I’ll be honest – a big reason why I’m writing this post is for myself. I found myself feeling so guilty recently and I thought, “Stop that! You’re doing your best!”. So I decided to write a little about my own mom guilt and how I’m handling it. Hopefully you will be able to apply to it to your own life (if you’re feeling that guilt too).
What is mom guilt? I think everyone can define this differently. I think of it as just feeling guilty about being a “bad” mom – in whatever way this has meaning for you. I also am tying in my own feelings about being a bad partner to my fiancé as well, because I think they go hand in hand. Not only that, but so many moms judge other moms for how they parent, which leads to MORE mom guilt.
For some of these, I’ve tried to drop the guilt and combat it with something positive. But for some, I’m still struggling to let go.
I decided to make it easy to read by putting these guilt feelings into a list:
Mom Guilt #1 – I barely have time to clean the house
I was sitting around my living room the other day and realized just what a mess it was. I wanted to get up and clean but I was so tired. Having a 4.5 month old just really takes it out of you. He’s entertained for about 5 minutes and is then upset so I need to find another way to entertain him – it’s exhausting! I just didn’t WANT to clean the house. My fiancé comes home and he ends up cleaning and I feel soo guilty. And then I start to think about other moms – and how their houses are probably perfectly spotless all the time. And the guilt gets worse!
What do I do?! I’m trying very hard to a. not feel so guilty about it and b. get my butt off the couch and clean something.
What I’ve started to do is set small goals for myself: do the dishes today. Vacuum tomorrow. If I set out to clean the whole house in one day, I will fail. When I set smaller goals for myself, I feel that much better when I accomplish them.
Mom Guilt #2 – I’m not reading enough to my baby
I’ve heard you should read to your baby from day 1 and well…easier said than done. By the time it’s his bedtime, I’m so exhausted I can’t even think about reading a story – even a 10 page board book. So will my baby have poor learning skills? Will his vocabulary suffer? What about his reading comprehension?! Of course, these thoughts race through my brain as I lay in bed, having just put my baby to bed without reading a story. Sigh.
Lately, I’ve been trying to fit a story in every night. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does I really appreciate those moments where we are sitting in the rocker and he’s intently watching me as I read. And it’s okay that we don’t do it every night! I realized his learning likely will not suffer, nor his vocab. I think setting a goal to read just a few nights a week is perfectly fine, and as long as you talk to your baby all the time, you’re good.
Mom Guilt #3 – I don’t breastfeed full time anymore
This one has me feeling guilty for a few reasons: we can’t really afford formula, the bonding time between my baby and I is less, and even though I know ‘fed is best’ I can’t help but feel like I’m depriving him of something since we give him formula most of the time. I know I’m silly because he enjoys formula (as far as I can tell) and as long as he’s nourished and gaining weight, it shouldn’t bother me.
But listen: breastfeeding is hard. They make it seem easy, but it’s not. For some women, it may come easy, but that’s not always the case. I will say, we didn’t have a hard time getting going, and for that I’m grateful. However, it’s tiring and sometimes does make me feel like just a milk factory. I enjoy feeding him, but I’m also happy to know I can whip up a bottle and he’ll be just as happy and satisfied. I’m slowly letting go of this one and the only way I am is just by telling myself that all is good: either formula OR breast.
Mom Guilt #4 – I’m going back to work
I’m lucky enough that I’ve been able to stay home with Liam from birth till now (about 5 months). But I’m going back to work in the next few weeks and I feel ready but I also feel guilty. Other people are going to care for my baby and I won’t be there to experience all his milestones! He’s going to forget who I am! So many thoughts go through my head when I think about going back to work. And of course, the look I get from other moms doesn’t help. Unfortunately, we truly can’t afford living off one income, so I have no choice
I’m trying very hard to just let this one go – I HAVE to go back to work so there’s nothing I can do. I’ll see Liam in the morning and at the end of the day and I need to remember that millions of moms do this every day! I’m not alone and I’m doing what’s best for my family.
Mom Guilt #5 – I let my baby play by themselves a lot of the time
After spending time with other moms, this one has really gotten to me. We have plenty of play mats, bouncy seats, and other things that our little one just loves to play in. We can easily put him on a play mat and he can entertain himself for a while. It’s so helpful while I make dinner or do other chores. But then I saw other moms constantly holding their baby, or laying on the floor and playing with them nonstop. Am I doing it wrong? Should I be letting my baby play all by himself? Will he feel abandoned?
These thoughts never even occurred to me until I saw the way other parents played with their babies.
But…I’m trying very hard to not compare myself and my family to others. This one has been the easiest to let go. I’ve learned throughout the years to stop comparing myself to other people and it takes a lot of work, but I’ve been much better at this. I still play with my baby, but he’s also really happy playing by himself! And I think this is incredibly important.
Moms, if you’re feeling any of these (or others), I challenge you to try to talk yourself down constantly. Our inner monologue really has a lot of power and if you reaffirm yourself that you’re doing your best and that none of us are born knowing exactly what to do, then you’ll be able to drop these feelings of guilt in no time.
The best way to stop feeling mom guilt is through your own positive thoughts and of course, through support from family and friends. None of us are perfect, and the more we try to be, the more feelings of guilt we’ll feel. Keep telling yourself you’re an amazing mama! You kept another human alive! This is truly a spectacular feat.
It’s also important to brush off the haters. I think that we as humans tend to think OUR way is the right way but in reality, there are many right ways to do something – especially something like parenting! Maybe that mom in your mom group does things one way and you can definitely listen to her advice, but it is by no means the only way to do things. Thank her for her advice and move on if it’s not something you agree with.
Which brings me to my final point:
All of us moms really need to stick together and support each other. We all are going to parent differently and that’s just the way it is. Judging others for how they parent isn’t fair and is completely unhelpful! Instead of shaming someone for formula feeding or for going back to work, we should be praising them for trying out new things, figuring out what works for their family, and keeping their baby healthy!
“Mom guilt” is an internal issue, but it’s also an external one as well. The more we build each other up, the less mom guilt we’ll feel!
So, ladies, try to raise up a mom you know sometime in the near future. Tell her she’s doing a good job, she’s making the best decisions for her family, and she’ll make it through this crazy thing called motherhood! She’ll feel so good and you’ll feel good too.
I’m trying to implement this into my daily life and it’s truly subsiding my own mom guilt as well!