5 Ways to Conquer Mom Guilt and Stop Second-Guessing Yourself
Dropping my daughter off at school the other day, I walked into her classroom to realize that it was pajama day and she was the only kid not in pajamas. I had forgotten to check the school calendar. And while I’m being honest, it wasn’t just that day. I hadn’t checked it for the entire month. There had been no posted reminders or verbal heads up the day before. How was I supposed to remember?
Immediately, my mind went to “I screwed up.” I knew it wouldn’t be a huge deal to my daughter, but she would probably make a point of telling me later on that I forgot to dress her in pajamas. Still, I spent some time feeling guilty about missing pajama day and even blaming the school for not posting a reminder, like they usually do for every other school occasion.
Mom guilt - it’s pervasive. Where does it come from? Our society’s expectations of motherhood, our families, our culture, the internet? Everywhere you turn for answers, there are differing opinions on the standards for motherhood. And each side feels very strongly about their view, ready to defend it, and sometimes even condemn the opposing viewpoints. It can feel impossible at times to feel confident about what you do for your child.
Should I breastfeed or bottle-feed? Vaccinate or not? Am I too involved in my child’s life? Not involved enough? Should I stay home with my child or take a class at the gym? Go back to work or stay at home? You don’t have to look farther than Google to find plenty of opinions for all of these.
Even after agonizing over what to do and finally reaching a decision about what is best, mom guilt may still creep in. But you can make peace with your decision and stop second-guessing yourself. The good news is that you can always learn new ways to cope. If you are feeling overwhelmed by mom guilt these days, here are some ideas to help you stop blaming and doubting yourself:
Practice being ok with good enough.
There is no such thing as a perfect mom. No matter how beautiful your friend’s Facebook pictures are of her and her child, she is not perfect. That is one moment in time that you are seeing. And for all we know, she could be really good at faking it.
While we are on the topic of social media, limiting it can be extremely helpful in alleviating guilt. Social media is a comparison nightmare. Rarely, does anyone post their toughest moments. How fair can a comparison be that is based on a few carefully selected snapshots in someone else’s life?
There is also no such thing as the perfect child. Perfection does not exist. Letting go of this need to be perfect will not only help you but also your child. It’s a lot of pressure living up to an impossible standard. Children take cues from their parents about how to act. Imagine your child grappling with this and being disappointed every single time she fails at being perfect. Definitely not the future you would choose for her.
What if instead of striving for the absolute best all the time, you were satisfied with being good enough? It may not sound very glamorous, but it sure is a less stressful, happier life. A good enough mom is there for her child to comfort, help, teach, but she also lets herself off the hook when she loses her patience and yells. A good enough mom knows that we all make mistakes but can still be amazing parents and kids. She can look at the mistakes as part of being human or maybe even an opportunity for growth.
Let go of unrealistic expectations.
So how exactly do you let go of being the perfect mom or other impossible expectations you are being held to? You can start by being mindful of when you are feeling guilty. Ask yourself, if my friend confided in me that she was feeling guilty about not doing everything right all the time for her child, what would I say to her? We are often much more compassionate and fairer to our friends than ourselves. Listen to what you would say to her. You need to hear it. Try taking your own advice. I know it can be easier said than done, but just trying is a step in the right direction.
Mantras can be great reminders for things we are trying to change. When you are doubting yourself, try one of these mantras:
I am human. I am doing the best I can right now.
This is an opportunity for growth. I can learn from this.
It’s not easy being a mom.
We all make mistakes. I am no different.
We all doubt ourselves. I am learning to trust myself more.
Recognize that we don’t have as much control as we would like, and everything can still be ok.
We like to believe that there are clear explanations for why things go wrong. Someone was to blame. And when it comes to mothers, we usually look to ourselves to place blame. If only you had stuck to the baby’s schedule, then he would have slept better last night. If only I had scheduled in pajama day on my phone, then I wouldn’t feel like a failure by 9 am. Maybe. Maybe not. There are a million different possibilities and only one reality. We convince ourselves that this is the explanation, the thing that we could have done something about. And all would have been different, if only . . .
But what if the baby didn’t sleep well because he is teething or going through some new developmental leap? What can we do about that? Not a whole lot. And that sucks. You can do nothing and are at the mercy of this developmental force beyond your control. Who wants to accept that?
Instead, we look for answers that are within our control. We believe that if we can do this one thing differently, all will be better. The truth is we actually don’t have as much control over things as we would like to think. But we can still be ok while things might be going wrong.
Instead of racking your brain trying to understand what you did wrong that threw off your baby’s sleep for the past 3 nights, try to accept that this is beyond your control. It is what it is for right now. Consider what you can do during this time to be kinder to yourself, instead of blaming. Can you use that time that you would normally spend looking for solutions to read, meditate, or be with your spouse? Brainstorm ways you can get as much sleep, or rest, as possible during this time. It can also be helpful to think about what other needs you have right now, which leads to the next tip.
Make time for yourself. You need to recharge and connect to the part of you that is not Mom.
Time to yourself is so valuable, and no one understands this better than a mom. How many moms treasure just being able to use the bathroom alone? Motherhood is a whole new world, different in so many ways from your old reality!
Moms are pulled in a lot of different directions. I know that this a difficult choice, as your guilt meter goes way up when you have to choose between something for you or something for your family. It’s a long, never-ending to-do list, mama. And it will be there tomorrow. But if you never make time to do the things that are enjoyable to you and help re-energize you, how can you keep going day after day?
Making time for yourself can be as simple as running to Starbucks alone and savoring some sweet indulgence. Maybe you need to take a long shower without interruption to feel like a human. Or maybe you need to spend a few hours with your friends without kids so that you can have a conversation and truly enjoy your time together.
Lean on supportive friends and be honest with them. They have their own “mom fails” to share.
There is a reason they say women need tribes. Our friends can lift us up just by saying “I’ve been there too.” How comforting is it to know that you are not the only mother whose child has slept in her bed? Make time to talk to your friends about what is challenging you right now. You may be surprised to hear that they went through something similar. And if that’s the case, they are living proof that this time will pass and they somehow managed to survive it. So will you.
Being a mom is tough. It is a full-time, demanding, at times heart-wrenching job. You are constantly juggling so many things, trying to stay 2 steps ahead, and do what is best for your children. It’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed and doubt yourself.
But you have gotten this far. And with a little guidance from Postpartum Health & Harmony, we can help you to stop feeling guilty over things you cannot control, to let go of unrealistic expectations, and stop second-guessing yourself. Let us support you in feeling happier and more confident. Click here to schedule a session with us today.