Letting Go of the Mom Guilt
We work so hard to be good parents and we come down so hard on ourselves when we fall short of the expectations we set.
What would happen if we talked to ourselves more gently?
What if we gave ourselves some of the same grace or some of the same forgiveness that we give to our children?
Is there a way to notice the guilt without giving it so much power? It’s a feeling, it will pass. Can you get curious about it?
Alright, Guilty Moms, we’ve got to talk about this. So many of you are hurting.
Nearly every day I receive emails from readers steeped in the sadness and hopelessness of guilt. Moms feel guilty for working, for yelling, or for getting bored. They feel guilty for not doing enough, or for pushing too hard. I think guilt is something we all deal with as parents, and as Amanda of Messy Motherhood mentions in her essay on busting the myths of mom guilt, our generation of parenthood experience seems more guilt-ridden than ever.
Whether it’s because we’ve gotten wrapped up in the Myth of Perfect Parenting, or because we’ve genuinely messed up – we all feel that aching Mom Guilt sometimes.
Transforming from Guilt to Positive Action
Today we’re specifically focusing on how to deal with overwhelming guilt when you’ve made a mistake and how to use them as a catalyst for positive action.
IT FEELS TERRIBLE to lose it with your kids.
And then comes the mom guilt.
When those feelings of guilt become overwhelming we think, “What does it matter, I ruined everything already.”
When we are in pain we are more likely to lash out.
Positive Parenting is about finding the best in our children and in ourselves.
From the book Parenting with Positive Guidance (affiliate link):
“Instead of trying to control our children, we teach them to control themselves. Rather than governing out of anger, we guide out of love.”
When we do something that we are ashamed of, and are overwhelmed by guilt, it’s not easy to keep up our ideals of guiding out of love. We make it even more difficult for ourselves to parent well if we continually beat ourselves up. How can we parent out of love if we’re not able to extend that same love to ourselves?
When we feel guilty and upset with ourselves we are much more likely to lash out at our kids because we’re in pain.
I am by no means saying it’s fine to hit your kids. Or that it’s fine to throw your own version of a temper tantrum to get your way with your children. I’m saying that we all make mistakes and that one of the most powerful lessons we can learn and demonstrate to our children is that when we make mistakes, we pick ourselves up, learn from the mistake, and move forward.
How do you let go of the guilt?
What do you do in the moment when you’ve just messed up?
I will be the first to admit that it can be difficult to back yourself down and cool your emotions. Here are a few things that may help; you can do all of them or just one:
- BREATHE deeply- You’ll hear it again and again because it works. Just feel yourself breathing and focus on that air moving in and out of your body instead of whatever went wrong.
- Find a quote or mantra that centers you. I think of my favorite quote, by Carl Bard: “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” It reminds me that I have the power to change the situation.
- Think about relationship survival. What do you need to do to help your connection with your child survive? You’ve heard that cliché about, “In ten years this will be no big deal…” Well, this moment is probably one of those moments, but it sure feels like a BIG deal right now! Making that relationship a priority is the way you can show love to your child.
- Do you need to let something else slide?
Would five minutes of snuggling now help change the course of your day?
- Do you need to let something else slide?
- Try to take a mini-break to “reset”. Walk outside, stretch, and get a drink of water. Sometimes I go back to this post to remember how to reset my day.
- Begin to look for what new tool you might need. It usually feels like just when I get the hang of things, something changes and I need to find a new outlook. Always growing, right? If you’re looking for inspiration, this post lists a big collection of positive parenting books: Great Books for Positive Parenting. Specifically, on the topic of guilt, many of my readers have recommended Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids by Julie Bort (affiliate link).
Be Proactive and Plan a 1:1 Kid Date
- Don’t worry about making this a regularly scheduled event unless that really works for you. It really is OK to just take opportunities as they arise; Set yourself up for success. It is better to set a pace that is less than you think you are capable of and build from there than to set high expectations and feel like you can’t maintain it.
- Keep it simple. The quality of your time together is because you’re giving undivided attention to your child, not because you’re buying them something.
- Take advantage of times you are already out and about with just one child such as before or after a doctor’s appointment.
- Tie kid dates in with a family tradition. Birthdays, the first or last day of school, mark special accomplishments, changes, or coming of age.
Instead of a Guilty Mom, perhaps you are a Growing Mom – still learning.
Can you be gentle with yourself as you learn?
Developing a growth mindset is one of the keys to Bounceback Parenting.
You have it within you to change the way you move forward, to let go of ideas and actions that are destructive or no longer working in your family and try out something new.
Hugs to you, friends! You can do this. You are doing this.
You are making the life you want with your children with small steps each day.
All my best,