Mom guilt. It’s probably one of the hardest parts about becoming a mom for me other than learning not to get triggered or frustrated when my kids are fighting, tantruming and whining. But I actually think mom guilt is one of the most dangerous things for both our wellbeing and that of our family’s. And that’s why I’ve been on a mission to figure how to overcome mom guilt this past year. When we’re plagued in guilt and do things or don’t do things out of guilt, we are often not meeting our needs and therefore, building frustration and resentment. This makes it hard to be the best mom, partner, or anything. Mom guilt also holds us back. You don’t see the term dad guilt. That’s because it doesn’t exist. My husband doesn’t feel guilty when he has to work late or leave for work early, when he misses bedtime to play paddle, or when he travels for a guy’s trip. He doesn’t feel guilty when he serves the kids takeout pizza or frozen chicken fingers. He doesn’t think twice if the kids’ lunches aren’t home made or their Halloween costumes were Amazon prime’d the night before, or the birthday cake was a last-minute super market find. He doesn’t feel guilty if the kids aren’t excelling at school or in the same activities as their friends or if he’s the only dad who didn’t sign up for to chaperone a field trip or help at a fundraiser. He doesn’t feel guilty about any of it. He’s confident he’s doing a good job as a dad, the kids will be fine, and doesn’t beat himself up over everything little thing. He’s happier for it. And I’m not going to lie, I resent him for it. But recently, I realized that’s my problem, and if I want to be happier and a better mom, I need to figure out how to overcome mom guilt.
We all do. It serves no one. It doesn’t do anything for our kids. It doesn’t do anything for our marriages. It does nothing for the careers or side projects we’re trying to balance. And it certainly does nothing for ourselves. It just makes us feel bad. And there’s never a way to win with mom guilt. Someone always loses, and it’s always us. And when mom loses, so does her family. You now the saying “happy wife, happy life”? Well, I think it applies to moms. If moms not happy, no one is. I’m not saying you have to be one of those annoying cheerful people at all times. I am and will always be a cynic at heart. But mom guilt makes us unhappy and eats away at us, and not only do we suffer as a result, but so does our family.
So what’s the secret for how to overcome mom guilt? I wish I had that answer. But I think recognizing it and where it comes from is an important start. It’s certainly helped me. It stems from perfectionism and this idea that everyone will be happy if everything is perfect. But deep down we know that’s BS. Our kids don’t care if the house is perfect, if their birthday cake is perfect (they just care that they get to eat sugar), that their costumes are perfect. And they’re perfectly happy eating pizza and frozen chicken nuggets every night. Studies show that children of working moms turn out just as well as children of stay at home moms. No matter what we choose, they’ll be great. So why do we beat ourselves up? Why do we hold ourselves to crazy standards? Some of it is the pressure society has put on us. A lot of it is social media and the pressure to live up the idealized life we show there. And I think some of it is that there is no guidebook to being a mom, no indicators that you’re doing a good job, and even when you are doing a good job (which you are – just by being you!), shit still goes wrong — kids still get sick, kids still have problems at school or tantrums or complain and whine. But many women like myself are super type A. Women get shit done, which is amazing and why companies should put us in charge. But it also means that we like to accomplish things and we rarely get feedback in motherhood and there aren’t really goals to achieve. There’s no rules or guidelines to follow, and that’s overwhelming. So we’ve created markings and indicators of things we can measure to indicate we’re doing a good job and we’re a good mom. And being the overachievers we are and facing sexist, ridiculous standards and messages from society about what a good mom looks like, we have based our worth as mothers on accomplishing all of the things. We have to earn income. We have to find a way to be there for all the school events. We have to be on top of all the activities and milestones and making sure our kids reach them. We have to manage the schedules and carpools and playdates. We have to cook organic, nutritious meals that look adorable and our kids will eat. We have to dress them in matching, Insta-worthy outfits. We have to follow a “gentle parenting” approach and never lose our cool when our kids lose theirs or pull our last nerve. We need to come up with original, adorable Halloween costumes, host Pinterest worthy Thanksgivings, have gorgeous, decorated, clean homes that are worthy of being photographed at all times. We need to lose the baby weight the second we have a child while juggling all these other things and make it look easy.
I could go on, but you all know what it’s like. But that’s impossible. It’s impossible to do all of things and be all of these things. No one can do it. And yet we try and then fail and then feel guilty. And that guilt does not serve us. While I don’t know the trick for how to overcome mom guilt, and I can’t snap my fingers and just decide I won’t subscribe to it anymore, I have decided to stop letting it force me to do things I don’t want to do or to not do things I want to do or to feel bad. If I start to feel bad, I try to recognize the feeling and see it for what it is. Then I cut myself some slack. I can’t be everywhere at once. I can’t be a robot. I am going to yell and lose my cool sometimes. I am human and kids are annoying and draining and I haven’t slept in years and I have a high-stress job. But I do the job for them — so they can have opportunities and a nice place to live and a role model of hard work and following your passions. I do it to help provide them with an amazing life. So if that means sometimes not being able to do other mom things, I remind myself what they get out of it. And sometimes, I have to pull back at work because my kids need me. But I no longer feel guilty for how I’m not progressing in my career enough or doing enough, because I’m in a particular season of my life where my kids are young and my family is demanding. One day they won’t need me as much and I’ll have more time to focus on my career and outside passions.
I’m no longer letting myself feel guilty for going to a girls’ night and missing bedtime or for taking a weekend away or a date night. My kids will get to spend more time with their dad, grandparents, or a fun, cool babysitter while learning that their friends have other relationships and interests they value. Plus, they’ll learn to appreciate me. I wasn’t scarred by my parents going away. They won’t be either, and I’ll be a better mother if I allow myself breaks. When I feel guilty about the things I’m not doing, I’m not going to let that guilt me into signing up for something I don’t want to do or don’t have time for. It will only breed resentment. Instead, I’m going to remind myself of all the other things I do for them. Above all, I’m going to remind myself that the most important thing is that my kids feel loved. Even if I can’t do all the things or do them perfectly, even when I fail them, as long as they know they are loved beyond measure, they will be OK. Because that’s really the foundation of everything, and the best gift your parents can give you. I don’t know if I answered the question exactly, but I hope my approach for how to overcome mom guilt helps you in some way. We’re all in this together and it’s time we stop feeling bad and start giving ourselves credit for all we do every day.