We all have it. That nagging ache that hits you and keeps hitting you.
I could have tried harder to breastfeed. I should not have let her watch that movie. I wish I didn’t have to work. He’d be better off if I were working (outside the home of course). I … insert your “woulda, coulda, shoulda” here.
|Photo credit: Beth Kanter on Flickr; no amendments|
Yes, we all experience the nagging pain of feeling we are failing our children. Daily, probably, for most of us.
I’ve decided mommy guilt must be a necessary and natural part of child rearing. After all, most of the time we are so tired and overwhelmed, the mommy guilt (or the threat of it) may be the only thing motivating us to act in any given circumstance.
However, most of us could stand to carry around A LOT LESS mommy guilt. Really. Most of us are pretty good moms. Most of us are giving the mom thing top priority while simultaneously trying to advance or at least maintain our careers, feed our marriages, lose our baby weight, and maintain a semblance of sanity and soul health. We are making the choices that best serve the family. Constant and unrelenting mommy guilt does not advance these causes.
Here’s my proposal for handling mommy guilt:
· Recognize and acknowledge its presence
· Recognize and acknowledge how it affects your decisions and your mood
· Then, LET IT GO!
Easier said than done, I know. Since I’m not any kind of therapist or coach, I won’t try to offer advice on how to let it go. I can say, however, that some of the same tools you can use to manage depression or anxiety would be useful here: visualization, meditation and cognitive behavioral or other talk therapy could all be helpful.
But what if you can’t just let it go?
Some of us have a hard time letting go of certain emotions. Some of us have a hard time letting go of any emotions. Some of us have never had an issue holding on, but suddenly find ourselves wrapped around this mommy guilt like white on rice. And some of us actually have some sort of mental health condition that needs to be diagnosed.
Anxiety and depression can show up at any age. If you’re unable to stop beating yourself up for your decisions as a mother, go see someone. Start with your primary care provider or find a counselor / psychotherapist. Maybe all you need is a little support for a limited period of time, a way of looking at things in a new way, some new tools for controlling emotion. Or maybe you’ll find that there is something medical going on, like your thyroid isn’t working, or you’re pre-diabetic. And perhaps you’ll find out that you would benefit from a prescription, whether “natural” or pharmaceutical. Regardless of the outcome, you’re sure to feel better when you stop beating yourself up so much and start patting yourself on the back once in a while.
And friends, let’s always try to pat each other on the back. Remember to acknowledge your mom friends. Look for ways to help the moms you run into at the store and the playground. Sometimes it’s just a look, a glance even, that shouts out “I get it.” Sometimes it’s holding the door, or letting someone cut the line. It doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture. Let’s remember that our judgmental thoughts are perceived, and contribute to the collective mom shaming culture. And let’s remember that a smile or a nice gesture goes miles further than you realize. Let’s build each other up, one mom at a time.