No one likes mom guilt. It seems like the moment that the first baby is placed in your arms, it’s code for: Start blaming yourself now for everything that happens in this little human’s life. I’m just as guilty as the next mom for getting bogged down by the guilt trips I give myself daily.
They get too much screen time.
They aren’t reading enough.
I let her cry it out five minutes too long last night.
I locked myself in my bathroom for a moment of peace.
Thoughts like these are probably feel familiar if you’re a mom with a conscience. Mom guilt has spiraled me into feelings of depression, and anger, and has even made me feel like I don’t deserve to be a mother.
I think most logical people would argue that mom guilt is bad. We need to give ourselves more grace, and allow ourselves to be human. After all, moms are human. We have every right to take care of ourselves first, and plop the kid down in front of the TV from time to time without lecturing ourselves about how we are ruining them forever.
Because, news flash…we’re not.
After being a mom for 12 years, I’ve let go of feeling guilty for a lot of things. I don’t stress about as much as I used to as a new mom. I realized quickly that it just took too much energy to feel guilty for everything. And trust me, motherhood makes you feel guilty for almost everything.
I’ve learned to stop feeling guilty over too much screen time. I’ve learned to let go of the fact that other moms are crafty and I just have no desire to learn how to make edible play dough. I’ve learned that I can’t always make the best meals, and I certainly can’t control who actually eats them in my house.
There are countless things that I’ve learned aren’t worth worrying about as a mother. And, if I could give any advice to a new mom, it would be to shake off the feelings of mom guilt as much as possible, because it can make you feel like a terrible mother, and like you’re failing – when in reality, you’re not.
But, sometimes, I think mom guilt actually can help me be a better mom. I know I sound like I’m contradicting myself, but the truth is, we have to distinguish the mom guilt voice in our head that is trying to discourage us, from the voice that is encouraging us to do better and be better.
Because, we all have room for improvement. Even in motherhood.
For example, while I don’t like to admit it, I pretty much hate playing games and make-believe with my kids. Some moms love it, but I just don’t. I have felt an immense amount of guilt over the years when my kids innocently ask, “mommy, will you play with me?” and I always manage to find an excuse.
But, as time flies by and I watch my kids get older, that nagging mom guilt is still there, but now I feel it’s propelling me toward making motherhood less about me, and more about them.
When I hear, “Mommy, can you play with me?”, my first instinct might still be to say no, but that mom guilt helps me want to say yes.
Do I love it now? Not really. But, does that mom guilt help me engage with my kid more, and bask in his happiness as he plays with me? Absolutely.
In some ways, mom guilt has helped me overcome my own selfishness when I really could put more time and effort into them.
There is a balance, of course. Mom guilt could rip out my soul and make me feel completely lost if I always put their needs before my own. But, I like to look at it now as a motivator for me to put their needs before my own when I can.
I know what you might be feeling, “BUT I DO EVERYTHING FOR THEM!” Because, you probably do.
But, it’s in the every day little things that will make them feel loved and cared for. I know that now. Because I see time slipping away, and I see the moments where they ask for more stories, and hugs, and extra cuddles at bedtime to not come as often.
It’s in the times when we say yes when they know we’re busy, and we read one more story when they know we are bone tired where they will feel the most loved.
In the early years of motherhood there are lots of physical demands required of moms. Feeding, bathing, clothing, and the lack of sleep all take a toll. My kids are older now though, and I see a shift now in my thinking about their emotional needs.
Sometimes mom guilt is good. Because it makes me a better mom.
I find myself asking, “What do they need from me emotionally today?” And, mom guilt helps me find the answer. I think those tiny voices in our head are sometimes there to help us become better. And, do better. That’s why some days I’ll try to embrace that pesky mom guilt and be glad it helped me be a better mom today.