Becoming a mom is a transformative experience. The days are filled with lots of love, lots of laundry and the many many responsibilities that come with raising your little human. As if this job was not hard enough, moms everywhere find a common emotion interrupting their days: mom guilt.
If you are a mom, you probably already know exactly what mom guilt means. It is that nagging feeling that somehow, despite all you do, you are still not doing enough. You are still not doing it right. You are failing your child in some way. It can sound like:
Mom guilt can appear in both everyday moments and big life decisions. It casts a shadow of doubt and worry over your days. While mom guilt is normal and very common, it can have negative effects. Mom guilt has been shown to impact a mother’s happiness, health and parental ability. It can increase levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
If you’ve found yourself wrestling with mom guilt or know a mom who is struggling with it today, you’ve come to the right place. Below are seven practical, effective strategies to cope with mom guilt, find balance and increase your self-compassion.
As a mom, you know your energy and attention are precious resources. Dwelling on or even fighting with your mom guilt drains these resources and takes time away from your already busy day. Instead, aim to minimize its importance in your day. Try visualizing your mom guilt as a pesky visitor who keeps interrupting your conversation. Visualize greeting this visitor with a hello, explain that you are too busy to engage with it right now, show them out the door and return to the present moment. This might feel a bit awkward at first but this type of acknowledgement is a powerful tool in teaching your mind that mom guilt just isn’t that important.
Moms are notorious for assigning themselves blame for anything negative and refusing to take credit for anything positive. This mindset places a negative filter over your days. It discounts all the good things you did and inflates the significance of harder moments. This can look like beating yourself up for losing your temper when your toddler threw the lunch you just prepared onto the floor but ignoring the many moments you hugged and played with them throughout the day. Journaling can be an effective way to notice and challenge your negative filters. Write down what happened during your day but make a conscious effort to include positive or even neutral moments along with the negative. Look at the positive moments and recognize how your strengths and efforts contributed to them.
Whether you are comparing yourself to a momfluencer on social media who makes gourmet baby meals or a mom neighbor who seems to have it all together, comparison truly is the thief of joy. Make an active effort to notice when you start comparing your parenting choices or your child’s development to others. Everyone’s path is different and what works for one family might not work for yours. Being mindful of what social media you engage with is a great way to support yourself in minimizing comparisons. Do you notice mom guilt creeping up after you scroll through certain accounts? Empower yourself to unfollow or mute them. Seek out content that aligns with your values and supports you on your journey.
When you allow your mind to drift into mom guilt, you are pulling yourself away from the present moment. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to anchor yourself in the present moment, stay calm during difficult times and savor the magic of being a mom. When you feel yourself slipping into mom guilt, try grounding yourself by engaging your five senses. Leaning into what you smell, hear, feel, touch and taste in that moment can help quiet your thoughts and bring you back to the here and now. You can also apply this through your little one! Notice what they are experiencing through their newly developing senses. Kids are often the best teachers on how to immerse yourself in the beauty of the present.
There is no such thing as a perfect mom, yet we often judge ourselves as though there is. Perfectionism tells us that by striving to be flawless we will become the best parent we can be. This is a lie. It is a great goal to change parenting patterns that aren’t working for your family. Striving for perfection will not help you get there. Growing as a parent comes from a strong foundation of accepting who you are and recognizing your worth. From there, you can begin to make healthy changes toward your parenting goals. When you catch yourself feeling mom guilt, notice by which standards you are measuring yourself. Chances are they are pretty unrealistic. Remember that your child craves you exactly as you are, not an idealized version of yourself.
When you feel mom guilt coming up, ask yourself: What would I say to a mom friend in a similar situation? We are often much more understanding and forgiving of our friends than we are to ourselves. Practice treating yourself with the same kindness you would show a friend. Over time, you can make your inner voice kinder and model this kind of self-love for your child.
Motherhood is a 24/7 job. Taking time to care for yourself is essential to successful parenting. When you are physically and mentally well, you can provide better care for your child. Make and protect your time for activities that fill up your cup and recharge your batteries. If taking time for self-care feels unrealistic, try shifting your focus to what you can do instead of what you can’t. Is a date night with your partner not in the cards right now, what about an at-home date with your favorite takeout delivered? If getting to a yoga class isn’t feasible, what about scheduling a few yoga breaks within your workdays?
Mom guilt is a very common emotional experience during motherhood. It is a reflection of your deep love for your child or children and your yearning to do the best possible job as a mom. By implementing these seven strategies you can begin to silence your mom guilt and tune into the many beautiful moments that come with parenthood. Most importantly, remember you are not alone. Our Manhattan Wellness providers are specialized in maternal mental health and ready to be a part of your journey. If you are ready to get the most out of motherhood:
We offer a diverse range of individual counseling services and couples therapy. Our dedicated therapists can help with stress management, symptoms of depression, self-esteem challenges, and college student counseling. Additionally, we specialize in offering support for postpartum depression and anxiety, addressing body image concerns, and navigating the unique challenges faced by women, among other aspects. If you need support reach out to connect with a therapist.