Guilty Moms

It’s Not Unusual for Moms to Feel Guilty

There are so many things moms can and do feel guilty about. We question everything, from “Will I breast feed or use formula?” when our children are newborns to “What college should we choose?” when our children are beginning to leave home. And the questions don’t end there.

We feel guilty when we choose fast food instead of a homemade dinner with organic ingredients; and when we give our children popcorn and plop them in front of the TV so we can get the housework done.

We wonder if we should work and leave our children with another caregiver instead of ourselves.

We ask ourselves whether we should home-school our children or send them to school—and if the latter, should it be private or public school? Whichever we choose, we’re sure to find ways to criticize ourselves, thinking it wasn’t the best choice after all.

We regret when we yell at our kids, and when we aren’t giving enough study and homework help.

…And the list of guilt-instillers goes on.

If we aren’t good enough at the guilt trip, there’s sure to be someone else to do it for us. I remember the time I asked my husband for a full day off to go do something just for myself. It was a time that led to lots of guilty feelings. My husband asked incredulously, “You want to do what?” Someone else asked, “Won’t your kids miss you being there when they get home from school?” And when my mom said, “You want to pay someone to take care of your children so you can play?” I was completely pushed over the fence into a bright green field of MOM GUILT.

Fortunately, I had a wonderful mentor at the time who told me, “Do it anyway.” That time for me, he said, was just as important. And you know what? I came home feeling so refreshed and renewed that I decided to have a me-day every month. That time spent away from all the demands of work, home and family, time immersed in the quiet beauty of Mount Monadnock, hearing the birds, the gentle breezes, seeing the amazing view from the mountain top, helped me be a much better mom for my children.

We live in a society dictates that moms should give mothering their all, give everything and always put their children first. It is so easy to load ourselves with feelings of not being good enough, not giving enough and not doing enough. It is so easy to become a guilty mom.

“We found that moms from all walks of life have mommy guilt, which blows the ‘grass is greener’ thing right out of the water,” say Devra Renner and Aviva Pflock, co-authors of Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids.

But at what cost do we stand in this place of guilt?

Dealing with guilt is never easy, but there is help! Strategies for feeling less guilty include time management, organization, prioritization, self-care, learning how to make good choices and trusting yourself.

Here are some other steps to help with guilt:

  • Recognize that you know yourself and your children better than anyone else. My client Donna said this about her nomination to become president of her local Rotary Club: “Everyone tells me I shouldn’t do it because I’ll have even less time for my family. But I know how passionate my teenage children have become about giving back to the world. This will give them more opportunities to do just that, and I’ll be an example for them—now and when they’re adults. And my husband knows how much this achievement really means to me, that even though there’s more time commitment as president, the return we’ll all get is so worth it!” President Donna became a person with more excitement and passion and, as contradictory as it may sound, she had more energy. She was feeding her heart and mind in a positive, self-affirming way which resulted in having more to give her family.
  • Be kind to yourself. Know that this is a Universal Mom Problem. There’s not a mom out there who hasn’t fallen into the “I can’t do things for me” trap at some point. Give yourself permission to pamper yourself. It’s OK to put yourself as the priority sometimes. Remind yourself that you don’t have to be perfect. Know that you can make good choices.
  • Seek the support of others. A cup of tea with a good friend while your children play together can do wonders. A life coach who specializes in moms can be a tremendous resource as she helps you discover the solutions that will work best for you. Join a support group, or a playgroup where moms are with each other and someone else is watching the children. It’s OK to seek professional help. Some visits with your pastor or counselor may help you put your guilt in perspective.
  • Focus on the positive things you bring your family. Remember that laughter, creativity, structure, good cooking, flexibility, courage, independence and love are among your gifts.
  • Trust yourself to make good choices. Many have said there is nothing stronger than a mother’s intuition. Have you experienced that feeling in your gut that comes with little explanation, but for some reason you knew that your child needed you? Have you made a decision based on nothing more than that gut feeling? That’s intuition—and it can be very powerful!

When we beat ourselves up with feelings of guilt, the weight of those feelings can push us into becoming angry, frustrated, resentful people. Take the steps you need to give yourself the freedom to be and do what is right for you, and in turn, you will be doing what is right for your children.