Mom guilt… Sometimes it seems like being a mom should come with a warning, “Be prepared for overwhelming guilt about anything and everything you do, from now until the day you die.”
With mom guilt at play, every decision – big or small - seems dire. The choices you make often become a reminder of how woefully inadequate you are and always will be—of how bad you're ruining the lives of your kids and possibly, everyone you care about and love.
OK… so maybe it’s not that dire. Yet, it does seem like motherhood comes with a whole new level of guilt like nothing else you’ve ever experienced.
Here’s what you need to know… if you are not willfully and intentionally harming your children, harming others or yourself in front of your children, or breaking the law on purpose in front of your children, you are likely doing just fine. And your kids will likely grow up just fine.
Of course, that is rather simplistic. The way we raise our children is, obviously, one of the most important things we will ever do. However, if you’re reading this article, your child or children are clearly a priority. Meaning, you are doing the best you can with the education, time, energy, and resources you have. And that’s all you can do.
So, if you feel like you must do something to be a better mother, the most important thing would be to give yourself a break.
Here are four specific ways you can ease up on yourself, release some of the mom guilt, and make life a little easier for all of you:
Realize life is about give-and-take
Life is all about sacrifice and compromise—especially when you’re a mom. But that’s also somewhat true for everyone, including your children.
We don’t always get what we want in life. That’s for sure. Thus, it’s not bad if your kids have to learn to deal with sacrifice and compromise too. They are not going to be scarred into adulthood if they miss out on getting some things they want when young or must compromise here and there. After all, these are the things that will shape them into functioning adults. Don’t feel guilty if or when you can’t give your children everything they desire—even if they make it seem like the end of the world at the time.
Try to eliminate “should” from your vocabulary as it relates to motherhood
Have you ever noticed the word “should” only comes up regarding what you believe other people – or books or movies, etc. – feel a “good” mom “should” think, say, or do? It relates to those invisible, usually-unwritten, “standards” that don’t exist but by which you always feel judged.
Truthfully, there are very few absolute “should(s)” about being a mom. There are “must(s)” and then there are those things that would be nice. But should is largely an artificial construct of the relatively-new phenomena known as the “parenting police.”
The parenting police consists of friends, family, and others in general who have deemed themselves moral monitors in general. Their judgment of your child-rearing is just a byproduct of a theme of over-connection plaguing modern society today. It used to be if you – or your child – messed up in some not-so-major way, you dealt with it, and everyone moved on and got over it.
Now, instead, the Internet, texting, and even mass media, broadcast even the smallest of “transgressions” far and wide. Subsequently, our now-interconnected communities and families use “should” to impose their ideals and beliefs on others—even if without merit or supporting background. This includes you and anyone else who will listen.
Thus, “should” is usually based on what we feel is the opinion these others have of us – due to our action or inaction – and we should ignore it so long as we are doing what is best for our family and us.
Realize “Good Enough” is OK…
Likewise, these same “others” tell us we should be perfect at everything or our children and families will needlessly and endlessly suffer. This fallacy then becomes the message we send to ourselves. And the guilt kicks in even stronger.
Starting to see the cycle? Being a mom is GUILT because we can never be perfect at doing what others tell us we “should” do. While on the other hand, our kids are just fine and happy because they don’t know what we “should” be doing at all!
All our kids know is that they want to spend some time with mom. And they get to… They want to have fun some of the time. And they do… They need to eat something, so they’re not hungry. And they get fed…. They want to feel safe… And you protect them.
But wait… aren’t all these things are covered by the things we must do as a parent? “Should” only comes into play when we start to consider how society says we should do the things we must do.
Allow yourself some grace. Once more, give yourself a break. Sure, we can strive to do our very best – to always give and do more – especially when it comes to our children.
On the other hand, we must not judge our effort if we are striving for perfection—and fall just a tad short. Life is a journey. It’s more about enjoying the ride than the car you’re riding in, the speed you’re driving, or even where you’re going and where you stop along the way.