Becoming a mother is like being labeled a superhero over night. We try to be perfect and handle it all. And if we don’t, guilt sets in. You know that feeling of wrongdoing, which intensifies when it comes to your family.
It’s crazy, but think about it for a minute. From the moment we arrive home from the hospital with our baby, we try to be perfect moms. Feeling guilty for everything…from “I’m not producing enough milk” and “he’s gassy, I’m not burping him correctly” to “he’s got a diaper rash, I’m doing something wrong.” We seem to associate everything that goes wrong with our baby to something that we, as mommies, did wrong or didn’t do. And throughout the years, we feel that mommy guilt for many other things, such as not getting them into a certain school, or if they fall behind on any subject, if they act out, if we can’t participate in their school’s PTA, if we don’t buy them the expensive toy they want, if we can’t afford to take them on a vacation, if we can’t drive them to the mall after school, we will even feel guilt for some of their own mistakes, and it goes on and on. And that, is a lot of pressure to take on. So why do it?
Why do we feel guilty in the first place?
We learn about guilt and it’s power to make certain things happen or not happen as children. When our parents used disapproving phrases like, “We’re not happy with you” or “You disappointed us.” We quickly picked up on a sense of wrongdoing on our behalf that made our mommy and daddy unhappy with us. And if you turn the coin around, we also quickly learned that doing the right thing or behaving appropriately earned us praise, smiles, and hugs. It earned us their approval. And because we enjoyed the positive feedback, we learned to change our behavior to please our parents to get more of the praise, smiles, hugs, and approval. Thus, it began, and for some of us more than others, a need or desire to want to please others to gain “approval and/or acceptance” and also to avoid that awful feeling of “guilt”.
Are mommies wrong to feel guilty?
Most of the time, we are. Because most of the time we’re blaming ourselves for things that have no harmful intent to them. Or, we’re feeling guilty about what the mommy next door is doing for her kids that we aren’t doing for ours. Examples of this would be how much play time that mommy is able to give to her child or being envious of the awesome swing set they have. Feeling guilty for not being able to spend the same amount of time with your kids or for not being able to provide the same lifestyle is wrong on our behalf. Unless you have committed a crime or have harmed someone, let go of the mommy guilt. It’s weighing you down, and it’s not allowing you to be your best or give your best.
Focus on your kids.
We need to stop concerning ourselves with what the other mommy is doing. Instead, we need to focus on what is going on in our home with our kids. Are my kids happy? Do my kids know that mommy loves them? Do my kids know they can count on me? And are you a stay at home mom doing tons of tasks on top of taking care of your kids? Are you a mommy who works outside the home, leaving early, coming home late exhausted, yet you manage some quality time with your kids? Whichever type of mommy you are and whichever way you are going about it… if you are looking out for the well being of your children, then you are doing a great job! And you need to BELIEVE it and praise yourself, “good job” “you’re handing it! “I’m a good mommy.”
We need to be proud and focus on the good job we’re doing and stop beating ourselves up for the things we didn’t do, didn’t catch early enough, or couldn’t provide.
How can I shift my focus?
Block out guilty thoughts. Whenever you feel guilt coming up, ask yourself if it has any merit. Did I hurt someone today? Probably not. So don’t permit that feeling of guilt to come through. Block it! By simply replacing it with something good you did. For example, you had to work late and couldn’t make your daughter’s play. Bock this thought, “I feel guilty for missing her play” and replace it with this thought, “I feel proud that I was able to pick her up from the play and take her for ice cream.” If you could have made your daughter’s play, you would have. And as long as she knows that because she feels loved, you are doing an awesome job.
Here’s a heftier example, your son is diagnosed by a doctor with a learning disability in second grade and you are feeling guilty for not having caught it sooner. Block this thought, “I can’t believe I didn’t catch this sooner and now, my negligence caused my son to fall behind in school” and replace it with this thought, “I’m a good mommy for taking my son to the doctor, and now that I am aware of his learning disability, I will do all I can to help him.” I have spoken to many mommies who have been in this situation and feel guilty. Yet, the amount of passion that is behind wanting to help their children says it all. They are good mothers!
So stop feeling guilty. Your kids are fine, your home is fine, now it’s time for YOU to be fine because your wellbeing matters so much within your home. And guilt is a heavy and depressing emotion that doesn’t add to your well being. So toss it! We are great moms. Each of us doing it our own way and that is beautiful. Let’s put the main focus on all the positive we do and learn to relax and trust the process that good caring women amount to good, caring mothers — not “perfect mothers.” So ditch the guilt!
Monica Luna Gonzalez
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