I feel like as soon as I had my daughter, I had “guilty” stamped on my forehead.
From asking others to look after her while I went to the movies to not feeding her vegetables at every meal, I often felt guilty about not mothering perfectly.
My daughter is in school now and, though I definitely did not mother perfectly, she is a happy and healthy child with a sparkling personality and kind heart.
I look at her and think: “I actually didn’t do that bad of a job.”
It took a long time to let go of that mom guilt – and mostly because I didn’t even understand why I felt it in the first place.
Once I realized why I felt guilty, I was able to let go of it and focus on being the best mother I can be for my child.
Why Do Moms Always Feel Guilty?
We love our children deeply and we want to do the very best for them. However, we internalize their failures and struggles and end up blaming ourselves.
Sometimes, we feel we are not doing enough for our children – not teaching them enough, not keeping them busy enough, not feeding them enough healthy foods, etc.
Social Media Pressure
Social media is the worst for placing undue pressure on moms.
So many mothers portray themselves as “perfect” and consequently make the rest of us feel like we suck. Some even shame others for their parenting choices (I’m looking at you Anti-Vaxx groups).
Most online behavior is not even intended to shame mothers but we feel bad anyway. Someone may post about how breastfeeding is the one true way of feeding and nourishing your baby. Meanwhile, a mother who can’t breastfeed feels ashamed.
That’s no fault of those who are innocently posting information, but the potential to feel guilty is abound when it comes to social media.
Tradition versus Instinct
How many of you have had a mother (or mother-in-law) perched on your shoulder, criticizing offering advice about how to raise your child?
They do this because they believe that their parenting methods worked for their children, so obviously they have to work for yours.
It becomes confusing for a mother when she is bombarded by advice and tradition that contradicts her mothering instincts.
For example, I was always told that babies should be fed baby cereal before starting solid foods. I didn’t see the point of filling my daughter up with starch when she was capable of safely mouthing mushed up foods.
So I didn’t.
But many mothers believe that they need to adhere to the instructions given to them. If they don’t, they feel as if they are doing something wrong.
As moms, we naturally put the needs of our children before our own. When we stop to focus on ourselves, we feel selfish.
I know I’ve felt it when I’ve allowed my child to sit and watch YouTube videos just so I can have a bath in peace.
Mothers feel guilt when they prioritize their own self care, especially if they rely on others to care for their children in order to do so.
How to Overcome Mom Guilt
1. Accept “Good Enough” Over Perfectionism
When you strive for perfection, you are setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.
Renown author and researcher of shame and guilt Brené Brown has this to say about perfectionism:
“Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.”
You will always feel guilty when you don’t achieve the perfectionism you expect from yourself.
Instead of seeking perfectionism, start accepting “good enough”. This does not mean half-assing your life – it means lowering the bar a little bit so that you feel good about your accomplishments.
Don’t have a perfectly organized and clean home? What would “good enough” look like in this situation?
Personally, I feel accomplished in my home because the laundry gets put away and the dishes are done. Is my home perfect? Far from it, but I’m proud of what I am capable of achieving.
2. Put On Your Social Media Blinders
As I mentioned above, social media can be a cesspool of mom guilt. While I’m not saying you should give up social media altogether (I’d go crazy without my Facebook and Reddit fix), but you can definitely take steps to avoid guilt-inducing posts and information.
Remove yourself from Facebook groups that make you feel bad about being a mom. These could be mom-advice groups or any group that tries to unrealistically portray motherhood as rainbows and cupcakes.
You can also try unfollowing people that you constantly compare yourself to. Those Instagram moms may seem inspiration, but if they end up making you feel less than worthy, it’s time to hop off that follow train.
Also, don’t try to be a social media warrior by defending your views and choices when it comes to motherhood. Everyone has an opinion and trying to argue yours is only going to lead to frustration.
3. Allow Yourself to Enjoy Your Job
If you are a mother that works outside of your home and away from your children, you may feel what is called “Working Mom Guilt“.
You know what? It’s okay to like your job. It’s also okay to see your job as an escape from your kids and your family.
Ultimately, your kids are going to be fine without your 24-7 presence. In fact, spending time away from you (even if it’s with other adults) will help your little ones develop independence as well as a sense of self.
Without you, they can navigate how to make decisions without your input. They will also discover their own individual preferences and interests.
And, at the end of the day (literally), you will still have plenty of time to spend with your children.
4. Know the Difference Between Failing and Failure
I’m sure you have experienced a mom-fail at some point in motherhood. It’s so easy to attribute these moments to being a “failure”.
If you are taking care of your child and their needs, you are not a mom failure. The important thing is to distinguish between “failure” and “failing”.
Making mistakes is failing but you can always learn from your mistakes. When you fail, or make a mistake, you need to acknowledge it, learn from it and move on.
And, as long as it’s not the end of the world or your child is harmed, you are allowed to laugh about it.
5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Moms
You can’t use other mothers as a basis of comparison for your own mothering skills. What you see and what happens behind closed doors are often two very different things.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: You are on par with the realities of other moms.
All moms make mistakes. I bet even Beyoncé (or her nanny) has put a diaper on backwards at least once.
That calm and collected mom you see dealing with her toddler’s temper tantrum in the grocery store probably loses her mind when she’s at home.
Unless you are privy to the intimate lives of these other mothers, you are essentially comparing apples to oranges.
Instead of judging your own mom skills against the skills of other moms, take a look at your life and your children.
Are they healthy? Are they happy? Yes?
Then you are doing a great job.
6. Let Yourself By Selfish (It’s Okay!)
That sharp breath you just drew in because of that statement – go ahead and let it out.
Selfishness exists on a spectrum, with complete selfishness on one end and selflessness on the other.
You don’t want to be either but you do want to find a balance between the two. That means that instead of giving yourself up completely and totally for your children, you are allowed to do things for yourself, too.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, which means you cannot take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.
How can you be emotionally and physically available for your children if you don’t prioritize your own self care?
7. Set Boundaries
Ah, the infamous “Yes Mom”. That mother that feels they must agree to everything asked of them or else they feel guilty for not helping out or being supportive.
Constantly saying “yes” to what of asked of you in order to stave off guilt is going to lead to overwhelm and burnout.
I like to think of my life like a plate. My needs and the needs of my daughter have permanent residence on my plate – they cannot be removed.
Everything else can, so when I feel like my plate is getting full, I dump the stuff that is not a priority in my life.
And if that means saying “no”, then I say “no”.
You are allowed to set boundaries in your life without feeling bad. Whenever you feel that things are getting too busy and hectic, step back and focus on taking care of you and yours.
8. Remember That You Are the Your Child’s Best Mom
There is no one else on this planet that can take care of, or love, your children like you do.
You know them better than anyone else and are in tune to their needs.
It doesn’t matter how other mothers do it. You can do it best for your child.
Stop Feeling Guilty, Mama
There’s no reason any good mother should feel guilty. As long as your children are receiving love and care, there is nothing to feel bad about.
There’s also nothing wrong for reaching out for help when you’re not sure what to do. Seeking advice and support does not portray you as a subpar mother.
So you keep doing you, boo. Keep doing the awesome job you’re doing of loving and caring for your little ones.
And don’t let the world tell you any different.