We feel guilty for what we do.
We feel guilty for what we don’t do.
We feel guilty for how we feel.
And, if we manage to not have strong feelings on an issue, we can even find a way to feel guilty for how we don’t feel.
Mom guilt is flexible in its applications and sweeping in its implications.
We must actively fight back against the joy-stealing destruction of mom guilt.
Like many things in life, easier said than done, right? I am still very much learning about how to reign in and control these feelings but have found some techniques that help me in my day-to-day quest to conquer mom guilt.
First, I embrace the mess. I let go of Pinterest-perfect expectations for myself and others. I realize that I am going to mess up, there is not a clear how-to guide for raising my children, and life is consistently complicated. I must extend myself grace and kindness, with the stark awareness that each day I’m learning and working to be better than I was the day before. As a mother and as a person, I’m a work in progress.
Next, I work to remember that “mommy” is one very important role but it is not my only role in life. When we allow our identity to be fully defined in a one dimensional manner we create a very narrow window for personal success and satisfaction. Celebrate the complex, wonderful and multi-dimensional person that you are. Perhaps a wife, sister, friend, and colleague, to name a few. Maybe also a teammate, training buddy, leader and volunteer. You are so much more than any one role and responsibility — even if the particular role and responsibility is a very special and important one.
I am also willing to apologize to my children. I love my children fiercely but that does not exclude me from making mistakes. I want to lead them by example in how I handle my mistakes and shortcomings. If I am unkind to them, I owe them an apology. How can I expect them to live by the golden rule if I don’t follow it myself? How can I expect them to walk in humility and engage in healthy relationships if I don’t model that behavior myself? A beautiful by-product of offering a needed apology is the subsequent release of mom guilt. Extend the apology and receive grace!
Another way that I actively fight mom guilt is by vocalizing the guilt to those who love me most. I find that by speaking it out into the universe somehow drains it of its power and the stronghold is lessened. They remind me of my value, affirm that pursuing perfection is a waste of time and often help me laugh a little.
Perhaps most importantly, when guilt is overwhelming, I work to pull back and shift my perspective. I remind myself that my kiddos will likely not remember the time I messed up a meal. The instances in which I lost my temper. Or, the times I let work distract me from being fully present. Those are small blips in the radar, in the scheme of things. Rather, it is my hope they will remember all the times I smothered them in snuggles. The instances in which I was on the front row, cheering them on. Or, when I roll up my sleeves, get my hands dirty, and play alongside them.
When I fight guilt over all that I’m not or all that I’ve done wrong I intentionally work to remind myself of all that I am and all that I’ve done right. I am blessed with the gift of motherhood and it is a true privilege to love, lead and encourage the two children I have been entrusted with. Guilt threatens to steal the joy of one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given — and I simply won’t let that happen.
When mom guilt is threatening your joy and encroaching on your enjoyment of motherhood, I urge you to also fight back. Use one of the strategies I’ve shared or please leave a comment with your own strategy! Remember, we must stick together, encourage and help each other fight against guilt and fight for joy.