Talk to any kind of mom there is — stay-at-home, work from home, work outside the home — no matter the scenario, one thing seems to bind us all—mommy guilt.
It’s there, whether you feel guilty because you are not contributing financially, or you miss having an identity outside of the house, or if you work a million hours and can’t be there for everything. Or if you are like me and work from home, you feel guilty because you can’t always be present in the way you would like.
Seeing my daughter’s face fall when I can’t play dolls due to a looming deadline breaks my heart… but if she wants the dolls… or, you know, the roof and four walls that shield us all from the elements, I have to work.
We all doubt ourselves and doubt that we’re doing what’s best for our kids because we assume the grass is greener in our neighbor’s yard. Her situation appears perfect—but guess what… it’s not. She has her own struggles and guilt, too. It seems to come with being a mother, but it doesn’t have to. Here are some ways to correct your thought patterns the next time you are down on yourself:
Consider these when you feel mommy guilt creeping in:
Identify what it is exactly that you feel guilty about, and try to come up with a solution (temporary as it may be, because your guilt might be just as fleeting!) or make peace with it.
I mentioned that I felt really guilty that I didn’t have as much time to play/ read/ do crafts with my daughter. Since guilt is the least productive emotion, I asked myself how I could eliminate it. Was I not making a decision in her best interest?
I chose to work from home, because as a single mom, I am the one constant she has. If she’s sick, it’s me. If she has a special event at school, it’s me. If she’s off of school, it’s me (I think you get it). By working from home, I am able to *mostly* create my own schedule by prioritizing tasks. Time management is huge, but that’s another post for another day. Some weeks my workload is crazier than others–those are the weeks we sacrifice play time for my ability to be there when she needs me more. I try to make sure that we plan more fun activities during my slow weeks, and that helps with balance.
I also found a way to schedule crafting time. I’m not talking a marathon crafting sesh, we keep it short and sweet, and most nights I try to sneak a chapter of a book in before bed. It doesn’t happen every night, though. Whenever I start picking on myself, I try to highlight the good things. This little girl has watched her mama start a business from the dying embers of a divorce. After being left with literally nothing but her and bills, she has seen me prevail. *Hopefully* she has learned some cool entrepreneurial tips (like always having a secret backup coffee stash). Try to find the silver lining in your own situation, and try to schedule time for what is really important, because I don’t know about you, but in my world, if it’s not on my calendar, forget it.
Stop comparing yourself to other moms, and remember, you are doing the best thing for your family. Send love and support out there in jealousy’s place.
Going through a divorce helped me reach a point of clarity about this. You never know what is going on behind closed doors in someone’s life–the old adage to be kind to one another because everyone is facing a battle of sorts. Someone may be showing you their best self in your Facebook feed and show up early to every PTA meeting (while you’ve made one in the five years your kid has been in school, and showed up late with day old makeup… okay, so I might be projecting here)… but you don’t know what’s happening in her real life, the one she doesn’t make public.
Mothers face enough as it is. We should lift each other up and put an end to the Mommy Comparison Wars. You are exactly where you need to be on your own journey. I struggle with this. I’m a single mom living in a well-to-do area among mostly married doctor/ lawyer power couples. I really struggle with this, but when it gets too hard I remind myself that I have little eyes watching me and I don’t want her to learn this toxic habit. And you never know who is looking in on your life with that same jealousy. As granola as it sounds, you should only compete with yourself.
Picture you as your kid.
When you are ranting inwardly and beating yourself up, picture your kid, or little you, sitting on a stool in your brain, taking it. Or, picture your child coming to you with these issues for advice. Would you layer on the guilt the way you do to yourself? I doubt it. Or would you offer them a little grace? The first time I tried this I cried. It isn’t a cure-all. I still beat myself up here and there but as soon as that powerful image comes to mind it stops me in my tracks. Be kind to yourself!
Take time to refill your bucket, mama.
This last point is probably the most important one and something that has taken me way too many years to figure out. We live in a society that guilts parents in general, but sorry not sorry, moms get the worst of it. We are made to feel guilty if we invest too much time or money into ourselves because it somehow takes away from our children. I’m calling BS on this one for the simple reason that you cannot pour from an empty bucket, and when your bucket is low, the guilt to creep in. When we are at our lowest, we invite negative thoughts, and they pile up on each other in a wall of should’ve, would’ve, could’ve’s.
When you get a trusted sitter or grandparent to watch your kids, you’re teaching them to trust people other than you! When you take the time to go get a pedicure or have your hair done, you’re teaching them to take care of their own bodies – and that when you work hard, sometimes you get to treat yourself. When you are committed to a career, you’re not only showing them what it takes to support a family but also instilling a work ethic, what an awesome mom you are! When you choose to stay home with them, putting your career on the back burner, you’re teaching them about sacrifice and love (lessons also taught by working moms)…
So, what is it you’re feeling guilty over? Because you sound pretty awesome in my book–and I guarantee your little ones agree.