How to Overcome Mom Guilt — Causes and Tips.
Learn to parent in peace without feelings of guilt, shame, or despair.
Ahhh… mom guilt. That sneaky little voice in your head that’s always reminding you that you’re not good enough. Constantly measuring, tallying, and keeping score… and always coming up short. Always comparing — to the neighbor, the social media mom, and even your own mom.
And what, exactly, are you comparing? Did you know that the women you are comparing yourself to are most likely feeling their own immense amounts of mom guilt? Those same women — who seem like perfect mothers — are probably looking at you and wondering how you have it all together?
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Or in this case, the creator of mom guilt. You feel guilt because you work and she doesn’t, or she does and you don’t. There’s guilt when her house looks spotless on social media, and you’re sitting in the middle of a mess.
Unfortunately, a large number of moms deal with mom guilt. And while there are a lot of reasons for this, I believe it mostly boils down to each mom desiring to be the best they can be for their children, which is a totally reasonable desire, right?
What is mom guilt?
Mom guilt is the negative feelings moms experience due to unrealistic expectations of themselves in relation to their children. As I stated above, moms want to be the best, we expect perfection, and feel guilt and shame when we don’t measure up.
This is partially due to our culture — moms have high expectations placed upon us socially and culturally. However, mom guilt is present in some form regardless, simply because we are human with human emotions.
If you are struggling with mom guilt, please know it is a normal response to have and there are many other women struggling with you. That being said, getting a better understanding of what you’re feeling and finding ways to cope with it are important. Mom guilt left unattended can lead to more serious issues like depression.
Mom guilt can feel like overwhelming guilt, shame, and failure. You might feel guilty because your baby is lying alone and content on the floor, and you feel you should be engaging in some form with them. You feel you’re somehow neglecting them.
You may feel shame and remorse over the way you lashed out at your toddler earlier. Now you feel like you completely ruined them and scarred them forever.
Many moms feel guilt over going back to work. This is especially common in the U.S., where maternity leave is so short, but working mom guilt is present universally. Maybe working is not required for your family, but it’s what you need mentally, and you feel working mom guilt for choosing to leave your children behind.
Mom guilt isn’t something you should have to deal with forever. Let’s look at some signs to help you understand if you are dealing with mom guilt and how to get rid of it.
How to know if you have mom guilt?
There was a study conducted with Finnish mothers to find out the extent of mom guilt and the common causes of it. Through this study, it was determined there are five common reasons for mom guilt. These are:
- This can be emotional, physical, and verbal aggression caused by anger or outrage.
- This means feeling so overwhelmed, guilty, or angry that you don’t want anything else to do with motherhood. This could be simply thoughts, or it could be a physical action.
- This can take the form of physical or mental absence — physically absent while working out of the home, or mentally absent due to other stressors in your life like strained relationships, financial struggles, etc.
- This applies when you have more than one child. It refers to feeling like one child is easier than another, and thereby, easier to love, engage with, etc.
- This is in reference to social and cultural expectations placed upon mothers. Expectations like never being angry and always being attentive and loving.
There are, of course, other factors that play into feeling mom guilt, but there are too many to list, honestly. If anything you’ve read so far has struck a chord, I encourage you to dig a little bit to find the source of your mom guilt. If you discover you are experiencing mom guilt, don’t worry! It’s not something you have to live with forever.
Below are some ways to challenge the feelings you may be facing.
How to deal with mom guilt — 7 ways to challenge it.
Find the source
As I already mentioned, it’s important to find the cause of your mom guilt. Is it social expectations? Self-created expectations? Pay attention to when the feelings really pop up and take note of what’s happening around you when they do.
Easier said than done, I know! But releasing yourself from the boxes you’ve put yourself in is so emotionally freeing. You’re always going to be around others that do it differently than you. You’re going to feel that some do it better.
Remember, it’s ok if your home isn’t Instagram-worthy, your crafts don’t look like Pinterest’s, and your parenting style isn’t reflective of your childhood. You do what works best for your family, and don’t worry about the rest.
Reach out for help
It’s definitely ok to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed as a mom. One of the reasons many moms suffer from guilt is because we believe we should be able to do it all — but we can’t. It’s important to communicate with those around you when you need help. Whether it’s your partner, a family member, or a friend, try to let them know how you’re feeling and what you need.
Self-care is important as a mom because you can’t fill up anyone else’s cup when your own is bone dry. As moms, we spend our days giving, giving, giving. It’s crucial that we refill ourselves. Be intentional about self-care and taking care of yourself.
Challenge negative thoughts
It’s ok to feel bad. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come your way. But make sure you don’t stop there. Once you’ve felt them, it’s important to challenge them. Where did they come from? Are they rational? This is an important step in breaking down your mom guilt.
Show yourself compassion
Being a mom is hard. I don’t think a single mother would argue with that statement! Please don’t make it harder by beating yourself up. You already have outside sources that judge your parenting — don’t add to that!
Allow yourself to make mistakes and to feel less-than-perfect. Give yourself the grace to get up and try again. When you feel the negative talk setting in, try to stop it in its tracks and reframe it in a positive light.
Take it one struggle at a time
Parenting is full of hard little moments — tears over the wrong color plate at breakfast, a tantrum about getting in the car. It’s easy to let all those tears and screams add up into what feels like a giant, overwhelming mess of a day. Try not to let them!
One day, these meltdowns about tiny moments will be a thing of the past. So for now, take a deep breath, respond, and let it go. There are hard moments every day, but it doesn’t have to make the whole day bad.
Remember, mom guilt left to run its course can lead to bigger problems down the road. So identify it and then challenge it. And always give yourself grace for mistakes you make. You’re not a perfect mom, but you’re exactly what your kids need.
Read this blog for more tips on managing working mom guilt.