Many mothers, especially those who work outside of the home or own their own businesses, experience mom guilt on some level. Mom guilt is that feeling that you can never achieve a healthy balance across all areas of your life, and that this negatively affects your family. Whether it’s in your relationship with your kids, your partner, friends or your work life, you always find yourself feeling like you’re falling short somewhere. Mom guilt can drain your mental energy and the confidence you have in yourself as a mother.
Although we all feel it at one time or another, it absolutely does not mean we are all failing at motherhood. Feeling this guilt means you care enough to keep trying to be better for the sake of yourself and those you love. However, because of how strong this strive to always improve can be, it’s crucial to keep realistic expectations for yourself to aim for. You should be intentional in taking the time to focus on your accomplishments, rather than getting stuck in all the things you feel you need to improve. If your children are safe, cared for, loved and supported - you’re doing an amazing job. None of us are perfect, and sometimes, “good enough” really can be good enough.
Although there’s no cure-all for mom guilt, there are a few things you can do to help lessen the mental load it places on you when it shows up.
- Stop second guessing yourself. There will always be something you “should’ve” done or feel that you could’ve done better. You will always have to make sacrifices in one area of your life or another, there’s no avoiding that. There will be times when work is secondary and there will be times when you need to make it a top priority in order to get things done. If you look at the bigger picture, short term and long term, if your family is benefitting from you working your job, then you are making the right decision. It’s all about balance.
- Have confidence in the decisions you make for your family. No matter what decision you choose, someone will always have an opposing opinion and not everyone will keep their opinions to themselves. Everyone’s situation is different and what works for each family and child will vary, too. Be confident in the fact that you know what’s best for you and your family and do your best to not let the comments or opinions of others make you feel guilty for choosing to have a work life AND a family.
- Be as present as possible at home. A bulk of the mom guilt we feel comes from not being as connected to our kids, and even ourselves, as we would like to be. When our connection to the ones we love becomes hindered by our responsibilities involved with your job, it’s easy to feel like you’re doing something wrong. Instead, be sure to make quality family time a priority. Be intentional in spending time with each of your kids separately, as well as together. Try to avoid as many distractions as possible during family time, such as phones, work, etc. Soak up all the “together times”, such as dinner and breakfast. Be kind to yourself when it feels like you’re stretched too thin, too. Allow yourself to feel your accomplishments and enjoy the good moments.
- Replace criticism with open mindedness. It’s often hard not to compare ourselves to other moms who, as it seems, have it together more than we do. We are our own worst critics. Remind yourself of what you would say to a friend who’s feeling the same way. You would probably tell her that if working makes her happy and benefits her family, then to keep her job. You’d tell her she was doing the right thing. Have the same empathy for yourself during the lows as you would for any other mom in your shoes.
- Build a supportive inner circle. The pressure we feel is shaped by our environment. Social pressures, unspoken social rules and opinions from friends and family all come together to create the standards we end up holding ourselves to. Keep people in your corner who support you and the decisions you make for your family. Don’t allow people to be a part of your innermost circle who make you doubt your career or make you feel that you aren’t doing the right things for your family by not being home enough. Your inner circle should be a place of support, not criticism.
With the “perfect parenting” standards on a steep rise, a whole new batch of insecurities are popping up for us to take on. While it’s ideal to keep improving, many of these standards are reaching an unrealistic level. The weight of mom guilt now includes worry about whether or not our kids are getting too much screen time, whether we are working too much and not being present enough with our family, whether our home is not clean enough or when the mountain of laundry next to the washing machine is going to finally be washed, dried and folded. When mom guilt makes you feel horrible for choosing to work, remember that it is possible to find a healthier balance in your life without staying home. It does not mean that you don’t love and cherish your children. Being a mom is one piece to who you are as a person.