While motherhood is an amazing experience, it also transforms your life from the ground up and comes with numerous challenges, such as mommy guilt.
Mommy guilt is the uncomfortable feeling that pretty much every mom has experienced at some point or another, where she feels like she’s not living up to the standards of being a good mom.
This nagging feeling can last for weeks or months at a time, causing you to excessively worry and lose focus of what is really important for your family.
The good news is that you’re not alone in this!
There are many ways of beating mommy guilt and going back to your happy, regular self!
And it all comes down to understanding that, at the end of the day, you are good enough.
To help you rediscover this within yourself, I’ve compiled some of the best ways to overcome mommy guilt that you can incorporate into your everyday life.
What is mom guilt?
Mommy guilt is a phenomenon that is usually talked about in the context of working moms, but make no mistake, stay-at-home moms are affected by it too.
In the simplest terms, mommy guilt is the feeling that you’re failing to live up to the expectations of what a mom should be.
These expectations can come from society or from within yourself, but either way, they are the root cause of mommy guilt.
One such expectation, for example, is to always be happy.
This is simply not realistic, however, as many moms experience postpartum depression to some extent.
But because of the expectation to be blissfully happy, moms start feeling guilty.
Another expectation that causes feelings of mommy guilt is to breastfeed for as long as possible.
Every mom has read about the benefits of breast milk and why a baby should nurse for as long as she can.
However, this is simply not achievable for many moms.
Just knowing, though, that there is an expectation in motherhood that we are not living up to can trigger such feelings, regardless of our own circumstances.
The guilt can grow to the extent that it makes moms question their self-worth and can even lead to anxiety or depression.
RELATED: Postpartum Anxiety: One mom’s story + tips for relief
How do you beat mommy guilt?
So now that you know exactly what mom guilt is, you’re probably wondering how to kick it to the curb.
Well, there are a number of ways to go about it, from learning to focus on yourself to knowing when to seek professional help.
1. Ignore social media
As a member of the Millenial generation, I know very well just how present social media is in every part of our lives.
From birthdays and graduations to weddings and births, it’s all laid out in the open on social media networks.
But this is a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to motherhood and experiencing feelings of guilt.
While scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, we’ve all come across moms who seem to be doing a perfect job, even though they have a brand new baby.
There are all these pictures of moms with perfect hair and makeup, holding their smiling little munchkin, wearing an outfit that looks like it just came off the runway.
When you see such posts while sitting on your couch with your hair unbrushed and wearing an old T-shirt with spit-up on it, they’re bound to have a bad effect on your mental health.
You might feel like you’re doing something wrong – after all, if this Insta beauty has it all together, why can’t you? What is she doing that you aren’t?
The truth is that social media lies.
And we all know this, but we somehow tend to forget it when we’re tired from being a mom 24 hours a day.
Even the seemingly flawless Insta mom is probably spending most of her time in sweatpants, but you’re less likely to see a picture of that!
Besides, take a look at your own social media pages – you have probably posted only the best moments from your life, so you should keep this in mind when you see the content that other moms are sharing.
If you find yourself really affected by using social networks, then you can try installing an app on your phone that will put a limit on how much screen time you get.
When I was struggling with postpartum depression, for example, I realized that I was spending a lot of time comparing myself to other moms online who had gone through the same experience.
This resulted in me feeling guilty that I wasn’t progressing as fast as some of the other women.
After I realized that I was investing too much of myself into social media, I decided to take a break and it actually did wonders for my mental health.
I was able to focus on myself and my little family, without being caught up in the online world.
2. It’s okay to set aside “me time”
As moms, we believe that no one could take better care of our little ones than us.
But this does not mean we should sacrifice little self-care rituals, no matter how guilty they make us feel.
The key is to not give in to the guilt. That manicure that you’ve been dreaming about? Go ahead and schedule it.
Really miss having Sunday lunches with your friends? Call them up and spend a few hours catching up.
Even a simple thing like getting a haircut or listening to a podcast while taking a walk in the park could do wonders for your mood.
Mommy guilt will have you believe that you are a terrible person for focusing on yourself, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
When you take some time to do what makes you happy, it gives you more energy to tackle everyday challenges and turns you into an even better mom.
This is especially important for stay-at-home moms who tend to feel more isolated.
Once you see how good it feels to give yourself some “me time,” you will slowly begin to stop beating yourself up over it.
3. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help
Whether you’re a full-time working mom or a stay-at-home mom, there’s certainly a lot of pressure to be able to get everything done on a daily basis and a lot of that pressure comes from within ourselves.
But asking for a little help with your kiddos doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Remember that proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”? It’s time to start believing in it.
There’s nothing wrong with getting in touch with your parents or in-laws and asking them to spend some time with the baby while you and your husband tackle the giant pile of laundry in the basement.
From my experience, I’ve realized that grandparents can’t wait to be able to help out with the grandkids and make life a little easier for you.
If your family doesn’t live close by, you can always ask a trusted friend or hire an experienced babysitter to spend some time with your little one.
In any case, you should stop believing that other people will see you as a failure or a bad mom if you ask for some help.
Quite the contrary – you’ll find they are more understanding than you thought was possible!
4. Accept that plans will fall through
Overscheduling is another way to cause mommy guilt.
It’s understandable to want your kids to have a rich schedule, especially if they are at preschooler age or older.
That being said, sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, so you shouldn’t feel guilty or disappointed when that family board game night you had planned falls through because your kids are too tired from soccer practice.
But an even more valuable lesson that I’ve learned in my years as a mom is that having no plans is also perfectly fine.
Some of the most fun times we’ve had as a family was when we had nothing scheduled for the day and we could get creative.
Also, once your kids get older, allow them to play and do their own thing from time to time. Remember your own childhood and how you used to make up games?
Your kids can do that too!
5. Don’t allow worry to control your life
I remember very well the countless nights I spent tossing and turning as an endless stream of questions went through my mind.
I worried about literally anything and everything, partially because I thought that not worrying would make me a bad mom.
For example, I couldn’t stop thinking about the food my kids were eating and worrying about whether it was healthy enough or not.
Was I buying enough organic fruit and vegetables? Were they drinking too much juice? Did their breakfast cereal have too much sugar?
During this time, a friend of mine gave me a really good piece of advice.
Worrying and being anxious benefits no one, so I should take my questions, find answers online, and put the whole thing to rest.
Once I got the answers I needed, I found myself worrying less and sleeping more.
But the other half of the work came from the realization that I didn’t need to worry all the time to be a good mom – I was doing a pretty good job already!
Plus, constantly worrying had a really bad impact on my mood and I found myself often on edge, waiting to snap at the most insignificant things.
And this just makes the whole family miserable, so it’s best to keep the worrying to a minimum.
6. Understand that being a working mom is okay
Working mothers experience particularly difficult mommy guilt – especially since many of them don’t get enough time to enjoy their maternity leave with their baby, which just increases their feeling of guilt.
Sending your little one to daycare or leaving her with a babysitter is a hard decision to make, especially when you start thinking about all of the milestones that you could be missing.
In fact, the fear of missing out on your little one’s first words or steps causes many moms to spiral into the furthest depths of mommy guilt.
I recall how incredibly guilty I had felt going back to the classroom after having my first, and the questions that a lot of coworkers ask don’t help either.
“What’s it like being back?” “How does it feel being away from her?” “Is the guilt creeping in?”
Sometimes it can feel like it’s too much.
During times like this, try to think about all the benefits that working will bring to your little one.
After all, you are providing for the family and making sure that your baby has everything she needs for a healthy and happy life.
But also try to remind yourself that you are still your own person, who deserves to keep your career and pursue the same goals you had before motherhood.
7. Let go of control
Accepting that you cannot control every little aspect of your kids’ life can do wonders when it comes to getting rid of mommy guilt.
There’s no such thing as a “perfect mom” who stays on top of all the homework, assignments, and extracurricular activities of her kids.
Sooner or later, you’ll slip up – not because you’re a bad mother, but because that’s the nature of life.
Even though there is a tremendous amount of responsibility on our shoulders, letting go of control and accepting spontaneity from time to time will bring your anxiety levels down and make your days much happier and guilt-free.
Meditation and yoga can definitely help you in this process and also improve your overall health and well-being.
Even if you don’t have the time to join a class at a local yoga studio, there are plenty of great online sources to start your yoga practice.
8. Talk to a professional
If you find that feelings of guilt are seriously interfering with your day-to-day life and they don’t seem to go away, no matter which strategy you try, it’s a good idea to talk to a therapist who can help you learn how to deal with these emotions.
Supporting your mental health is so important and there is no shame in deciding that you need professional help.
Perhaps there are some deeper issues that are at the root of your mommy guilt and they need to be addressed first.
In addition to therapy, you can try joining local mom support groups.
I found these to be really helpful when overcoming postpartum depression, as I was able to make new friends to whom I could relate.
Plus, knowing that I wasn’t alone in all of this made a really big difference for me!
To wrap up
More than anyone, moms are prepared to tackle life’s challenges head-on.
All those sleepless nights, labor pains, and unexpected changes have taught us what sacrifice means.
And yet, so many moms feel like they should be doing more, even at their own expense.
Working moms, for example, feel guilt about going back to work, even though they are doing a great thing by providing for their family.
Moms who aren’t breastfeeding and are switching to formula instead, beat themselves up over it, even though they’re doing everything they can to give their baby the best nutrition possible.
That’s the power of mommy guilt – it tricks us into believing we are not good moms because of some arbitrary standards that have been imposed on us.
The thing is, every mom’s situation is different, and perfect parenting simply doesn’t exist. We are all simply doing our best.
Getting rid of mommy guilt can be a long process, but it can be done by focusing on yourself, recognizing negative thoughts, and accepting that you don’t need to be perfect all the time!
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