Mom guilt. There is nothing in the world like it. Throw in living with a chronic illness and mom guilt takes on a whole new level. There is a whole host of new things to feel guilty about. Aching feet and fatigue keep me from being able to partake in a game of tag. Laundry piles up because my hands can’t manage the basket of clothes. Dinners are prepackaged instead of homemade. Before you know it, Mom Guilt rears its ugly head.
Step 1: Breathe through the guilty feelings
This one is probably the easiest of the three. Taking a few moments to breathe and recognize the feelings if first. I know sometimes I can feel a tightness in my chest and a bit overwhelmed by an emotion. It can be hard to put my finger on exactly what is going on. After a few moments of breathing it becomes clear. A few breaths, taking a moment to think about the situation and recognize the Mom Guilt for what it is can be one way to fight back.
Step 2: Look through your child’s eyes, not yours
The other day I had a quick conversation with my 6 year old. He asked if I had done his laundry yet. Innocent enough, right? After all, he is 6. It is not like I can reasonably expect him to do it himself (ouch!). Well, after a moment of self-loathing, I responded with a bit of sarcasm, “Nope, not yet. I know, I’m a terrible Mom.” His response caught me off guard. He said, “No you aren’t. You are a great Mom-you just don’t do the laundry.”
What I failed to realize is that the ruler I was using to measure if I was a good Mom or not was not the same ruler he was using. What I quantified as “good Mom” wasn’t what he believed made a “good Mom.” That moment was amazingly freeing. I have so much to learn from my children. Yes, of course I’d always like to be a great mom in my own eyes, but really, when it comes down to it, being a great Mom in my kid’s eyes means so much more to me now. Sure, when they are teenagers my answer may be different. But for now, if they feel loved, if they feel safe, if they feel secure and that they mean the world to me- that’s is what it means to be a great Mom.
I have to remind myself, when Mom Guilt creeps in, that I have to remember that their definition of a good Mom counts much more than mine at the moment. I have to look at myself from their eyes, my little ones that matter the most, to see clearly what kind of Mom I really am.
Step 3: Don’t give in to the mom guilt
This is by far the hardest of the three. Don’t.Give.In. It can be easy to try a appease our misguided conscious by buying our children loads of toys, letting them get away with behavior we know we shouldn’t allow, or allowing them to eat treat after treat just to try and make ourselves feel like a “good Mom.” This is easy to do, but never the answer. A good mom is consistent, offering clear boundaries and expectations. The up and down road of rules, then no rules, will only make feelings of Mom Guilt worse sparking an endless cycle of extremes.
Tip 4: Cut yourself a break
We have impossible-to-meet standards bombarding us non-stop from television ads (Buy this and your life will be PERFECT!), social media (Facebook Post: We just had the MOST PERFECT vacation EVER!), and our own worst enemy, ourselves (If only I had more time, everything could be done PERFECTLY!). I have found that I am the most likely to feel feeling of Mom Guilt when I try and do so much more than what is humanly possible.
I feel Mom Guilt when I constantly compare myself to other moms who look like they have it all “together.” Even when I compare myself to my own wonderful Mother who would probably cringe if she knew I did that. The voices can ring out from all sides. “Not good enough. Not strong enough. Not doing enough for your children. NOT ENOUGH.”
When those feelings threaten to crash down on me, I have to remember to cut myself a break. I have to remember that what I do and how I do it IS ENOUGH. I am what they need. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be pretty damn wonderful.
So yes, we may not have all of the answers. Yes, we may encounter daily struggles that make Mom Guilt rear it’s ugly head. We may question our decisions and even cry into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s every now and again. That’s okay. We are okay. We are enough.
What do you do when you start feeling those famous Mom Guilt feelings creeping in? Add your tips in the comments below. Don’t forget to scroll down and subscribe to Smiles sent directly to your inbox.
Until next time, keep Smiling,