You’re not going to do everything right as a mother, and that’s okay. That’s how parents learn, grow, and change. But, there are also things that you’ll never be able to change and circumstances that aren’t within your reach to control.
Self-blame doesn’t equal something you can change. You cannot always be the solution just because you think you’re at fault. Doing so will only cause frustration because you were never really the problem in the first place.
So, what can you do to overcome mom guilt and fight back the feelings of failure?
Determine if You’ve Really Done Something Wrong
One of the biggest culprits that creates mom guilt is automatically thinking you’re at fault for something. As stated above, that tends to create a vicious cycle where you blame yourself for things you can’t control, then get upset when you can’t fix them.
So, before you let yourself fall into feelings of guilt, take a step back.
Parents do things kids might not necessarily like. But, you have to ask yourself if it was truly wrong. For example, maybe you’re working from home and had to take a business call for an hour instead of going to the park with your child. They might get upset, and you might feel disappointed.
But, it’s up to you to determine if that was really "wrong." You couldn’t change the meeting to go play, and you’re working to provide for your child. You can certainly find a time to play with them later, but don’t throw yourself under the bus because you had to make something else a priority at that moment.
Surround Yourself With Support
You might be your own worst enemy when it comes to mom guilt. But, you might also be around people who don’t support you the way they should. People can say things that trigger guilt all the time.
Maybe another mother likes to tell you about how she raised her children. Maybe someone questioned your parenting. If things like that trigger guilt for you, it might be better for you to set a firm boundary and limit how much time you spend with them and even interactions on social media.
Focus on surrounding yourself with those who lift you up and recognize your good parenting.
Don't Assume Your Partner Understands Your Reality
It's also important to not assume that your supports (partner/co-parent included) can read your mind and know exactly what you need and exactly when you need it. Daily and effective are the two keys to communicating well with your co-parent. And don't forget that everyone needs to be supported, so the communication of needs goes two ways. Relationships thrive when both parents have their needs heard, validated and responded to by their partner.
Spend More Time With Your Children
If mom guilt is really eating at you, schedule an entire day with your children. Do something they love, and devote all of your attention to them. It can often be better to have clear times when you are working and clearly defined times you set aside for an outing or play time with your children. If you try to do both at the same time, you will find you feel you are doing neither very well.
I know this is especially a struggle with the current pandemic - children doing remote school and parents working from home. So keep in mind it doesn't have to be a whole day. Try scheduling 30 minutes a day (and block it out on your calendar) where you will do no work (not even look at email) and simply play with your children. It's the quality of time that matters most - not the quantity. If you make this recurring, your children will get the message that you are making them a priority on a regular, daily basis.
While this can alleviate your guilt, it has a more important benefit. It will allow you to see how your children are actually feeling. Talk to them. See if they have any concerns and learn more about how they’re feeling. Chances are, they aren’t going to judge you as harshly as you judge yourself.
It’s also a good opportunity to learn more about their needs, so you can work on striking a healthier balance with them that helps to assuage your guilt.
While mom guilt is a real thing, it doesn’t have to be a prominent factor in your life. Take note of the things you can control and the things you can’t. While making changes in some areas may be necessary, letting go of the things you can’t change will free you from frustration and alleviate your guilt.
If you’re still struggling with feeling guilty and don’t know how to let go of that self-blame, please contact me to learn more or set up an appointment. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
To learn more about how counseling can help you on your parenting journey, please click here.
BRINGING BABY HOME: A NEW PARENT WORKSHOP IS GOING VIRTUAL!!!! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has a private practice in Cranford, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.