Why do we assume that just because we are moms that we HAVE to feel guilty? Seriously. Mom guilt is now talked about as though it’s just something moms have to go through as part of the induction into the club of motherhood.
There are two kinds of guilt: healthy guilt when your conscience is nudging you to try again or stop doing what you’re doing and toxic guilt when you have that all-pervasive feeling that no matter what you do, you’re just a bad mother.
Toxic Guilt is like cholesterol that clogs our arteries, squeezing. Healthy guilt is what keeps us in check and guides our actions. It whispers to us, “Oops. Try again”, but toxic guilt shouts at us, “You’ll never get it right or measure up.” But guess what? Toxic guilt is optional.
I repeat: toxic guilt is optional.
Behind the Culture of Toxic Mom Guilt
The culture we live in doesn’t make it any easier for us tap into what really matters. The message of the parenting culture screams, “Look ‘out there’ to see where the answers are to how you’re doing. Read this book. Watch this show. Look at what that mom is doing and do it.”
Since we’re busy, it’s easy to listen to the culture; after all, we live in it. Oh, and let’s not forget the fast pace of our culture – the one that would have us be so busy that we don’t have time to slow down.
Think of it this way – the culture doesn’t always have your best interests at heart. It’s humming right along at the speed of light, and it’s very easy to go right along with it. Sometimes that’s great. And sometimes it’s not.
There’s a yin and a yang to everything, which means that there’s some good in the culture. In my mom’s generation, moms often didn’t talk as freely about what scared them, stressed them, angered them, and confused them. My mother didn’t have books and websites to help her realize that what she was experiencing was “normal”. That generation was just expected to “buck up” and “deal with it.”
Our current culture is one where moms can be real about what’s keeping them awake at night so they can support one another. When we’re clear on who we are, what strengths we bring to the table, and what kind of kids we want to raise, parenting resources can be quite helpful.
Nowadays, there is so MUCH for moms to pay attention to in order to parent, it can make your head spin. Between the blogs, YouTube videos, TV experts, book and other resources, it’s enough to make your head to explode from too much information. That’s when we feel guilty about “doing it wrong” or question our own instincts.
How do you know when you’re doing “it” right?!?
5 Ways to Get Rid of the Toxic Mom Guilt
#1: Filter – Run all parenting advice through the filter of your own values and what you know to be true about YOUR family. Use this filter to let in what resonates with you and let the rest go.
There’s a ton of parenting info out there on how to tame tantrums, how to get your child to sleep, how to do pretty much anything you want to do as a mom. But here’s the rub: most of it conflicts. “Always practice co-sleeping so you bond with your child and she’ll grow up confident.” “Never sleep with your child! That raises a child that’s dependent on you, plus it’s dangerous.”
Your filter is what keeps you from getting overwhelmed by it and only letting in what makes sense for YOU. If we feel guilty, chances are good that our filter’s holes are too big and not selective enough.
#2: Match your parenting style to YOUR child – Know your and your child’s temperaments and set up your home to match them as much as possible.
Yes, there’s a lot of information out there on parenting, but not all of it fits our child. If you’re extroverted and crave being around people, and your child is introverted and craves staying at home playing by herself, you may feel frustrated that your needs conflict with your child’s. Or, you may wonder if your child is too shy and if something is wrong with her.
Do not underestimate the idea of fit – the interplay between your and your child’s temperaments – and how it can make parenting harder. Knowledge is power. If your child is extraverted and is constantly asking you, “What are we going to do next? Who are we going to see?” you’ll understand why they’re asking that, especially if you’re an introvert.
Sometimes, just knowing why our kids or we do something is enough to take the guilt away because we can let go of blaming ourselves.
#3: Know what restores your energy – Get clear on if you get your mojo back by being around others or by being alone.
When we’re not clear on how we fill back up when our energy is depleted, OR we feel guilty about taking the time to fill back up, we can get in a downward spiral of resenting our family. Or, we think we “should” love going out for margaritas with our girlfriends as a way to refuel, when really, we’d rather curl up with a good book, and pet the cat.
#4: Stop comparing – Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others.
We compare our insides with other mom’s outsides. See that mom over there? You know, the one with the perfect hair and clothes, whose kids are impeccably dressed and her car doesn’t have old food crumbs in it? It’s easy to look at her, compare yourself and think, “Ugh. I’m not like that. I feel so guilty.”
The truth is you don’t know what’s going on inside that mom. Trust me – she has her own demons she’s wrestling with.
#5: Take action – When you feel guilt, decide if it’s about something you can and want to change and, if it is, take action. Otherwise, it’s toxic guilt and is optional.
It’s high time that mom guilt is popular enough to be talked about in the mainstream culture. Let’s face it: moms deserve relief. Motherhood and toxic guilt do not have to go together.
You can find your healthy core of who you really are without the guilt, create your own filter, and live guilt-free and get back to enjoying parenting and be the mom you want to be.
Download Karen’s Free Audio and Guide on “How To Get Your Kids To Listen And Do What You Say” at www.theguiltfreemom.com