So much mom guilt, so little time

Lately, I feel like guilt is all around us.  I hear it from moms in the groups I run and from the tired families I consult with, and I feel it myself.  What are we all feeling guilty about?  From new moms I hear:  I feel guilty because…I am going back to work, I’m not going back to work, I would rather be back at work, I am holding my baby to much (ie. spoiling him/her), I’m not talking to my baby/teaching him/her enough new skills, I don’t love being a mom, I let my baby cry, I am sleeping with my baby and my doctor/mother/sister/random lady in Whole Foods told me this is bad, I am not teaching my baby healthy sleep habits from day one of life, I am not breastfeeding, I am breastfeeding for longer then the “accepted” period of time, and the list goes on…

As your children get older, you will still probably feel guilt, but it just changes.  My kids are 5 and 8, and now I feel guilt that I am not there for every school events for each of my children, or because I am not putting enough thought into what activities they should be doing to give them skills they will want/need later in life, or because I am often distracted by other things and don’t give my kids enough of my undivided attention or because maybe I do too much for them and don’t let them figure out enough on their own.  I could add more but you get the picture.  These feelings of guilt are endless and the guilty feelings continue to contradict themselves as I may feel one way one day one and completely opposite the next.  This parenting business isn’t for the weak!  It is hard, very emotional, and unique for every parent.

So what do we do with all our guilty mothering feelings?  I like to try to remind myself  that I don’t have to be the best mother.  Trust me, I have no illusions, I am far, far away from being the best.  I like to strive for being just good enough.  Often our feelings of guilt come from the relationship between how we see ourselves and the messages we receive about others around us.  For instance, every day, we are bombarded with messages about how others are mothering from places like Facebook or what we perceive other moms at our children’s’ schools are doing or total strangers we may see out and about with their children or even what the latest parenting research says we should be doing.  A wise friend with older children once told me “you can’t compare your back room to someone else’s front room,” meaning that you never know what happens behind closed doors in someone else’s home or how that other person really feels.  When we are finally able to stop with the comparisons, much of that guilt will resolve.  This is no small task and something I try to practice every day.  It’s a work in progress…



3 Responses to So much mom guilt, so little time

  1. Such a timely post! I was just feeling guilty about not “playing” with my son, 4 mo, at 5 a.m. and instead trying out a new recipe (nothing like having empanadas ready to go before 6 in the morning!). It’s a hard time of year for mom guilt. We had my mom (aka Nana) around for a week and both my kids got lots of extra attention, and we got a little breathing room. But now we’re back to reality with work resuming, and the baby starting daycare. I agree a lot of these feelings of guilt come from our own and perceived expectations about how to parent. So here’s starting a new year full of firsts with my amazing kids, but also letting go of (at least some of) the guilt and unrealistic expectations.

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