As a woman, I spent oh, I don’t know, about the first 32-and-a-half years of my life feeling guilty more than I felt any other emotion. But, I have learned to manage it, so that when those pesky feelings pop up, I can squash them like the icky bugs they are. As a mom who deals with guilt all the time, I’ve learned how to get rid of those unhelpful feelings fast. Here are my best tips on how to deal with mommy guilt.
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Balance the Scales
The other day, we were running late (as per our custom) getting ready for the school bus. My four-year-old daughter, who is a sweet, sensitive little daydreamer, was in full-on daydreaming mode, not paying attention to my five pleas to “Put your shoes on!” Eventually, I lost my patience and yelled, “Let’s go! We’re going to miss the bus!”
And, of course, she cried. And if the yelling and her subsequent crying didn’t make me feel guilty enough, she said, “Mommy, when you you yelled, it broke my heart.” Oh the melodrama of it all! Gah! Guilt overload! So, what did I do? I made sure that I gave her a lot of extra love and attention from me that day.
If you lose your cool and feel guilty, just balance the scales that day by doing 2 or 3 loving things for your child: a hug, a kiss, words of praise, time spent with them—any of these will do. When something happens (and it will) just balance the scales with double or triple the love.
Use a Praise File
This one was actually my husband’s idea. I used to struggle a lot with feeling confident. He started a praise file for me and encouraged me to do my own. What is a praise file? It’s a list in a notebook or on a computer that tracks the good things you have done and the achievements you have made. Anybody say something nice to you? Jot it down in the praise file. Have a day when you’re feeling really good about yourself? Write it down before you forget all about it!
This works for anyone, but you can make a praise file just for your mothering. When you have a day (or, hey, even 15 minutes) when you feel like you are totally crushing it as a mother, please write that down before your kids start screaming in the middle of Target and you feel like the worst mom on the planet. When you’re older kids say something sweet to you, write it down before they say…well, you get the picture.
When you’re feeling guilty, this is a very handy list to pull out. You might even want to keep an entire box: all of the sweet keepsakes your kids have made for you can go in here, not in your attic or your basement, though, somewhere accessible where you can pull it out and look at it when you need a little boost.
OK, I know what you’re thinking: that’s a little too Stuart Smalley for me. But, it’s not just some silly new-age exercise. In fact, I recently saw an interview with supermodel Ashley Graham and she said that affirmations were one of the keys to her success and confidence (and she’s really cool, right?). All you really need to do is have a list of a few things that make you feel like a good mom: it can be totally simple, like “I am a good mom, I am a loving mom.” It can be anything, though—any statement or group of statements that help you to feel better. Repeat them every time you feel guilty. After a while, those guilt feelings will start to melt away.
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Change your Mind
Sometimes all you need is a little perspective shift. I think a lot of our guilt comes from how our time is spent. If we work or if we take time away from our kids to do something for ourselves, we feel guilty. Some of us feel guilty about any time we don’t spend with our kids. But, I think we need to think of this differently.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when we take time for ourselves it makes us better mothers. When we do something that makes us happy and fulfilled (and, yes, I’m talking about both work and play here), our kids see us being happy and that makes them happy. As an added plus, taking time to just be yourself helps us to be calmer and patient, which may prevent an incident that will make us feel guilty. Natch!
Moms are People, Too
In my humble opinion, I believe that we need our children need us to see them as people, as individuals. On some level, they want us to appreciate them.
I’m going to get a little philosophical for a sec, k? I think all people want to be seen. What I mean is, we want to be seen for who we are, appreciated for all of the little things that make us, well, us. Our children are no exception to this: I think all kids want to be appreciated for who they are, want to be seen, really seen. In my case, that means seeing my daughter as the creative, sensitive daydreamer she is and loving her beautiful imagination and big heart she has.
Now, on the flip side, I think we need to teach our children to appreciate people in the same exact way. How much better would this world be if you were seen and appreciated by more people? Well, that means that our children need to see us as individuals too. They need to see their mothers as real people with real desires and real lives.
Therefore, we can’t feel guilty for doing things for ourselves or for working or for simply having a life outside of our children. By taking the time to be you, you are showing your children that you are an individual, and your children can see that you are not just their mother, you are so much more than that too.
Guilt is a Feminist Issue
Whoa! That was pretty dramatic, right? I guess my daughter gets it from me. You see, all moms feel guilty when they work. Do dads? My husband certainly doesn’t. Why can’t moms see that as well? Here’s my thought for working moms: in the same way that our kids need to see us, they also need to see that moms work too.
This is true for both boys and girls. We need to raise our boys to see that mommy can have a career too, that women are as capable as men. We need to raise our girls to see that they live in a world of options, that they can have a fulfilling career.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, that’s ok too! I’ve done it all: I’ve been a working mom, a stay-a-home mom, a part-time working mom and a work-from-home mom. Any way you slice it, your kids need to see you doing you. Feminism, whether or not you choose to use that word, is about the power to make a choice. Whatever your choice is, own that choice, love that choice, and let your kids see you make that choice. You are powerful, mama. Let your kids see that power and respect it.
Guilt is just another part of being a mother. As moms we need to deal with so much, and it’s overwhelming sometimes. I’d like to help. You can learn more about how to deal with guilt in my free email course, Be a Happier Mom. Just sign up below!