Take a quick side step into popular culture, the blogosphere or your own friend group, however, and you will quickly learn that Mom Guilt is a real and powerful thing. As a Mom Guilt survivor, I know that it can be the driving force behind relationship choices, career decisions and childcare options.
But what is Mom Guilt, exactly? When and how does it manifest? And, most importantly, how can you beat it? Read on for the real-life scoop on Mom Guilt.
What is Mom Guilt?1 of 6
Mom Guilt is the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiousness or uncertainty experienced by mothers when they worry they're failing or falling short of expectations in some way. For many moms–particularly new, working or single moms–the variables that contribute to this phenomenon are numerous and intense. Also, like most issues in parenting, it is important to recognize that every mother's experience is unique, and her guilt will take on its own characteristics.
Am I doing this right?2 of 6
Moms have a unique talent for being kind and nurturing to others, and relentlessly tough on themselves. A major type of Mom Guilt manifests when we compare ourselves to others and ask an endless litany of questions in the process: Are my kids spending too much time with a sitter? Do I look frumpy? Should we switch to organic milk? Should my kids be learning another language by now? Did we really just eat at McDonald's again?
How to Beat It: Trust yourself and your intuition. Understand that worrying has never solved a problem. Jot those thoughts and questions down. Get them out of your head and into an actionable format. Then, do a little research and trust yourself to move forward with a decision that is right for you and for your family.
Why aren't there 25 hours in a day?3 of 6
Modern families are pulled in a dozen different directions before dinner. Between work, school, appointments, lessons and our recent infatuation with the idea that children must be constantly entertained, it is no surprise that overscheduling is a leading trigger of Mom Guilt.
How to Beat It: I'll share a strategy for "magically" creating some wiggle room for extra quality time. First, write down all the activities scheduled in the day. Be sure to include even mundane items like making breakfast, brushing teeth and travel times to and from school. Once everything is on paper, identify where schedules combine, time overlaps and windows of freedom occur. Then, get creative; time opens up when we do.
We, as mothers, are in charge of our calendars, and special time can be found on just about any day. Turn making lunches into a lesson in teamwork, or host an impromptu car karaoke party between school and practice. Also, give yourself permission to scratch extraneous activities off the calendar--I'm looking at you, special trip to the dry cleaner--in order to create breathing room for sanity, playtime and eating together at the table.
Can I ask for help?4 of 6
It takes a village to raise a family. It also takes a village to support a mother. There is no such thing as The Perfect Mom, she who does absolutely everything on her own. However, like the Tooth Fairy, the Loch Ness Monster and Optimus Prime, her myth lingers in the minds of real-life moms and triggers Mom Guilt when we want and need extra help.
How to Beat It: Quite simply, you cannot do everything for everyone all the time. Trying to do so is a recipe for possible disaster due to unmanaged, unrealistic expectations. Repeat after me: There will be take-out dinner nights. The laundry will not always get done. There will be days when you feel as if the weight of the world is resting atop your shoulders.
This is where your village comes in. Allow yourself to be supportive and encouraging of other mothers, and accept their support and encouragement in return. Make friends with your neighbors, and maybe ask a local teen to be a mother's helper. Enlist your kids to help with age-appropriate daily chores. Order take-out for dinner--and eat on paper plates--when you need to.
Is it okay to take time for myself?5 of 6
Becoming a mother is a life-changing experience. Along with your new arrival comes an entire host of new demands, concerns and pleasures. And, as your focus shifts to the care and well-being of your child, it is important to remember that you cannot give what you do not possess. Sometimes the strongest feelings of Mom Guilt stem from the message that your own body, spirit and mind are desperately trying to get you to pay attention to them, too.
How to Beat It: Mama, you are an adult human being. As an adult, with a life depending on yours, there will be needs that must be met for you to function at your optimal level. You need sleep. You need to nourish your body. You need to move. At any given time, you may also need to spend a little extra time nurturing your relationships, your faith or your connection to the community.
Each of your basic and advanced needs feeds your strength as a mother--and your strength fuels your household. Schedule that morning yoga session. Take time to eat a nutritious breakfast. And don't neglect your own checkups, haircuts and new shoes. You are a vital piece of the family puzzle, and you, too, must be cared for.