What is it?
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This terrible thing called “mom guilt” has been increasing for me over the span of the last 18 months (since my youngest was born); but especially in the last couple weeks. Mom Guilt is defined as, “the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiousness or uncertainty experienced by mothers when they worry they are failing or falling short of expectations in some way. For many moms, the variables that contribute to this phenomenon are numerous and intense.” (see Teia Collier) As a working mom, I am no stranger to the feeling of falling short and the weight of that guilt. If there are two things I have learned about mom guilt: It is very real and it sucks badly.
Recently, my oldest, my daughter was incredibly sick. It started as pink eye on a Monday and by Tuesday night it had quickly turned into a gnarly flu bug. I spent pretty much every free moment I had by her side. I camped out on a spare mattress on her bedroom floor and got maybe a total of six hours of sleep for a total of two nights. Wednesday morning rolls around and she is still absolutely miserable. As I am dragging myself around the house in the morning getting ready for work, I hear her whimper in her bed. Of course, I rush in thinking she probably puked in her bed again, but all I see are tears in her little green eyes as she goes, “Mommy I don’t want you to go to work, I need you to stay here and take care of me and cuddle me…”
And there goes my heart. Shattered into a million little pieces all over that spare mattress that I slept on the night before. I told her Mommy had to go to work because there are other sick people at the hospital that I have to help feel better too. But as soon as I get home, I was all hers to give her as many cuddles as she wanted. She said okay and told me she loved me.
Cue the foggy glasses from holding in the tears that oh, so badly wanted to come out…
I have this terrible habit of holding things in for way too long and then I get to this point where something simple pushes me over the edge and cue my bi-monthly mental breakdown. (Much different than a normal monthly female mental breakdown, just an FYI) This is the kind of breakdown that you question everything that is around you at that very moment from why you’re even a mom in the first place to why did those brownie Christmas trees back in December turn out like that?
I started back on Halloween making cool treats for her preschool class for holiday parties and what not, now every holiday I feel the need to up myself. WTF?! Because we, as moms, often struggle with guilty feelings, redirecting our thoughts is the key to conquering guilt. Rather than hyper focusing on what went wrong, try to focus on what you’re doing right: raising your children to be kind, respectful, healthy and happy human beings.
Now the burning question, where does this even come from? Researcher and therapist, Brene Brown, explains that the feeling of guilt is focused on a behavior and shame becomes feelings about yourself. For example, if a mother thinks she didn’t breastfeed long enough or at all she is feeling guilt about that behavior. As a result of the guilt, she will think she is a bad mom. This is the shame aspect of things. Make sense?
Guilt and shame can be incredibly toxic and can push a mother into a deep judgement of herself, constantly comparing herself to others and eventually believing that those thoughts are now facts. The overwhelming thoughts and feelings that come along with this can be exhibited in some of the following ways: anxiety, depressions, overdoing everything, and the ever daunting perfectionism. Because who wants to feel judged and like a failure? No one. So in turn, we pretend to have it all together, even if we are one cracker being dropped on the floor away from a mental breakdown.
My fiancé is a saint and he is my person. He will call me out on all the BS and be my shoulder to cry on at the same time. Get yourself that person, whether it is your hubby, your mom or your sister or even another mom friend. WHOEVER I DON’T CARE. Just get yourself a person. In the meantime, there are ways to fight off these crazy feelings of mom guilt and mom shame:
1. Listen to other mothers; chances are you are not alone in this fight!
2. Get a reality check, ask questions to your trusted people is this real or is my mind playing tricks on me?
3. For the love of God, please remember your needs are important! Self-care is essential even if you don’t believe you are worth a 2 hour nap and a bubble bath, you are my dear!
4. As much as it may suck, feel and process your feelings. Cry in the shower if you must or journal your thoughts, it is cathartic!
5. Write yourself little notes in places where you most often look; on your fridge, in your wallet or even on your hands; “I am a good mom and I am doing my best!”
These things are not a cure all. This will take time, practice and work. I am still working on not being so hard on myself; I have come a long way and I still have way far to go. I am not perfect, I know that, even though I still try to be. Perfection is unrealistic and sometimes we need to be reminded of that. Remember at the end of the day, you did your best mama. Your babes are fed, warm, happy and healthy. That’s all that really matters.
You are doing great! Keep it up, you badass.
Written by: Kelley Anne Thompson