I really struggle with mom guilt. It’s a big problem for me and something I’ve had to work on a lot. For a while I tried to find ways to feel less guilty. Aaaand . . . that didn’t work. In fact, it just made things worse because whenever I found myself dealing with mom guilt, I would beat myself up for feeling guilty!
I had a breakthrough when I stopped trying to avoid guilt, and started changing my reaction to it. Now when mom guilt pops up for me, I make a conscious effort to move on despite that feeling. The guilt is there, but it’s not in the driver’s seat anymore.
There are a lot of things about mom life that are just hard. And there’s not a lot we can do to change that. But we’re smart and scrappy so we can find ways to work with what we have. And getting over mom-guilt is a very worthwhile endeavour; it will make you a happier, healthier person.
2 things you need to know about mom guilt
The first is that if you’re struggling with guilty feelings a lot, it’s probably because you care about being a great mom. And that’s a good thing! But us moms with high expectations have to make a mental distinction between caring and feeling like crap. You can care about being a good mom, and strive to grow as a person and mother, and not have to feel crappy all the time. WHAT? Turns out feeling like crap about yourself DOESN’T make you a better mother.
The second thing is that mom-guilt isn’t about you. Really. It’s a nasty cultural thing that we do to all parents, but especially moms. The world is full of unrealistic expectations for you and how you parent (tiger mom vs. helicopter parent vs. free range kids, you can’t win!). There’s way too much ‘advice’ (ahem, judgement) in your face all the time that only stirs up self-doubt. And as a mom you’re constantly forced to make tough compromises that put you and your kids in no-win situations (working mom syndrome is a perfect example of this).
So no wonder we’re feeling guilty all the time. No wonder we feel like we’re definitely messing our kids up. No wonder that little voice sneaks in every day to remind us that we’re ‘bad moms’. But we have to call BS on all of that and find ways to beat the guilt.
3 strategies to beat guilt
So here are three awesome, easy to implement hacks that I know will help you get out from under that heavy, wet blanket that is le guilt.
- Know the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guilt. There are two kinds of guilt – motivational and depressive. Motivational guilt helps us learn from our mistakes. Depressive guilt makes us feel crappy about ourselves. How can you tell the difference and what do you do about it? Well, I’ve put together a handy little decision tree that will help you figure out what to do when you’re feeling guilty. Print this out and stick it to your fridge, or save it on your phone and practice using it. Download the Eff the Guilt Decision Tree here..
- Use the 80% rule. Hi, recovering perfectionist here. How do you combat all of those social pressures, and reign in any of your own expectations that might be a little too . . . unachievable? You aim a little bit lower. You go for ‘good enough’ vs. ‘perfect’. I try to scale back my expectations to 80% of what I aim for. You know when you promise yourself you’re going to be more ‘present’ with your kids, but then you immediately find yourself staring at your phone, making ‘uh huh’ sounds while only half listening? That’s totally ok, 20% of the time. Because if you’re more or less engaged with your kids 80ish % of the time you spend with them, you’re freaking awesome! This rule works when applied to housework (you’ll never expect to have 100% of your house clean again!), cooking (your kids only need to eat healthy meals 80% of the time to thrive) or any other aspect of your life. Try it, it’s very liberating.
- Practice a positive affirmation. Write down a positive anti-guilt affirmation and put it somewhere where you’ll see it everyday (I always recommend the bathroom mirror, which is a nice spot for me because it also distracts me from how much mystery goop is all over my sink). Affirmations actually help us to create new mental pathways in our brains! So the more you tell yourself, ‘my mistakes don’t matter’, ‘I have to let go of this guilt’, ‘I need to forgive myself’, ‘I kick ass’ – or whatever speaks to you – the easier it will be to trigger those helpful thoughts during tough, stressful moments, which can save you from falling down the ‘I’m a terrible mother’ rabbit hole. Download a free, gorgeous #PowerMamaPost card here to use as your affirmation.
Enjoy motherhood with a little less guilt.