Raise your hand if you’re a mother who feels overwhelming guilt with their children. Now, keep your hand up if you constantly nitpick and criticize yourself, feeling like you’re not doing a good enough job raising them. Honestly, many mothers still have their hands up right now. You are not alone. Mom guilt is real and makes parenthood much more stressful than it already is. But you can also learn how to overcome mom guilt and let go of the heavy emotional weight.
What Is Mom Guilt?
Mom guilt is what the name implies, the feelings of guilt a mother or parent feels with their children, their role, and the concern they’re not meeting their children’s needs. It’s a constant replay of all the should of’s, why am I not’s, and comparisons that plague your mind causing panic, stress, and unrelenting guilt. And while a certain amount of mom (or dad) guilt is normal, too much can affect other parts of your life, including your work, relationships, and daily functioning, and can even cause anxiety, depression, and burnout.
5 Common Causes of Mom Guilt
Unfortunately, parents feel guilty for a variety of reasons;
- Working moms or not. Mothers who have to return to work after maternity leave quickly feel guilty for leaving their children. However, stay-at-mothers also feel guilt for fearing they’re not acting as great role models for their children.
- Boredom. Even if you love being a parent, you may feel guilty for feeling bored and needing time away from your children.
- Perfection. Striving to be the perfect mom and do everything right causes overwhelming guilt when you feel like you aren’t meeting perceived expectations.
- Preferential treatment. If you have more than one child, you may feel guilty about providing equal time and attention.
- Comparison. The highlight reel of “supermoms” and societal expectations and judgment from family members or loved ones may provide an extra layer of guilt.
12 Signs of Mom Guilt
Despite hearing that a certain degree of mom guilt is normal, how do you know if yours is breaching the warning zone? Well, it might look different for everyone depending on your current mental state and background. But here are a few of the several emotions guilt accompanies to help you evaluate and take the initiative to course-correct.
- Low self-worth
- Feeling inferior
- High levels of exhaustion
- Persistent overwhelm
- Feeling on edge and stressed
- Comparing your parenting to others
- Feeling guilty for not spending enough time
How to Overcome Mom Guilt
1. Identify the source
Discovering the source of your guilt can help you understand which aspects of your life need your attention and subsequently, change. For example, it may be internal such as an ongoing problem with perfectionism, expectations, or postpartum depression (Check out these self-help strategies for postpartum anxiety). Or it could be external, such as criticism from loved ones or too much time on social media. Analyzing your life through an unbiased perspective and determining the source will help you decrease the overwhelm.
2. Set boundaries
Learning to say no will be your parental shield through learning how to overcome mom guilt. For example, discover what you can no longer tolerate from toxic loved ones, work, or any area of your life, and set consequences. Having clear guidelines for yourself and others will limit guilt, burnout, and feeling like you need to say yes to everything to be considered a “supermom”.
3. Let go of expectations
Social media has a sneaky and cruel way of getting under our skin and stirring up trauma, insecurities, and limiting beliefs. So, if you tend to scroll and feel like you need to run a business, meal prep, meditate, make all of your children’s crafts, and work out 5 times a week like Cindy, take a break and remind yourself that the highlight reel is false, and even Cindy isn’t perfect. So, let go of your expectations of motherhood and remind yourself you’re doing your best.
4. Reframe your perceptions
What do you think a “good parent” represents? Often, we think the parent who seems to do it all is the best. But in reality, this is a societal expectation and not achievable. Instead, define what matters most to you and remind yourself that everyone’s level of parenting is different. We all have an idea of how we want to raise our children, and if yours is different from your loved ones it doesn’t mean it’s inferior. And once you accept your values and your parenting style, the guilt will slowly decrease as a result.
5. Challenge negative thoughts
There will always be someone that you believe is doing a better job. But shower yourself with compassion and take a moment to examine your thoughts. Often we tell ourselves irrational thoughts that affect our self-worth and how we see the world around us. Yet, if you sit with the discomfort and observe your thoughts, you discover the underlying context of your internal dialogue and learn how to declutter the mind, so those thoughts don’t have any power over you.
6. Ask for help
It’s common to feel like you need to do everything yourself, especially as a mother battling societal expectations. But you are not weak, vulnerable, or inferior for asking for help. In fact, it’s a form of self-care, but you have to learn how to communicate your needs and emotions with your support system. For example, if you need more help with the morning routine, talk to your partner. Or, if you need a night away with your friends, ask for help. These things are all possible to achieve, but it’s up to you to ask for help when you’re struggling.
7. Delegate and conquer
Again, you are not Wonder Woman, and you do not need to do everything alone. While asking your partner or support system for help is a must, delegating chores among your children is also an option. Not only does it teach them responsibility, but it also gives you a much-need break. It’s a win-win. To help, check out our post on how to make kids accountable with age-appropriate chores and all the benefits it provides for yourself and for your children.
8. Listen to yourself and children
We all have an internal guidance system that aids our decision-making. Especially as a parent, your intuition is a strong source of power there to protect yourself and your babies. And leaning into this voice and trusting it will help reduce the guilt. Additionally, spend time listening to your children. Receiving their feedback will help you strengthen your bond, validate your parenting, and might motivate you to grow.
9. Prioritize self-care
You can’t run around serving everyone with an empty cup. Your mind and body need your attention and care to reduce the guilt and overwhelm. This means prioritizing your diet, sleep (not impossible), fitness, and doing the things you love. Before motherhood, you had a list of hobbies and passions that lit up your soul. Try going back to these to discover how to find joy in your life.
Ultimately, motherhood goes by in a flash. One day you will miss all those stressful yet sweet moments you had with your children. And learning how to overcome mom guilt by making changes, being patient, and showering yourself with compassion will help you bask in the presence and enjoy the bond you have with your babies. So release the shame and remember, you’re doing an incredible job. Every. Day.
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