Down with “Mommy Guilt”!

 

From the moment we become pregnant until the day we die, we try to be the very best mom we can be to our children. It doesn’t take long, however, before we make mistakes. Parenting doesn’t go as planned. Your children do outrageous things. Accidents happen. Feelings get hurt. And the feelings of guilt inevitably follow. It doesn’t matter if our children are young or grown; whether you are stay at home full time or working full time, or somewhere in between; motherhood guilt is usually a struggle at some point.   Does guilt serve a purpose?  Is it helpful?  Mostly not.
So how can you minimize those plaguing, guilty feelings? Here are some helpful tips to help you let go of the guilt and enjoy your journey of motherhood.
 

 

Comparisons are not helpful
Is Kayla sitting up yet? When did James start walking? My child was reading when she was four. Does your son play card games? Comparing our children to other children is an easy trap to fall into. But it is not healthy for our children or us as moms because every child is different. They each have different strengths, weaknesses, developmental patterns and personalities. There is a wide normal range of when healthy children meet developmental milestones.  Let your children be who they are and avoid the comparison game.
Just like you shouldn’t compare your children to other children, the same goes for you. Let go of any need you have to compare yourself to other moms. Some mommies like to cook and some like to order pizza. Some mommies work in tall office buildings and some work at home. I have a friend who is the epitome of June Cleaver. Almost all her meals are home cooked. She makes all her children’s Halloween costumes. She is totally organized and structured with her children’s school work and activities. If I compare myself to her, I am plagued with feelings of guilt. I order take out for my kids when my husband is out of town, allow more screen time then I intended, and struggle to maintain an consistent bedtime structure with my kids. But I’m still a great mom, and so is she. It’s okay to be different.
It is necessary to have limits
You don’t have to be all things to your children and your children don’t have to be all things to you. In other words, it’s okay if you make mistakes, and your children deserve the same lee way. One of my struggles is thinking I need to be my child’s constant playmate. I have to be honest.  Sometimes don’t feel like playing chase after dinner.  Sure, he may feel disappointed when I say no, but it doesn’t mean I am neglecting my son. I have my limits and I need to respect them. All moms have limits. When we don’t pay attention to our limits, we usually become irritable and short-tempered. Exceeding our limits can cause a vicious cycle of behaving in a way that makes us feel really guilty.

Your children have limits too. Just because your child misbehaves doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong.  On a recent trip to Seattle, I felt like I was redirecting my son every five minutes.  He could not keep his hands off his little sister who would then fall down, wail or scratch him in retaliation.  It’s times like this that we often question our parenting. Sometimes I think it’s helpful to just understand that our children have their good days and bad days and it has very little to do with our ability to parent.  Accepting that my son was overstimulated, tired and hungry helped me respond in a more effective way, with out blame or guilt.

Apologize When You Are Wrong
You are human and realistically sometimes you blow it. You say or do something to your child that brings immediate regret. When this happens to you, apologize immediately. Our children then learn that we make mistakes and that does not make us bad. Children are very forgiving and forgiveness conquers guilt. There is nothing more humbling than being able to admit when we behaved in a way we know is wrong. Model the behavior you ask of your children.
 

Be Wary of People’s Judgments
Everyone has their own set of rules and values they live by. Beware of living your life to please others, or seek approval from others.  Accept feedback, but assess for yourself what is right for you and your family.  They are not walking in your shoes.  I find that entering parenthood has softened my judgements on others significantly.  Before I had children is was easy to criticize other parents choices.  Now that I am a parent myself, I am more forgiving or understanding of how others choose to manage their roles as wife, mother, professional, friend, etc.  This helps me side step my guilt when others pass judgement, or when society or advertising tells me how I “should” raise my children or “should” be as a mother.
 
Our Child’s Misbehavior is Not Always Our Fault
Just because we gave birth to our children does not mean we are responsible for all their behaviors. Children have a mind of their own and may not be ready to hear the wisdom we give. We can be the best mom and our children will still make choices that take us by surprise.  My son has a friend, Richard,  whom we are friends with the parents of and have know each other since the boys were babies.  My son and his friend are like brothers, and have a love/ hate relationship. One day on our carpool to school, the boys began to argue over a song, and before I knew it, they were yelling hateful threats at eachother, and throwing books.  I never taught my son to behave like that and he usually is much more level headed. Although I was shocked by my child’s behavior, I knew that I was not to blame for his outburst. I am his mom, and I am responsible for teaching him right from wrong, but I cannot always control how my children behave.
 

 

 

Beware the guilt wielding child
Children are especially great at attempting to manipulate with guilt as well. They know our buttons and are very aware of what tugs on our heart. My five year old is learning to use guilt to try and get his way. He’ll say, “I never get to do anything fun” or “You never play with me”. He knows that it’s important to me that I spend time with him, so he uses that to pull on my heart strings. Stay strong and secure with who you are as a mother and these attempts to make you feel guilty will fall by the wayside.

 

Unless you are severely neglecting your child or setting a very bad example for your children, there is no reason for you to hang on to guilt.  You are doing the best you can under the circumstances, and with the tools you have.  You are constantly striving to improve your skills, expand your tool box, so relax, have confidence, and enjoy the journey of motherhood.

Peace, Rachel

 

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