom guilt is a great tool to help us improve in some areas, and learn to let go in others. So like your own mom used to say, “Turn that frown upside down” and follow these 5 ways to turn your mom guilt into something positive:
Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. When used during those intense feelings of mom guilt, mindfulness can bring you back to all the things you are doing versus all those things you aren’t doing. When being mindful and present, you can turn your mom guilt into positive affirmations like:
- I’m a bad mom for working to My children are seeing me work hard.
- I don’t play with my kids enough to My children are learning to play independently.
- I should be sitting on the floor doing playdough with them to I am giving my children the opportunity to explore.
- I feel bad about going to Target by myself to My children are learning to be comfortable without me there.
- Why don’t they ever stop crying?! to My child needs me right now, and although I’m tired/I have stuff to do/I don’t want to be touched, being there for them right now is important.
Turning your negative feelings and mom guilt into positive affirmations will make you feel better, bring your stress level down, and allow you to handle things in a more relaxed fashion.
Be Good to You
It’s no secret that in motherhood we have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of everyone else. Like the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Despite being told this by our own mothers and our mom friends, all moms tend to ignore this sentiment because we are taught to put ourselves last. The mom guilt takes over and we push our own needs aside to help the little humans around us. But experts agree that taking care of ourselves is important. It should be a priority for several reasons:
- It decreases stress
- You are happier and healthier, which translates into better parenting
- You are better able to handle stressful situations
- Feelings like isolation, depression, and anger will be lessened
Many agree that mom guilt is an overpowering feeling. Our maternal instinct to self-sacrifice is so intense that we actually feel bad when we do things for ourselves. So when you get that familiar feeling of mom guilt when you are at the gym, at the store by yourself, or on a much-needed girls night out remember that you are important too.
Take a Break
“Doing it all”- even if some of those doings are things for yourself – can be overwhelming. Once in awhile it is a good idea to listen to your mom guilt and to take a break from whatever you are doing. If you feel bad about not playing with your kids, take 10 minutes to sit down and play with them. If you feel guilty for working, spend some one on one time over the weekend with each one. If you are feeling bad that you handed your kid the iPad, sit down with them and see what they are doing. Small things like this can make you, and your child, feel a lot better about what you are doing outside of mothering.
Have a Snack
Sometimes the answer to our mom guilt is simple: We are hangry. Hunger can make us feel a lot of things, and stressed is one of them. Often times mom guilt comes when we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, so taking a break by getting a small something to eat can make us feel markedly better. Some healthy snacks that are known to increase a positive mood are:
- Dark chocolate (score!)
Keep a Bullet Journal
The reasons people have bullet journals can vary from a love of to-do lists to keeping track of daily occurrences. In terms of mom guilt, a bullet journal can help you to recognize the positive aspects of mothering during your day to day. This can help to decrease your feelings of mom guilt because you will start to recognize all the amazing, positive things that happen throughout the day rather than focusing on the negative. Some thoughts for your line journal could be:
- My oldest helped my youngest get dressed today.
- We watched a show together today, and I loved watching the baby clap along.
- I went to the gym today and afterwards I felt much happier.
- I didn’t kill my kids today. Go me!
Ok, that last one is a joke but let’s be honest – we all think it because we all have those days. Either way, a bullet journal can help you see the positive to your otherwise overwhelming day. And when that mom guilt starts creeping in you can look back at your bullet journal and see all the ways you are awesome.
Mom guilt is real and mom guilt is fierce. It can make us feel overwhelmed and less-than. It can make moms everywhere put themselves last and wonder how everyone else around them is doing this whole motherhood thing so seamlessly. But there are things you can do to assure yourself you are a good mom when those pangs of mom guilt come creeping in. There’s no getting rid of mom guilt all together. You will always wonder if you’re doing a good enough job. But that just makes you a good mom.
Photo Credit: Lauren Lomsdale Photography