Take time for yourself: 4 ways to cope with Mom Guilt
Any mother knows the feeling all too well—the nagging thought that you’re not “enough” as a mom. You may worry that you aren’t attentive or fun or strict enough. Maybe you regret that a work commitment kept you from a school event. Mom Guilt can even start as early as how you choose to experience your pregnancy or give birth.
So where do these thoughts stem from and why do women feel this way? Societal pressure is the biggest contributor to Mom Guilt, but there are some psychological factors as well. Let’s explore what Mom Guilt means, what causes it and what you can do when feelings of Mom Guilt start to creep in.
What is Mom Guilt and what causes it?
According to Beatrice Kutzler, MD, OBGYN on the medical staff and chief of staff for Baylor Scott and White All Saints Medical Center – Fort Worth, Mom Guilt is closely related to anxiety and depression and there is plenty of medical research relating it to postpartum depression as well.
This does not mean that everyone who experiences Mom Guilt also has anxiety or depression, but it’s important to learn how to reframe these negative thoughts.
“If the guilt continues to grow, it can lead to resentment of your family, and affect your long-term relationship with your child,” Dr. Kutzler said.
To assess if Mom Guilt is turning in to something more serious like depression, Dr. Kutzler said that most doctors run through a series of questions to determine the root cause and a plan of action. “It really depends on how far postpartum they are,“ she said.
“If I’m talking to a mom who’s six weeks out from delivery, that will be a different conversation than one I’m having with a mom who has a 1- or 3- or 5-year-old.”
Two of the biggest contributors to Mom Guilt are breastfeeding (or not) and whether a woman works in or outside of the home.
“One thing that I see frequently is the issue of breastfeeding and how long,” Dr. Kutzler said. “Every once in a while, there are people who can’t breastfeed, yet they are shamed into continuing it, and then they feel like a failure. And that is way worse for their family and their child than if they just stopped breastfeeding.”
And although the grass may seem greener when it comes to being a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, both groups report feeling Mom Guilt. Working moms often feel guilty for struggling with work-life balance issues and stay at home moms often feel guilty for not financially contributing to the family’s income.
4 ways to conquer feelings of Mom Guilt
Every form of motherhood is hard enough, and you should never feel ashamed of what it looks like for you. Here are a few suggestions from Dr. Kutzler to help you reframe your perspective when those pesky feelings start infiltrating your thoughts.
1. Log out of social media
In this day and age, it can be comforting to connect with other women in the same stage of motherhood as you. On social media, you can laugh at shared experiences, get advice and learn from different perspectives. But there’s a downside to all that mommy-centric content: the way it can make you feel about your own parenting.
When all you see are seemingly perfect women with tidy homes and well-behaved children, it’s easy to look inward and feel shame.
“People present the best versions of themselves on social media, when in reality, that is not the case. Nobody is perfect,” Dr. Kutzler said.
Remember, comparison is the thief of joy. Try taking a break from social media if you start doubting yourself as a mother.
2. Ask for help
It really does take a village to raise a child and chances are, you’re trying to do more on a daily basis than is humanly possible—or at least healthy for one human to do. So, whether it’s meeting with a therapist regularly or asking for help in big and small ways, unburdening yourself will do wonders.
If there is something in your routine that continually causes stress and therefore causes Mom Guilt, find a different way of doing things. Here are a few ideas:
- Speak with your partner, if applicable, about the division of responsibilities to see how to even things out a bit.
- Try hiring someone to help you with those tasks that just send you over the edge.
- If hiring someone isn’t in your budget, Dr. Kutzler said to “be resourceful!” Talk with a friend in a similar situation and try to trade off—perhaps they can help pick up kids from school and you can watch their kids while they catch up on sleep.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just raise your hand.
3. Give yourself grace
The expectations of modern mothers can be unrealistic, and the pressures you put on yourself only weighs you down more. When you start to feel “less than,” try to narrow down those swirling thoughts to find the origin of that worry. Is someone else making you feel that way, or are the expectations you’ve set for yourself driving these emotions?
The next time you have a quiet moment, sit down and define what being a good mom means to you. It’s likely you are already accomplishing those things and it’s the outside noise that is stressing you out.
Also, pay attention to how you talk to yourself. We tend to be less compassionate to ourselves than we are to others. So, speak to yourself gently, how you would to a friend.
“Practice self-love,” Dr. Kutzler said.
4. Find yourself again
It is all too easy to lose yourself in the chaos of parenting. So easy that sometimes you can lose sight of who you are as a person. Spend some time reconnecting with your non-mom side—move your body, rekindle an old hobby, meet up with friends, explore a new passion project. Anything that helps you feel like YOU again.
Pregnancy and motherhood bring a swirl of feelings and moods—joy, excitement, fear and, unfortunately, sometimes guilt. The good news about Mom Guilt is that you can control it and conquer it.
When Mom Guilt strikes, acknowledge the feeling and move on. Be proud of the mother you are, appreciate the wonderful memories you make with your children, tune out the rest of the noise and honor your own priorities.
“Every household is different, and you have to do what is right for yours,” Dr. Kutzler said. “Block out these well-intended voices telling you what you should do. Sometimes you just have to follow your gut and do what you think is best for you.”
If you’re struggling with feelings of Mom Guilt, talk to your OBGYN or find one near you today.
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