4 Simple Tips for Managing Mom Guilt
Author: Joanna Loewi, Parenting Coach
We know it all too well, that dreaded mom guilt that feels like a right of passage when you become a mother. I think it’s safe to say that we all assume this just comes with the territory right? Maybe. But I also believe guilt is actually something we bring on ourselves based on false assumptions and negative, judgmental thought patterns. Here’s the good news though. If we are the ones choosing our thoughts and engaging in inner-dialogue that generates the guilt, well then we can just as easily choose to think differently.
Here are four simple tips for keeping that guilt at bay.
1. Recognize the guilt
Start with the intention of building self-awareness. And by that, I mean do your best to notice when the guilt starts creeping in. Rather than pushing it away, get curious about what’s happening. Pause. Place your hand on your heart. Get grounded by feeling your feet firmly on the floor. Take a few deep breaths. Then ask yourself:
What am I feeling?
What am I thinking that is causing me to feel this way?
What assumptions am I making about myself as a mother?
Whenever possible jot down the answers to these questions (can be in your phone or in a little journal if you happen to have one). Writing is a form of release that can help shed light on what’s going on in our minds. Doing this will help you realize how much you are mentally beating yourself up. It’s important to take the time to shed light on this inner dialogue and the types of inner conversations you’re having before you can shift them. The only way to free yourself from guilt is to recognize it first. As many spiritual gurus will say, you gotta feel it to heal it!
2. Shift your thoughts with positive affirmations and self-talk
Now that you’ve taken a minute to be the non-judgmental witness of the dialogue in your mind, it’s time to start shifting the thinking that is causing you to experience guilt. If you think about it, you are the thinker of your thoughts. “How could you miss ANOTHER soccer game? You’re just the worst. You couldn’t manage to make just ONE home cooked meal this week?”
See what I mean? If you are the one coming up with these thoughts, then you also get to choose to think kinder, more loving thoughts about yourself. Stop and say to yourself, at this moment I need to remind myself that:
I am a good mother
My needs matter
I am doing the best that I can
I am doing my best and my best is good enough
My intentions are good
I am allowed to make mistakes. It is normal to make mistakes.
I am allowed to take care of my own needs
I am allowed to feel guilty and still take care of myself
This year has been hard. I am doing my best.
See what you come up with or choose the affirmations above that resonate with you most to replace the negative self-talk that is driving your guilt. Write the affirmations on a post-it and put them up somewhere you’ll frequently see them. Another tip I use with my coaching clients is to have them ask themselves, “If my best friend came to me and shared how guilty she was feeling, what advice would I give her?” This works so well because we are often our own worst critics but have an easier time being kinder and more forgiving to our friends and loved ones.
3. Call on compassion and forgiveness
It’s safe to say that we all understand the concept of forgiveness – but did you know that it was possible to forgive yourself? So much of the guilt we inflict upon ourselves has to do with our perfectionistic tendencies and the incredibly high standards we set for ourselves. The problem is when we aim too high to the point where our goals are unrealistic. The result? We end up setting ourselves up to fail by unnecessarily taking on way too much and then judging ourselves and feeling guilty for not achieving the impossible.
We can feel mom guilt for so many different reasons. Not making it home in time for bed. Losing our temper and yelling. Forgetting about crazy hat day at school. Whatever the reason behind your guilt, you can either choose to continue to beat yourself up OR you can place your hand on your heart and mentally affirm to yourself, “It’s okay. I forgive you. You’re allowed to be tired. You’re allowed to make mistakes. Of course you’re going to make mistakes. Being a mom is hard.” Ahhh. Doesn’t that feel better?? Make the choice to intervene and say, I’m done beating myself up.
4. Acknowledge yourself for what you ARE doing
The root behind a lot of mom guilt is paying attention and focusing on when or how we’ve messed up or not been enough. What if we paid as much attention to all of those “mom failures’”, as we did to the ways in which we are killing it in the mom game? Think about a simple to-do list. So often we’re quick to judge ourselves for all of the things we weren’t able to cross off the list. Have you ever stepped back and thought to yourself, “Wow, it’s really impressive how much I DID accomplish today.” We need a lot more of these patting ourselves on the back moments.
At the end of the day, take a minute to ask yourself, “What am I proud of myself for? What did I do well today?” And keep it small!! It doesn’t have to be that you made homemade baby food or ran a 5k. It can be as simple as I’m proud of myself for pausing to recognize how much pressure I put on myself.
We have enough actual stuff on our plates to manage, we literally keep hundreds of plates spinning in the air all at once. Do your best not to overload your mind with unnecessary mom guilt and self-judgment. I remember reading once that our mind is a place we spend a lot of time. Let’s make it a nice place to be. I couldn’t agree more.
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