Mom guilt. Oh the notorious dark cloud that looms over mothers. The struggle is real, even for me, a licensed counselor who continues to work on personal development daily. Before I became a mother, I didn’t fully comprehend the concept.
Mom guilt is a whole different beast. It’s like regular guilt, except on steroids.
As mothers, we are inundated with daily choices that impact our little ones. Because of this, there are millions of opportunities for guilt to rear its ugly head.
There are as many varieties of mom guilt as there are shades of lipstick. It can sneakily creep in when you’re making even the most basic decisions, like whether or not you feed your kid macaroni and cheese from the box because you’re running short on time or whether you sacrifice some “me time” and create a homemade organic meal instead.
Should you puree your own baby food or buy the jar at the store? Formula feed or breastfeed? Some people don’t even get the choice. The endless options create a constant stream of stress and indecision.
Or maybe it’s present when you leave for work and your toddler is clinging to your leg crying and begging you not to go. You think to yourself, “Is the paycheck really worth it?”
The stay-at-home mom guilt that appears when you want to work outside of the home to get a break from your current job as a referee between toddlers, and being a concierge for your 2 year old.
Don’t even get me started on the effects of Pinterest on our egos. We see all the DIY nursery projects and Bento boxes and decide to embark on the homemade crafting journey only to end up on the floor later that night sobbing and wanting to pull our hair out. (Oh that doesn’t happen to you? Just me? Well that’s embarrassing.) Pinterest claims another victim.
Maybe there’s guilt about not giving your first born child as much attention as he or she used to get when the second sibling comes around. Or that time when you didn’t take your second kid for his or her own individual newborn pictures because you were just too freakin’ exhausted from having two kids to deal with.
Or when you dropped your kids off at school late for the third time that week.
There’s also “me time” guilt. That feeling you get when you actually scheduled yourself a little self-care and then felt horrible about leaving your kids in the gym daycare or with the babysitter.
Or when you decided you needed some quiet time, but then imagined how you must be the worst mother in the world for not wanting to spend every waking second of your day with your child. (In case you’re wondering, this does not make you a horrible mom.)
And then there’s the guilt from other moms. And honestly, mom on mom shaming is the worst offender. Every mom is having her own struggles without the added burden of worrying about what another woman is thinking about her.
There’s more mom guilt out there than I can possibly list.
We’re not entirely to blame for the epidemic either. There’s incredible pressure to be a Super Mom these days. Unrealistic expectations are placed on women in general via social media, blogs, magazines, advertisers and other forms of entertainment. Historically, women didn’t have as many choices as they do today about what role they played in society.
Women typically stayed at home with the kids, ran the house like a Boss, and made dinner, all while somehow wearing a dress and heels. (I still don’t understand why or how that was a thing.) The role of a woman and a mother was clearly outlined. That’s just what you did. The men worked and the women stayed at home with the kids. No questions asked.
And now, although I’m extremely grateful that we have choices thanks to the brave women who came before us, being a woman today is more confusing than ever. There’s a different kind of pressure that comes with having so many options available. This leaves even more opportunities for moms to feel guilty.
There’s guilt if we work and guilt if we stay home. There’s no clearly defined role of what a woman is “supposed” to do anymore, although some people might argue differently. We’re left scratching our heads wondering what the best option is.
Fellow mamas out there please listen: As long as you’re keeping your kids safe, fed, and clothed, there’s no right or wrong. For the most part, everyone is trying their best. While another person’s version of “their best” might be very different than your standard of “good enough”, it doesn’t necessarily make the other person wrong. It just makes you very different mothers and that’s fine.
In the end, do what works for you, not Nancy down the street. She’s not walking in your shoes and doesn’t get to dictate how you live your life.
You’ve got this mama. Take time to replenish yourself, practice self-compassion (you’re doing the best you can), and fiercely protect your young. The guilt is there to remind you that you actually care very deeply about your kids, not that you’re a terrible mother.