Have you ever felt guilty for feeling guilty?
Have you felt like you’re never doing enough even though you’re doing your best every dang minute?
Yes? Then you are very likely a mom.
(And if you haven’t, then the moms you know and love might need you to read this, so settle in)
The kind of mental gymnastics that results in guilt-from-guilt renders us moms scatter-brained, stressed and grumpy as hell. As an example, at this very minute, I am
- looking at the crumb-strewn kitchen floor and resisting the urge to clean it, feeling bad that my house isn’t optimally tidy and temporarily forgetting that I am only 1 of 4 people in the house who are equally responsible for its current state,
- wondering how my kids are, even though my logical brain knows they are deliriously happy to be swimming at a lake with their dad,
- feeling guilty that I’m not with them, even though they are completely fine and I need to work
- feeling guilty and imposter-syndrome-y that I’m a certified Life Coach who still struggles with feelings like this,
- pushing away the impulse to just scrap all this and watch another episode of “Younger” with my laptop propped perilously close to the tub.
(I won this particular inner battle, BTW, left the crumbs and the tub alone, and just kept typing.)
Being a mom is challenging.
Mom guilt makes it so much harder.
Allow me to clear something up right away. The term “mom guilt” here doesn’t mean the guilt that comes AT you from your mom. That’s a whole different bucket of beans. If you need help with that, stay tuned for my blog on “Boundaries as Essential Ingredients for Self-kindness”.
When I say Mom Guilt, I mean the guilt we moms feel within our own minds, between us and us. It’s the endless, persistent stream of self-talk that’s with us, to varying degrees, all the time. This inner chatter is negative, not logical, more brutal than we’d ever speak to someone else, and able to twist any situation to its own dark perspective.
Take the pandemic, for example. During Covid-19, every working mom forced to pivot to online work had so many challenges to face all at once. And even though most of us had never worked from home WITH kids in online school before, we still felt guilty for not doing it perfectly from day 1. That’s how illogical the guilt-ridden self-talk can be!
- When we were helping the kids, we felt guilty for not giving enough attention to our work.
- When we were working, we watched the piles of stuff build up around us and felt guilty for having a dirty disorganized house.
- When we were totally exhausted in the evening, we felt bad for not having more energy for fun and connection with our dear ones.
As a result, we have become more distracted, stressed out, tired all the time. We need help, but feel too bad about ourselves to reach for it. Until now, I hope.
And then there’s the toll that all that pandemic parenting and togetherness had on our marriages. Many of us are coming out of this as single parents, searching our communities for single mom support groups and googling “how to get over single parent guilt?”. Even though logic and compassion show us that we have done our very best to make our marriages work, the heavy feelings of guilt and failure plague us, keep us awake at night and search our children’s faces for signs of trauma. The single mom guilt piles on top of everything else, weighing us down.
So what to do? How to loosen guilt’s hold on our minds? I have dedicated my professional life to helping clients relieve their inner suffering, because I’ve seen it proven countless times that
When you change your relationship to yourself, EVERYTHING CHANGES.
That is where we must begin with mom guilt, with what’s happening between you and you. It’s a longer process than this, which is why I’ve created the Freedom from Mom Guilt 5-Day Challenge, but let’s start at the beginning.
Step 1. Pay attention to how you (internally) speak to yourself. Notice your thoughts, but not in a judgy way, more like in a curious and kind way. Like when I see a squirrel chasing another squirrel, I don’t get all judgy and think “What the F is wrong with that stupid squirrel?”, I get curious and think “That’s strange, I wonder why they are chasing each other, I wonder what happened.” (I know not everyone wonders about squirrels, but feel free to substitute with the miracle of nature of your liking)
Start this thought awareness right now. What thoughts are running through your mind? What are those thoughts saying to you, about you? Remember, no judgement, no good or bad thoughts, just curiosity and awareness of what those thoughts are.
Once you’ve noticed a particular thought, write it down, or better yet, say it out loud. I’ll warn you, this is a trippy experience, we are so much nastier to ourselves than we would ever be to anyone else. And that’s the point – you’ve been absorbing these horrible negative guilt-tripping thoughts every day.
The thought I first pulled out and became truly aware of back when I started this work with myself 12 years ago was
“You’re a terrible mother, you don’t deserve this beautiful child.”
That was the thought that kept snaking through my mind all day long when I was struggling to breastfeed. My baby was fine, the milk was coming but I was in pain, cringing every time she’d latch. After suffering quieltly for months, I reached out for the help of a coach (and a lactation goddess). I began learning to bring awareness to my thoughts.
One night when I became aware of this vicious negative thought, I put my baby to bed, went into the bathroom, looked into my own eyes and said the thought out loud. “You’re a terrible mother, you don’t deserve this beautiful child.”
I felt how utterly mean it was, how untrue and unkind. I saw myself in the mirror, leaking milk, tired eyes, a new mom trying so hard to do her best. I saw how much I did not deserve this cruel thought and I cried with compassion for myself. A new way of feeling had begun.
This thought that you’ve pulled out is the first one that’s not going to make you feel worse because you caught it and pulled it out and looked at it with clear, kind awareness.
Right on, sister, let’s keep going.
Step 2. Replace the guilt thought with something TRUE. Any truth that is undisputable, verifiable, a fact that even the most persistent negativity cannot dismiss. It can be “I am tired”, or “I love my children with all my heart”, or “I have people who love me”, or whatever feels true for you. When in doubt, remind yourself of the truth that
“I am doing my best in this moment.”
Say it out loud, as many times as it takes for you to FEEL it.
That one is nearly always true, isn’t it? You’re doing your best with what you’ve got. You’re trying to be the best mom you can. That is always true.
How different can your day be, can YOU be, if you move forward from this moment believing this truth instead of the lies of mom guilt? I’ll tell you – EVERYTHING CHANGES!
Where there was exhaustion, frustration, negativity and the worst version of you, there is now
Energy Positivity Laughter Connection Motivation Confidence
And this is just the beginning. Join me this summer for the Freedom from Mom Guilt 5-Day Challenge to be personally supported through more exercises like this. Experience life without mom guilt, and you’ll never go back!
I am here for you, let’s conquer mom guilt together.
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