Modern society idolizes motherhood. We are supposed to be perfect creatures who never get a day off, and certainly never make a mistake. These over-the-top expectations often lead to mom-guilt; a snarky little feeling that likes to creep in and ruin your day. If you have a full-time job, or even part-time for that matter, and then go home to another "full-time job" (ahem, motherhood), you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
How is it possible that you can balance the budget for a million-dollar company, design a new brand logo, or hit your sales quota for nine months in a row, yet you forget that every Friday is Show-and-Share day at preschool? Why do you feel bad that your kid brings a Lunchable every day while his best friend eats leftover steak and potatoes from the previous night’s feast? Why do you have to experience mom-guilt for wanting to spend one hour each evening working out at the gym, while your child spends time playing with other children, or worse, spends time with one of his friends and their “super-cool” mom? Mom-guilt is a total mood killer.
We spend so much time “should-ing” on ourselves (I should be doing this, and I should be doing that), that even when we finally have time to be an awesome mom, we are already filled with regret about all the times that we weren’t awesome. Studies show that women are more susceptible to guilt than men, largely due to the fact that we are more sensitive. Guys seriously get off so easy in life.
In today’s world, it suddenly seems like every day is a competition to be Supermom. And not only that, a Superwife too! You think you’re having an awesome day because you killed it at work, you picked your kiddo up from day care on time, and then you actually cooked dinner (yea, chicken nuggets and sliced bananas totally count). Boom! But then you get on Facebook and scroll through your social feed before bed, only to see that Linda made cookies for everyone in her office, reorganized her daughter’s closet, ran ten miles, helped her son make his science project, and then cooked a four course meal. Damn you Linda.
You immediately hate Linda. But why? It’s not Linda’s fault that she’s a blend of Betty Crocker and Jane Fonda. It’s your mom-guilt creeping in, telling you that you aren’t good enough, that you can’t live up to Linda’s standards. And of course the grass looks greener at her house. Doesn’t it always? Whether it’s your child refusing to eat their dinner, or the stack of dishes piled up in the sink, you feel like a total and epic failure. You start doubting your ability to keep up with the Lindas of this world and think that maybe you aren’t cut out for this motherhood thing after all. Maybe you should just drop your child off at the nearest orphanage and hope they find a new mommy who can make panda-bear-cupcakes like you saw on Pinterest…yea, maybe that’s a good idea...
Stop and breathe. Before you get any (more) crazy ideas, take a look at some simple things you can do to lessen the grip that mom-guilt has on you.
5 Things to Stop Doing:
- Stop comparing yourself to others. The supermom you idolize on social media is probably a hot mess who just so happens to be photogenic or has a knack for photography and Instagram filters. Seriously, no one (and no one's house or kid) looks like that all the time. And oh, you didn’t see her first four #pinterestfail cookie attempts...weird that she didn’t post those.
- Stop giving away all of your free time. Your child does not need every waking minute of your time and attention. Of course they want you to entertain them 24-7, but you aren’t doing them, or yourself, any favors. Stop feeling guilty for not answering their every beck and call. Kids need to stretch their imagination muscles, and they do this by playing on their own. Solo time for moms is also vital to survival. Yes, I said vital…as in life or death.
- Stop doing “just one more thing.” The house will never be clean enough and your to-do list will never be finished. There will always be crumbs to vacuum, dishes to clean, clothes to wash, toys to put away. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to keep every single item in it’s place. Rid your mom-guilt by making a plan of action and doing only one or two household chores each night. Sometimes all I do is wash my wine glasses so that they are ready to go the next day. Sometimes clean enough is good enough. And this way, you never have to hurry to finish that one last thing, only to find that your kiddo fell asleep five minutes earlier, waiting for you to get done. Dammit.
- Stop feeling bad for missing out on daily activities because you are at work. I’m going to go out a limb here and say that you are working because it financially makes sense for your family. Um, since when is that something to feel guilty about? I realize you aren’t spending every afternoon playing My Little Pony with your princess, but you are working (i.e. providing food, shelter, clothing… you know… things you need to survive). That’s pretty honorable to me.
- Stop resenting your hubby for not having mom-guilt. Be thankful that when he comes home, he isn’t also a frazzled mess and wanting to talk about feelings and failure. There is only room in the house for one of you…and that spot has your name in permanent marker on it. As noted earlier, biologically, males have a much higher threshold for feelings of guilt. They don't get mom-guilt like we do. Whereas women often feel guilty for missing a football practice because of work, men don't tend to sweat the small stuff. But guilt isn't all bad; a little from time to time helps to keep us all on the straight and narrow, and it can hold us accountable for when we make less-than-stellar decisions. However, take a cue from your man on this one, give yourself a break, and move on.
5 Things to Start Doing:
- Start learning from your mistakes. Guilt, though nagging and uncomfortable, can serve a purpose. Feeling mom-guilt for being too exhausted to play (with your kids or your partner), is our mom-brain telling us that we are failing in life as a parent and a wife. And though it is ruthless, it can be used as an indicator to show us how we're doing, how we're making choices, and encouraging us to really evaluate why we are feeling guilty. I mean honestly, is your kiddo still alive? Is your husband still living at home? Ok good, that means you aren't a total failure! Use guilt as an indicator for how you want to live your life and make future choices. If you feel really bad about something that happened, make a mental note to change the outcome next time. It's so important to learn from your mistakes.
- Start planning a weekly playdate with your kid. Plan at least one fun activity that you can do with your kiddo each week so that you both have something to look forward to. It can be as simple as planning a picnic at the park on your lunch break. I’ve convinced my son that Hobby Lobby and other errands are fun “dates.” It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, simple is often better with kids. Just make it something fun that you can do together and where you can give your undivided attention.
- Start planning a weekly date night with your hubby (or if single, your best friend). Part of the negative emotion you are feeling has to do with neglecting other important people in your life, just as much as it has to do with feeling like you are neglecting your mom duties. Plan a kid-free night with those who mean the most to you. Besides being flat out fun, it can help ease tensions by momentarily allowing you to step outside of your mom role, even if only for a couple hours. Besides, nothing makes you miss your kids more than being away from them and having to take care of grown-ups who act like kids.
- Start dividing up the chores. Kids love to help out! Instead of feeling guilty about choosing house cleaning over quality play time, allow your little one to help out with washing the dishes and folding the laundry. Yes, it will take longer (probably a lot longer), but these mundane chores are equally as fun to them as when they play house with their dolls. If you really want to light their fires, make chores part of their weekly allowance and allow them to earn more by doing more. It teaches them responsibility and it buys you back some relaxation time. It's a win-win.
- Start drinking more wine. Just kidding, but seriously, start doing more of what relaxes your mind and makes you happy. Part of what makes moms feel so guilty is that they lose their damn minds for seemingly no reason at all, and scream at their kids for something as simple as forgetting to shut the cupboard door. Short fuses are the result of exhausted and frustrated mothers. Take some time to yourself to calm your mind. Perhaps it’s an hour at the gym, or morning Yoga, or reading a trashy gossip magazine...or drinking wine. Either way, your kids will thank you for returning with positive energy and ready to spend some undistracted quality time with them.
Mom-guilt can hold you hostage; don't let it! Even your good days can become bad days when you are consumed by feelings of inadequacy. Give yourself permission to make mistakes (we all do them…some more than others) and be ok with the fact that you are not perfect and you never will be. No matter how green Linda’s grass is, she struggles with the same work-life balance that you do. And chances are, you're a pretty amazing mommy exactly as you are. Just ask the little person standing next to you.
If you are really deep into mommy-guilt and need some additional therapy, this post is a good read: How to get rid of Mommy Guilt Once and For All.
This article is dedicated to my friend Maranda, who is not only a mother, but is also a wife, savvy businesswoman, Yoga instructor, and Arbonne Consultant. A recent conversation with her inspired this blog post. M - I admire you beyond words and even though some days are tough, Samuel still thinks you're a pretty big deal. And so do I. XOXO