As I set out on this journey to write and use my social work skills, I realized that a huge part of what was fueling my work was to try to help moms everywhere to be easier on themselves. The theme that I hear from most women is that they don’t feel like enough. It makes me so sad when I hear women say anything in relation to that. I hope that as I write each week that I can help shift that a little bit. I would love to shift that thinking a lot, but let’s start with the goal of shifting you a little after you read this. Let me know if I reach my goal.
- I never do enough
- I’ll never get it all done
- I didn’t spend time with my kids
- I want to be home
- I want to be at work
- I want to be alone
- I am not contributing financially
- I don’t want to cook
- I don’t want to clean
- My house is a mess
- I don’t like how I handled that
- I work too much
- I’m not patient enough
- I don’t want to be home with my kids and I feel bad about it
- My kids drive me nuts
- I am not planning fun things to do with them
- My kids issues are all my fault
The list goes on and on from what I hear from moms. I don’t hear guilt a lot from fathers. My friend blames society for that. I am probably the last person to talk to about societal pressures and norms, but she has a point. My dream in life was to be barefoot and pregnant. Was I successful? Yes. Do I think I’m smart? Absolutely. However, my maternal clock started ticking at a very young age and I wanted to stay home and have babies. Do I ever think about where I would be career wise if I kept working? Absolutely. However, I am happy with the choices that I have made in my life, and I try to focus on that. When I saw my dream house online, I showed my husband. I knew if I was working full time, I could have that house. I could drive myself crazy. I also know that my husband and my kids are very happy in our current home. We can make ourselves crazy with what we think. We are choosing our thoughts and we are choosing what to focus on. You have more control than you think you do.
How can you get rid of the mom guilt?
- Use social media correctly! This is not a place to go to feel bad about yourself. If it’s making you feel bad – limit your time on it or get rid of it.
- Surround yourself with supportive people. If someone in your life keeps bringing you down, then take note of that.
- No comparisons. Your family is different from every other family. You need to figure out what works best for your family.
- Identify patterns and triggers. What is triggering the guilt? Is it when you see a post about a sport? Do you need to sign your child up for a sport or activity? Is it vacations? Do you need to work towards planning a vacation? Is it stay at home moms? Do you need to work? If you need to or want to work, then this is what is best for your family.
- Evaluate your parenting. If you don’t like how you handled something, this is not an invitation to beat yourself up. This is an opportunity for you to learn and grow and do better next time.
- Support from other mothers – all different types of support. Identify what kind of support you need. Do you need emotional support? Do you need information? Do you need to carpool? Identify what you need and be specific. I find mothers want to give advice a lot and I need more emotional support. If you confide how you are feeling, I am sure that your friends can relate. You are never alone! There are a lot of mothers who relate to whatever it is that you are feeling.
- Lowered and realistic expectations – I have talked about this a lot over the years. I used to be so hard on myself. Show yourself some self love and compassion. You don’t deserve to be beat up inside because your house is a mess.
- Problem solve – when you can identify the root of your guilt, you can begin to problem solve. For example, maybe you feel guilty that you aren’t contributing financially. How does your partner feel about this? Do you both like having you home? Do you need to find a source of income? If the house is a mess and you really don’t like to clean – can you afford to get help? Better yet, get those kids cleaning.
- Check in with your family. How are your kids doing? I know that I worry about silly things like planning fun for them this summer. They are happy to chill out. Lillie asked me for a pajama day, and I almost fell over. If you want them in activities, talk to them about it: “I expect you to sign up for at least one activity so you pick it, or I will.” Maybe your kids are in too much and you need to tell them to cut back. As my mother says to me, “You are the driver of the ship.”
I went to lunch with my friend yesterday. We have been friends for 32 years and she knows me very well. I met her in between a lot of driving children around. She couldn’t believe what my summer looked like. She said that she just wanted her kids home with her over the summer. I looked at her like she had two heads. I couldn’t imagine not signing my kids up for things over the summer. I think part of it is that Ella loves theater so much and Max is doing football. I definitely could cut back next summer and do less so we can chill out more. However, I didn’t make myself feel bad about this. Every family is so different. I think that mom guilt has skyrocketed with social media.
At the core root of all of this is for all of us to focus on what we value most. Do you value your kids being in activities? Do you value your career? Do you value healthy meals? Do you value your kids getting sleep? There have always been families who will leave a gathering early to get their kids to bed. I love that these families value routine, structure and sleep. I am not that person. I wouldn’t leave a party to put my kids to bed. I value time with friends more than I value my kids getting sleep. When we understand ourselves and what we value then it leaves less room for the guilt.
When I was breastfeeding my kids, I got a lot of comments and opinions about this. Unsolicited advice began big time the moment that I got engaged. People had opinions about the wedding, my pregnancies and how to parent. It was a time to really get in touch with what Seth and I valued most. When we know this and fulfill this then the guilt goes away. I wanted to breastfeed and I wanted to stay home. I knew what I wanted and what I valued. Sometimes we don’t have control over things. You may want to stay home, and you can’t. You may want to breastfeed, but you can’t. These are not reasons to feel guilty. These are reasons to do whatever is doing to work out best for your own family.
I commend you if you are a working mom.
I commend you if you are home with your kids.
I commend you if you squeezed in a workout.
I commend you if you got the dishes done.
I commend you for taking time for you.
I commend you for knowing your limits.
I commend you for getting through the day.
I commend you for changing your self talk.
I commend you for realizing that you are enough just how you are.
I only hope that I relieved some of your guilt. Maybe just a little? Let me know what is plaguing you. I would love to try to help. I’m on a mission to help moms be easier on themselves and I started at home with myself. I screw up all the time. I pick myself up. I dust myself off. I learn and grow and try again! Your kids don’t want the perfect mom. They just want you!
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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