Just thinking about those words brings a flurry of uneasy feelings to my gut.
“Mom guilt” seems to be a universal experience. But why? Why do we all feel the same negative emotions surrounding the job that we are doing raising our little humans?
For example, I feel guilty whenever I discipline my children. Was I too harsh? Will this punishment work? Should I be trying positive reinforcement? Will this make them question my love for them? But whenever I don’t discipline them when I feel it’s deserved, I feel guilty about that too. Am I being permissive? Am I letting them walk all over me? Will they end up making poor choices as adults because I am allowing this behavior?
With my third baby, I felt guilty when I didn’t love nursing her. It was a struggle every single day not to give up. Looking back, I realize that I should have been proud of myself that I persevered, despite the daily desire to surrender. Instead, my guilt about my feelings overshadowed anything positive I might’ve felt.
I feel guilty that I’m not always cooking healthy food for my kids and often settle for convenience. I feel guilty that I don’t always enjoy playing with my kids. I feel guilty that I want a little time to myself every day. I feel guilty when my house is messy and heck, I even feel guilty when I take the time to clean.
Seriously, you can’t win. (I am purposely avoiding any of the truly controversial “mom topics” of the day, such as car seats, vaccinations, and sleeping arrangements, but let’s be honest, those are some major sources of guilt or anxiety for most of us.)
While the list that one could feel “mom guilt” over is endless, the feeling is not inescapable (although it often seems to be).
The truth is that most of us are pretty much killing it. We are loving our kids hard, keeping their bellies full, providing a roof over their heads, playing, bathing, brushing teeth, answering a bazillion and a half questions, listening to the same songs over and over (Baby Shark doo doo) and somehow not losing our minds completely… I don’t know about you, but I would say that most of us are absolutely succeeding at this “mom” thing!
So why do we feel so darn guilty all the time? And how can we stop ourselves and feel what we should feel, which is that we are doing a great job? Why is it that we always feel like we should be doing something better?
Comparison- The Thief of Joy and Root of Insecurity
Part of our problem is that we are always comparing ourselves to the moms around us— to the mom who always seems to keep her cool. To the mom who breastfed her babies for a full year and loved it. To the mom who buys all organic food. To the mom who never lets her kids watch TV. To the mom who never wants to be apart from her kids. To the mom who is always on the floor playing. And, of course, to the mom with the spotless house (who also never seems to spend time cleaning— how does she do that?!).
We live in a social media-dominated age. We are all seeing “highlight reels” of each other’s lives and comparing our own “behind the scenes,” which leads most us to believe that we are somehow subpar. After all, it’s not very appealing to post a picture of yourself looking like a zombie making PB&J’s while your kids watch videos on YouTube of other kids playing with toys (seriously, can you tell this happens in my house?). So, you post a family selfie full of smiles being careful not to capture that mess on the floor, because “Oh my goodness, what would people think?!”
See my related post: How To Quit Comparing Yourself to Others
Social media displays a distorted reality. We should know this by now. But we still feel like we don’t measure up.
Truth bomb here…We are all a hot mess!
Every mother doubts herself sometimes, just as every woman, even the seemingly “perfect” and “confident” ones have insecurities. As moms, we are all doing the best we can. Of course, there are a few unnatural exceptions out there. But for the most part, we’re all genuinely rocking mommyhood.
The “perfection” you are aiming for or measuring yourself against does not exist. The other moms who you’re envying are just like you, worrying about what they are doing wrong and what they should be doing better. They have good days and bad days, moments that they are proud and others that they cringe to think about. They sometimes believe that they are doing an amazing job as a parent and other times hope they aren’t setting their kids up for a lifetime of therapy. We don’t know who said this, but it’s true: “Behind every great kid is a mom who’s pretty sure she’s screwing it all up.”
Expectations and Reality
If you aren’t playing the mommy version “keeping up with Joneses,” then good for you! It’s a terrible game to play. Maybe you, instead, are measuring yourself against your own expectations and because of these unreasonable standards, you too feel like you’re failing.
Look, there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to be a better mother. I’m not discouraging that. Every single one of us has some aspects of mothering upon which we want to improve, and we should be trying every day to do better than we did the day before.
I would never encourage you not to improve upon that which could be improved. And even if I was suggesting that, you wouldn’t do it anyway, because that’s not who you are. You want to be a good mom. You want to be better than you are now. It’s an admirable thing to strive to be better.
But we all should absolutely ditch the mom guilt and start forgiving ourselves for our mistakes. We need to quit berating ourselves for not having all the answers. And we need to stop beating ourselves up because we said that we would be better today and failed.
Ironically, this pressure that you put on ourselves is sign that we are pretty awesome moms already. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t care about how we’re supposedly screwing up all the time, would we?
Face it though, we are not doing our kids any favors by torturing ourselves. The only thing we are accomplishing is that we’re making ourselves feel unhappy and unworthy. And we have already determined that a miserable mommy is good for no one.
How to Ditch the Guilt
When there’s a parenting-related subject that’s upsetting you, research it and then make an informed decision about how to handle it. I’ve read multiple parenting books and they have all changed me for the better. Even if I didn’t agree with every word or philosophy, I’ve gained insight, perspective, and fresh ideas that have made me a more confident parent.
If I’m worrying about something in particular, I discuss it with my children’s doctor. I also find it helpful to talk to other mothers. And yet I know that at the end of the day, only my husband and I can decide what’s best for our kids. And we should never feel guilty about that.
As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Keep reminding yourself daily that you’re doing the best you can. No one can ask more of you than that.
Whatever you do, give yourself some grace, Momma. You love those kiddos. And even though they can drive you bonkers, you would do anything for them. Despite your multitude of insecurities and inevitable mistakes, and even if they wouldn’t admit it at this exact moment, I’m willing to bet that those little one think that they have a pretty amazing mom. You know why? Because they do.
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