Mom guilt. It’s one of the more unpleasant side effects of motherhood. It’s quiet. It’s stealthy, and the threat of it is always looming, ready to ruin the day. None of us are immune to it, but what are the best ways to manage it?
Before I became a mom, I told myself that if I ever started to feel the slow creep of mom guilt then I just wouldn’t let myself feel guilty. Simple enough in theory, but in practice, of course, dealing with mom guilt just isn’t that simple. It comfortably settles into your bones, ready for the long haul, and can unveil itself in even the most unexpected of moments.
While it may be impossible to fully rid yourself of the burden of mom guilt, there are effective ways to manage it. Remembering that it is OK to make yourself a priority is one of them, but there are other methods you can adopt that can change your whole perspective, making you less susceptible to mom guilt. Below are three of them.
1. Focus on Quality over Quantity
One of the best ways to dissolve mom guilt is to focus on the quality of time you have with your family rather than the quantity. Whether you spend 12 hours a day in the office, or you spend every waking second with your offspring, ensuring that you are placing value on your interactions is an important way to combat the guilt you have about your time together.
Working moms can be especially prone to the lurking threat of mom guilt. Being away from your kids, especially when they are little, can be tough, and it can be easy to forget that the time you are away can actually be beneficial to them and to you. There is increasing evidence of the advantages for children of working mothers.
Further, continuing your career can increase your feelings of value, confidence, and self-worth–and a happy mom is important for a happy family. Further, if you are working, you are likely also contributing to your family financially, and that is definitely not something to minimize.
Still, even if you are a stay at home mom, or a work at home mom, it is still all too easy to feel guilty about how you spend your time. After spending all day, every day, with your children, you may worry you’re not “making the most” of every minute–an impossible feat for anyone.
Remembering that there is value in the work you do at home is important, as is realizing that life does not follow a script–so it’s OK if not every minute is picture perfect.
Staying present and focusing on the quality of your interactions, rather than the quantity, can help prevent mom guilt from rearing its ugly head. It can also make you feel more confident that the choices you’ve made for your family are the right ones.
2. Shake off Nagging Expectations
This is a biggie. It’s easy to feel guilty when you feel you aren’t living up to your own expectations or those around you. Society doesn’t help with this. The expectations put on parents–especially on moms–are often ridiculously unreasonable.
Mothers are regularly placed in a double bind and given competing, but completely irreconcilable expectations. We’re all familiar with this. You put your child in daycare, and you’re “letting someone else raise them,” but if you stay home with them, “you’re wasting your potential” and “stunting their social growth.” It’s impossible to win.
Still, even if you’ve shaken off societal expectations, we all have our own sets of expectations by which we judge ourselves. Maybe you expected to make partner in your firm by 35, or maybe you thought you’d never be the type of mom who uses TV as a babysitter.
Whatever the case, there are likely certain compromises you’ve had to make as a parent, that, at times, can make you feel like you’re failing.
Shaking off the nagging expectations for what you “should” be doing, and embracing your life as it is is liberating and goes a long way toward banishing mom guilt.
You can always take stock and make changes for things truly important to you, but you should never let a case of the “shoulds” bog you down.
3. Lean into your Support System
Moms frequently feel guilty about asking for help. There is a certain amount of pride in the ability to handle everything on our own, and the allure of being supermom can sometimes be hard to resist.
Still, there’s no shame in realizing that raising human beings truly does take a village. No one becomes successful completely on their own.
Titans of industry, tech entrepreneurs, and leaders in every field all had a hand from someone, somewhere, regardless of how self-made they seem.
Further, kids benefit from having a variety of positive influences in their lives. By sharing them with the world, you are making their own small worlds bigger and brighter.
Accepting that it’s OK to ask for help is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself and your family.
Whether you’re relying on daycare to nurture and educate your kids while you work, or having a friend help out while you hit the gym or grab a much-needed caffeine boost, leaning into your community of support is important for everyone.
Learning that it’s OK to share the load goes a long way toward banishing mom guilt, and will make you and your family healthier and happier–and there’s no reason to feel guilty about that.