6 Ways I Got Rid of Mom Guilt and You Can Too
Mommy Guilt Can Suck It
It seems like being a mom naturally comes with a heaping side of guilt. Guilt about everything from what we feed our babies to leaving them with a babysitter to teaching them how to swear at bad drivers when they are still in diapers. Posts about mom guilt show up all over social media, and in this digital world there are constant reminders that we could be doing better. But why do we all get sucked into the lie of believing guilt naturally comes with being a mom?
I love this quote from this article about what is mom guilt.
There are enormous expectations from society, media, family and friends about what mothers “should be like” and what we “should do.”
I have, of course, felt guilty about things I’ve done as a mom. The time I ran my toddler’s finger over with the shopping cart I felt really bad or the time I forgot a change of clothes and my baby had to ride home from getting our haircut in just a diaper. But typical mom guilt culprits like bottle feeding and being a working mom to leaving my five-month-old baby with my mom for a few days? I don’t feel bad about those things and I never have. Since I became a mom almost 4 years ago I’ve found a few things that have helped me get rid of those nagging feelings of guilt and enjoy this crazy ride that is motherhood.
Own Your Choices
As a Mom, you are going to have to make so many decisions. You’ll make decisions before the baby is even born and dozens more before your baby stops looking like an alien and starts looking more like a real baby. And there will hundreds of other moms making different decisions than you are, and a lot of people ready to tell you you are making the wrong the choice. The best remedy I have discovered against mom guilt is owning those decisions and being confident in my ability to make the best decision for me and my family; then ignoring everyone else.
Breastfeeding vs. Bottle Feeding
Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding seems to be one of the biggest areas of debate (read: shaming) in motherhood. And one of the areas Moms seem to feel the most guilt around, especially if they don’t breastfeed/stop breastfeeding too soon because you know, breast is best. Insert eye roll here. I am not shy about the fact that I never even attempted to breastfeed either of my children. And with the exception of a short time period when NOTHING was helping stop my second son’s spit-up, I haven’t felt guilty about it once, because I made the decision to not breastfeed long before my children were born and I have stood by it ever since.
Working vs. Stay-at-home Moms
I’m not sure stay-at-home mom guilt is a real thing, but working mom guilt definitely is. The first time my son screamed and cried when I left him at daycare I sat in my car and cried too. It’s also probably one of the only times I’ve felt guilty about being a working mom. I have zero doubt in my mind that I could not be a stay-at-home mom (props to those of you who do it). I need the time out of the house talking to other adults. I love my job and never even once considered being a stay-at-home mom when I got pregnant the first time, partly because we couldn’t afford it, but mostly because I don’t want to. It doesn’t make me a bad mom because I want to work, and it doesn’t make women who want to stay home any less either.
Self-care and Improvement
The idea that moms should feel guilty for pursuing passions and goals outside of being a mom is absurd to me, but I’ve seen it so many times. Moms who take time to go to the gym or work towards personal goals being called selfish. I couldn’t disagree more. I put my boys to bed early every night, partly because that’s what little children need and partly because I need time to work on my goals and have time for myself. Time I spend writing these blogs and books, doing yoga and reading. I am a better mom when I make the time to make my needs a priority too. You’ve probably heard it a million times, but you can’t pour from an empty cup, so don’t feel guilty about doing the things that fill you up.
Decide Beforehand How You are Going to Deal with Haters
No matter how confident you are in your choices, there are always going to be people who try to convince you that you are wrong. There will always be well-meaning family members and strangers who offer up unsolicited advice or make snide comments about your choices, and when I’m not prepared for them I usually walk away from those conversations questioning every parenting choice I’ve ever made.
I’ve actually never had anyone question my choice to bottle feed but I’ve always been ready with how I was going to respond if they did. For someone reason being pregnant or being a new mom brings all the opinions out of people. You can subtly redirect the conversation, refuse to engage or have a witty response ready for those people, but whatever you choose don’t let someone who has no knowledge of your family life make you feel guilty about your choices.
Don’t Feel Guilty About Things You Can’t Control
The worst case of mom guilt I ever had happened when my second baby was about 4 months old. He had spit-up constantly since birth, not small amounts, but a lot of spit-up after every single feeding. We tried everything but nothing was working, and he wasn’t gaining weight as fast as he should’ve been. I felt terrible. I felt so guilty for not being able to help him. I was his mom, I thought I should be able to figure it out! But there was nothing about that situation I could control. His spitting up wasn’t something I had any control over (trust me, I tried EVERYTHING), yet I was still plagued with guilt.
As much as I would like to be able to control everything in mine and my children’s lives, the reality is I can’t. As moms we want to be able to fix everything and take all the pain away for our babies, but letting go of the guilt in situations where I have no control was essential for maintaining my sanity. There is no reason to dwell on or feel bad for things we can’t change or control. It will only make you crazy.
Accept the Fact You Are Going to Make Mistakes
I cringe when I think of the number of times I’ve yelled at my three-year-old. Or how many times I’ve gotten frustrated with my baby. Or all the times I’ve used the TV as a babysitter. But here’s the thing, motherhood is really really hard. And we are not perfect. The combination of those two things means mistakes are going to happen, it’s inevitable. It means you are going to do things as a mom that you might not be proud of or do things you swore you would never do before you became a mom. It means sometimes there will be tears from everybody and you end up apologizing to a toddler.
Babies, unfortunately, don’t come with instruction manuals. We are all thrown into this motherhood thing with no idea what we are doing. And just when you think you have it figured out something changes and you are back at square one again. The best way I’ve found to deal with the guilt of making mistakes is to accept the fact that I’m not perfect and move on.
Allow Yourself to Evolve with Parenthood
When we brought our second baby home last May, I quickly realized things were going to be much different than the first time around. My first baby had my full attention for the first 2.5 years of his life. He never ate store bought baby food, because I made all of his baby food. He also never slept in our bed or with us because I was determined to not create a sleep crutch that was impossible to break later. My second son eats store bought baby food on the regular. His cries sometimes have to go unanswered for a few minutes because I’m helping his brother with something. I’ve also brought him into bed with me more times than I can count because sleep is more important now than sleep training (I might regret this later but for now I need sleep).
None of that means I am a bad mom to either child and none of it means I love one more than the other. The reality is as your family grows, or even as you get more experienced with parenthood your perspective changes. Things that used to be super important, don’t matter nearly as much anymore. Sure my first son got more personalized attention, but I hold my second baby a lot longer after he goes to sleep because he’s my last baby and I’ll miss it when he’s not little anymore. I don’t feel guilty about any of it because I am allowed to change the way I parent from child to child and from year to year, and so are you.
Love the Crap Out of Your Tiny Humans
Sometimes the best you can do in a day is to keep the children alive. Sometimes we all eat cereal for dinner and watch cartoons on the couch until it is time for bed. There are days when I feel like I am doing everything wrong and am certain I am scarring my children for life. Those are the days I hug my boys the tightest. Because no matter what else is happening in our lives, I can always love them.
I may spend 8 hours a day away from my boys and I may feed them pizza for dinner too many times and I may yell at them when I am frustrated, but at the end of the day, I always love them. I give them hugs and kisses and say “I love you” dozens of times a day. I snuggle them in my bed first thing in the morning and let them sit on my lap while I sing them songs before bed because love is always the answer. I might not get everything else about this motherhood thing right but loving them is one thing I can’t mess up. When all else fails I remember that these little boys are mine for a reason, and that love makes everything better.
I’m definitely not immune to the effects of mom guilt, it still creeps in from time to time, but I’ve found when I’m the happiest in my motherhood when I don’t give weight to other people’s opinions. Someone is always going to have something to say, or someone on social media is always going to be doing it different than you. But nothing about motherhood and parenting is one-size-fits all, and just because someone does it different doesn’t mean one person is wrong and we need to compare and shame each other.
Use some of the tips above or find your way to do it, but throw of the blanket of mom guilt we all seem to have received when our children were born and embrace the crazy, messy, love-filled life that is motherhood.