Overcoming Mom Guilt
If you’ve ever felt guilty for not spending enough time with your kids, not cooking enough dinners, not keeping a clean enough house, or some other parenting-related inadequacy, you’re not alone. According to one survey, over 78 percent of mothers felt some sort of mom guilt and 68 percent said the guilt showed up at least once or twice every day.1
Maybe it’s time for moms to escape the high expectations placed on them, stop trying to emulate the mom-fluencers on social media, and start embracing the “good enough” parenting style. Read on to understand what mom guilt is, the impact it has on mental health, and how to channel this guilt in positive ways.
Understanding Mom Guilt: Unveiling its Impact and Strategies to Consider
Mom guilt refers to the pervasive sense of inadequacy or remorse that many mothers feel regarding their parenting abilities or choices. It's an internalized pressure to meet often unattainable standards and expectations, leading mothers to question if they are doing enough for their children.
Studies show that parenting guilt is the strongest predictor of a mother’s subjective well-being and is a stronger predictor of depression than partner relationship factors.2 There are many reasons why a mom might feel guilty: working too much (or too little), not being strict enough (or being too strict), not having enough money (or spoiling your kid). Some moms even feel guilty for being bored from time to time as if they are required to enjoy every moment of the parenting experience. In some cases, mom guilt starts as early as how you choose to handle your pregnancy or delivery.
If you are suffering from some form of mom guilt, here are some practical ways to overcome it:
1. Acknowledge, Accept, & Embrace Imperfection in Parenting
There’s no such thing as perfect parenting. It’s important to remember that not everything you see on social media is real and those influencers on social media rarely share the messy parts of their lives. Acknowledge that perfection in parenting is an unattainable goal and embrace imperfections as part of the journey, understanding that mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning.
2. Set Realistic Expectations to Redefine the Standards of Motherhood
Set your own expectations instead of trying to live up to somebody else’s. Understand that every child and family is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. Adjust your expectations to align with the reality of your circumstances. Not only will this help relieve the stress of not being perfect but you show the moms around you that they can let go of the facade too.
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3. Nurture Yourself to Nurture Others
You know those safety demonstrations on airplanes where they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping your child? This is not because you prioritize your life over your child–but because you can’t help them if you don’t help yourself first. The same is true in mothering. Nurturing yourself is not a selfish act; it's a prerequisite for effective nurturing of others. Prioritize self-care, indulge in activities that bring you joy, and replenish your emotional well-being. Also be sure that you’re not neglecting yourself on the most basic level by following a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and making time for exercise. A well-nurtured mother is better equipped to nurture her children.
4. Stay Present & Let Go of Perfection by Practicing Mindfulness
When moms get caught in the parenting zone, it’s easy to lose track of time and lose themselves in the process. Practice mindfulness to stay present in each moment. From breathing exercises to journaling to seated meditation, there are so many tools you can use to take a moment for yourself before giving so many moments to others. Let go of the need for perfection by accepting the present with openness and awareness. Mindfulness helps mothers navigate challenges without being overwhelmed by guilt about the past or anxiety about the future.
5. Build a Community & Accept Help
Building a supportive community is crucial in alleviating mom guilt. Connect with other mothers who share similar experiences. Accept help from family and friends without feeling guilty, or ask for help when needed. It truly does take a village to raise a child and you shouldn’t have to feel ashamed about asking for something our ancestors relied upon.
Accepting help may also involve talking through your guilt with a professional therapist or considering medication to help reduce stress and anxiety associated with parenting. Needing medicinal support does not make you a bad mom; it can simply help you better navigate the highs and lows that come with parenting. After all, no medication is the solution in and of itself. But it can be a useful tool that offers support as you learn how to manage your symptoms on your own through therapy, mindfulness, exercise, nutritional changes and whatever else it takes to achieve whole-body health. There are so many options to consider: check out this buying guide to non-prescription anxiety medication.
6. Transform Guilt into Learning Opportunities
Instead of letting guilt weigh you down, transform it into a learning opportunity. Reflect on challenging situations, understand the emotions involved, and identify ways to make it through similar circumstances more effectively in the future.
For instance, if you’re feeling guilty for losing your temper with your kids, use the opportunity to apologize to your child. This sends the message that parents make mistakes too, and you can fix them by saying sorry.
7. Celebrate Progress, Wins & Moments of Triumph
It’s easy to point out the missteps and imperfections along the way, but how about we also make room for the wins? Celebrate the journey and acknowledge your victories, no matter how small: you did your best, your child feels loved, your child got fed, you made it through the work day, etc. Shift your focus from what went wrong to what went well. Celebrate progress, no matter how incremental, and find joy in the moments of triumph along the way.
Finding Peace Beyond Mom Guilt
The next time you feel mom guilt, remember that bad moments do not make you a bad mom. Cultivating self-compassion and recognizing that you are doing your best will help you let go of the mistakes, embrace imperfection, and see the joy in motherhood without the heavy burden of guilt. Remember, a mother's love, care, and presence matter more than any ideal of perfection.
Find more tips and resources on mental health and self-care at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center and find out how non-prescription Brillia can offer support if your mom guilt is causing chronic stress, anxiety, and irritability.
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