Let’s define what mom guilt is. It’s a compilation of negative feelings that make you feel like you are not doing enough as a mother, not being enough and constantly feeling like your actions and choices have a negative impact on your child. Even my thoughts of guilt make me feel guilty. I must admit, it can be all-consuming.
Mom guilt also strikes when things are out of our control, but for some reason, we still think it’s our fault. Almost anything can cause mom guilt, from worrying about being a working mom to having a different parenting style from your partner. Mom guilt also stems from some strange need to meet the unrealistic goal of being a perfect mom.
One of the times I feel most guilty is while working. When I have to go to work at my retail job, it means dropping off my son, Levi, at his grandma’s. Even though it’s necessary for me to work, I feel like I’m letting my son down because I’m not spending as much time with him. Sometimes there’s a scheduling conflict and neither my partner nor I can drop him off, so that means he must sleep over at his grandma’s. That’s when that little voice in my head starts telling me that I’m just spending less and less time with my son and that I’m being a bad mother.
Working from home
The feeling of mom guilt even occurs when I work from home. As much as this allows me to spend more time with my son, it also means that sometimes I have to put the TV on for him for a couple of hours to just keep him distracted while I work as a writer. In all honesty, I hate it because I know he shouldn’t be watching that much TV. There are days when he doesn’t want to watch TV, and all he wants to do is be near me, close my laptop or touch my keyboard. It can be frustrating. And even when there are bad days, there are also good days. So, sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t complain.
Another time when I felt mom guilt was when I forgot to close our front door. One Saturday, we went to visit my in-laws. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law and I decided to go shopping that day, and I was the last person to close the door. My son Levi had stayed in the house with his dad and grandpa. An hour later, my mother-in-law said she had gotten a notification on her phone, but she didn’t think much of it. It turned out that it was a notification warning that my son had opened the front door and left the house. Neither his dad nor grandpa noticed my son’s disappearance. A few minutes later, our neighbor brought my child over, letting my partner know what happened. It was literally a wake-up call for everyone to be more alert, as these things can happen. It was such a horrible experience because it was all recorded. That night, I cried so much. I was just in a really negative space, and my thoughts were eating me alive.
Feeling overstimulated and touched out can also make you feel guilty. One of the things we aren’t told about motherhood is that once you become a mother, your body is no longer yours. Even though being touched by your child or partner is a normal part of motherhood, it’s very difficult because how do you tell your two-year-old that you need some personal space? It almost feels like you are breaking up with your child. Your adult relationship can be affected by this, too. For example, when your partner tries to show affection to you, you may cringe inside a little and just feel overwhelmed by it all.
Another recurring cause of mom guilt is when I decide to take a break from my son. This normally happens when I just need to catch up on sleep or simply want a night out with my partner and friends. I can be having a good time when suddenly the mom guilt kicks in and I start looking through pictures of my son. When you have children, you begin to realize how fast time really flies. It makes me sad and guilty for just taking the night off.
Asking for help
Oftentimes, you may also feel guilty just for asking for help. They say it takes a village to raise a child, so don’t feel guilty if you can’t cope alone; you’re not supposed to. Sometimes dads get home after a full shift and have no clue whether the kid has showered, is hungry or just simply wants to play. In order to feel comfortable asking for help, it is important to maintain good and healthy communication with your significant other.
All I can say is that if you’re experiencing mom guilt, the first thing you need to know is that it’s completely normal. It’s just a part of motherhood. According to researcher Brené Brown, there’s a difference between guilt and shame. In fact, one leads to the other. Feeling guilty will only make things worse, so give yourself a break.
Becoming a better parent
After two years of parenting, I can say that being a parent is not easy but it certainly is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.
I have to constantly applaud myself for being the best mom that I can truly be. Constantly questioning whether you’re a good mom is what makes you a good mom. The best method I use when I’m in my mom guilt moments is just using positive affirmations or thinking of all the times I made my son smile. Another way that I try to avoid mom guilt is through conscious parenting, which is a technique that encourages parents to use mindfulness and emotional intelligence instead of reactivity. It starts with recognizing your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors and learning how to control them. If you really think you have matured, just wait until you have kids. They bring out a different side of you, both mentally and emotionally.
Mom guilt is like a little monster in our heads. Just let those thoughts go and take a breather. It’s okay to experience bouts of mom guilt, as long as you have strategies to deal with it. Otherwise, unchecked feelings of mom guilt can cloud your judgment as a parent.