It would seem that from the moment you found out you were pregnant, you began feeling little hints of guilt. “Am I old enough to be a mother? Why would I bring a child into the world when I’m not prepared? How do I know if my partner and I will make good parents?” Throughout your pregnancy, it intensifies as you question the types of food you ate, how much physical activity you had, to the very colors you chose for the nursery.
This pattern or little nagging voice in your head is known as mom guilt. It is developed essentially from expectations of what is and isn’t a good mother. These expectations are often derived from your own experiences, society, your friends, and even your family. You want to be the best and do the best for your children and you spend every moment questioning exactly what that is.
Every woman goes through it on occasion, but there are some women that get so wrapped up in this guilt that it consumes their every thought and move. They become stressed, anxious, and even depressed at times for feeling guilty that they’re not the “perfect” mom. It can get so bad that they ruin their relationships with their children, significant others, relatives, and even end up dependent on drugs and alcohol to numb their emotions.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness associated with mom guilt or has started abusing substances to cope, the first step should be to seek treatment from a therapist or an alcohol rehab specialist.
Overcoming Mom Guilt
Do you often find yourself doubting your actions as a mother? Has it become difficult to make a decision without second-guessing yourself? Are you always stressed or anxious or feeling bad about yourself? Relief is possible. You simply have to learn how to overcome the guilt. Below are a few suggestions:
Stop with The Experts
Women get so wrapped up in researching or asking questions about parenting. When they read what the “experts” say, they try to emulate that or feel bad when they did just the opposite. Outside of your doctor’s advice, it may be a good idea to detox from the expert opinion. While it can be ideal to consider for especially challenging decisions you have to make, reading a book, googling, or asking about every step you make will always cause chaos.
Eliminate the Naysayers
Sometimes your mom guilt is brought on by those you surround yourself with. If your mother questions how you dressed the kids or what you’re feeding them every time she visits, this triggers your mom guilt which isn’t healthy for you. Though it might be difficult to think about you simply have to have a talk with your mother. Express how her words make you feel and ask her not to question your parenting. If she cannot respect that, unfortunately, you have to remove yourself for a while until you’re strong enough to move past the guilt.
Build Your Confidence
Mom guilt is especially challenging for women who already have low self-esteem or self-confidence. When you don’t believe in yourself it makes it very easy for the expectations and opinions of others to get you down. Work at improving your confidence daily. Write down positive affirmations, journal, read positive books, get a new outfit, style your hair differently, or volunteer or do something that helps others. When you begin to see how great of a person you are, you’ll no longer doubt that you’re a great mother.
There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Cat
You put a lot of pressure on yourself to be a perfect mom, but the truth is there is no one size fits all solution to parenting. There are women who used formula who had issues and women who breastfeed and had trouble. There are women who stayed home who did great and women who went back to work that found balance. You have to learn what works for you and trust that it is the right decision at the time. Start reading books on various parenting opinions or talking to mothers with different parenting styles to get a sense of how two different paths can still lead to raising amazing kids.
Mom guilt isn’t all bad. At the very least, it shows you just how much you care about being awesome for your kids. While most women will struggle with mom guilt throughout their children’s lives, it should never get to a point that it consumes you. If you’ve been overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious about your abilities as a mother, take a deep breath and then use the advice listed above to overcome mom guilt.