It seems that almost every ethnicity, culture or religion has some form of guilt attached to it. It might be original sin. It could be survivor guilt or remorse. Can any of these compare to mother’s guilt? Is it bred in the bone or is it cultural? Is it nature or nurture?
Well, probably it’s both. I suspect that evolution has favored the women who gave up their own needs for the well being of their children. And culturally, our world has never really allowed women to be as carefree and independent as men.
But is guilt really necessary?
What would your life be like if you didn’t suffer the stomach-turning, heart-wrenching pulls of guilt? Sometimes guilt is a necessary thing. It absolutely guides your behavior. If you steal a fur coat from your best friend’s closet, you should feel guilty. That clench in your gut says, “Not good. Give it back.”
What about Unnecessary Guilt?
Those are the times when you didn’t actually do anything wrong. Those are the times when – are you ready for it – you actually put your needs ahead of someone else. Those are the times when you said, “I need to stay home tonight. I have a terrible cold. I’m exhausted. I can’t drive you to yet another hockey practice at 5pm in rush hour for you to skate for 40 minutes because your coach and society have said the success of your whole life depends on it. You’re only 5 years old!”
Dealing with Mom Guilt
Next time your whole body trembles with painful recriminations, take a very careful look at the cause. Did you murder your neighbor’s dog? Or did you choose to take a little bit of care for yourself that might mean you let someone else down. Please remember, they will live, life isn’t over, it will all be forgotten tomorrow.
And you will have taken a stand for womanhood and motherhood, and who knows, maybe they’ll build a statue to you someday, not for martyrdom, but for the shinning light you have become for every mother that reminds them that the best thing they can do for their children is to be happy and fulfilled themselves.
Tips for Helping You Out of the Guilt Trap When You Fall In:
#1: Ask yourself, “ Did I do something illegal, immoral or life-threatening?” If not, acknowledge that you are feeling unnecessary guilt.
#2: Take a deep breath. Feelings get stuck in our bodies. They are energy in motion. By stopping and really taking a few deep breaths, you are allowing the energy to move on. It reduces the intensity of the feeling.
#3: Do the thing you are feeling guilty about.
#4: Take stock to see if the world ended.
#5: Get use to uncomfortable feelings. We all have to live with discomfort. Fear is a great example. Sometimes we just have to act even in the face of fear. Guilt is the same. When you make a decision to really take care of your own needs, you will feel guilty. However, the more you keep taking action, and the world is still spinning on its axis, the easier it is to take action the next time. One day, you might even lose the guilty feelings altogether. That is true freedom.
Need more tips on getting over mom guilt? Check Lisa’s book: Becoming a Mother on Fire: A Guide to Being a Mom without Losing Yourself.