Mom guilt wasn’t something that I really knew about until I started working at a daycare after high school. These were all moms that were working full time before coming to pick up their kids in the late afternoon. It was often that these moms felt like they had to make up for the fact that they had to work and couldn’t be there right after school. Some of them compensated with permissiveness, others with gifts, and many just suffered silently. Although all parents exhibited similar guilt, moms seemed to have more of it. Despite seeing mom guilt everyday, I really never grasped the full scope of it.
That is, until I had my own child. Of course, it started in utero. I felt guilty that I did not eat super healthy all the time, or that I had to take medication for preterm contractions. When Dominik was born, the full force of mom guilt hit me and I truly understood what other moms feel everyday. I felt guilty for: not spending enough time reading to him, driving and making him cry, upsetting him with cold wipes, nursing him to sleep, not nursing him to sleep, holding too often or not enough. And it never goes away, it just changes. Now I feel guilty for: giving him a toy that he hurt himself with, letting him watch TV so that I can make dinner, night weaning, not getting outside enough, etc.
All parents, moms and dads, feel this parental guilt. But psychologists have found that moms typically feel it more often and more intensely. And mom guilt is intense. After a particularly bad day, it certainly feels like it swallows me up, bringing me down fast. But there are ways to cope with the guilt, and things to remember.
- You are not alone. We all feel mom guilt and we all feel like we aren’t good enough or that we can do better. We all also make plenty of mistakes and we all give in to those situations that cause guilt like letting our kids eat that extra cookie so that we can use the bathroom in peace. Don’t compare yourself to others. But remember that we all give in, we all feel guilty, and we are all doing our best.
- Be gentle on yourself. Most of the little things that we feel guilty about, like television watching, feeding sweets, skipping the park, and other things like this, are most likely not going to do a ton of damage in the long run. And to be honest, most of that stuff that nags at our brain and makes us feel guilty, is not a big deal. You turned on the TV in order to cook dinner? It’s okay. It sucks trying to cook while being whined at and trying to control children acting like feral animals. Enjoy the peace.
- Listen to your guilt, but be realistic. Hear me out on this one. First, what do you feel guilty about? Not spending enough time with your children? If you work, obviously there’s nothing you can do about spending time with them while you are working. Let that go. But days that you do not work, plan family time. Instead of checking Facebook after dinner, play a game or spend a few extra minutes reading to you child. We have the power to change what we feel guilty about.
- Take some mom time. After having children, it can be hard to separate yourself. It is no longer “I”, it becomes “we”. After everyone is in bed, take a bath. Have a glass of wine. Buy yourself those shoes. Watch a movie rated “R”. Remember to nourish yourself.
- As long as your child is loved, safe, and fed, you are doing an awesome job. Seriously, if all of your child’s needs are met, you are a wonderful parent. Children just want to be loved and cared for. Parenting is hard work, but as long as you are there, you are doing a pretty darn good job.