When you become a mom, the first emotion that hits you is love. And the second that takes over your every living day is guilt.
As a working professional, life moved on the fast lane for me. Until life pulled the brakes on me, when I lost my first-born. Ridden with guilt and remorse I conceived my second and then again guilt took over coupled with the guilt I already had for being ‘responsible’ for losing my first-born.
Mom guilt – a ubiquitous maternal emotion
Guilt feel is an inherent feeling every mother has. As mothers we judge ourselves too much and when tragedy takes place in our lives in the form of death of a child – this judgement goes to a completely new level. So apart from being guilty for losing my first, I was also ridden with guilt every time I slipped up while being a mom to my second.
So my hypothesis from my experience is that mom guilt strikes you whether you are 20 or whether you are 35. It strikes you whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, whether you had one child, or two or ten. The feeling arises when you benchmark yourself against what you are doing to what you ought to be doing. Comparison with other mothers or the non-existent ‘ideal’ mother is usually the cause of this feeling called ‘Mom guilt’
Reasons why we mothers feel guilty
Having gone through guilt trips myself (and still going through them) here are some of the reasons why I felt guilty. The list could go on but here are the top few. Many moms will find their guilt trips here too.
1. Not breastfeeding long enough : I weaned off my son at 1.5 years. I am not sure if I did the right thing and I have had several different reasons for doing it. I have even thought of re-lactation – that’s how guilty I felt. It even adds up when you know of moms who breastfeed till their children are four! Why did I do it? Because I was sleep deprived and was craving my sleep.
2. Using disposables instead of cloth diapers : This makes me guilty on two counts. One that my son isn’t potty trained yet and second I am not doing the right thing to the environment. I used to be the only caretaker for my son so using disposables was convenient for me.
3. Screen time : Making my son listen to music and watch some videos was a way I could get some space to finish some pending jobs. The TV was my baby sitter and still is sometimes. When I want to get him to focus on eating and not run around or want to go to sleep I make him watch Super Simple Songs on my tablet. So am I guilty? Yes!
4. Leaving my kid with my nanny : I enjoy my work. But in the initial days when I wanted to begin work I always wondered if I did the right thing of letting another caregiver be with him instead of me. When I am late from work now I still feel guilty.
5. Feeding my son junk : I don’t do this all the time but even that one time where I feed him a chip or a steamed momo or a French fry I feel guilty as hell.
6. Yelling at my son : Even the most peaceful easygoing parent loses patience and yells from time to time. Easy going is not something that you say when you describe me as an individual. So I yell at my son more often than the ‘easy-going’ parent and then I feel guilty.
7. Getting my ‘me’ time, meeting friends : I love my ’me time’ away from my son. I also get myself books and shoes when I know I can use that money to get my son something interesting and useful. Also I try to make time with friends – to get my sanity back.
8. Giving in to my son’s tantrums : I give into my son’s tantrums of wanting to watch TV at a non-scheduled time in the day, just so I can get some peace.
9. Finding my son absurdly stupid : I am occasionally astounded by just how absurdly stupid my son can be, while secretly believing he is smarter than everyone else’s kids.
10. When I don’t bake and cook : I can’t stay longer than an hour in the kitchen. Yes I make healthy food but I am not exactly a Martha Stewart in the kitchen. I whip him his meals but I haven’t got myself to bake and cook something elaborate for him yet.
Sometimes a little guilt is good…
- Conscience keeper : Guilt helps you keep your relationship with your child in check. Guilt serves as our internal alarm system that signals that maybe we’re not living up to our own expectations of ourselves.
- Thinking emotion : Guilt makes us take a step back and see if what you are doing as a parent is the right thing for your child. It makes us think if there was anything you could have done better or differently.
- Motivates : Guilt motivates you to change things for the better. It makes us want to be the parent we want to be.
- Repairs relationships : As your child grows showing guilt of not having lived up to your child’s expectations helps repair the relationship with your child – makes them look at you as human and can teach them to forgive, and makes the child know that their feelings are respected.
Not allowing guilt to take over
Mother’s guilt isn’t going anywhere and we all will be stricken with it at some time or another. The trick is not to let your life be overtaken by guilt. Here are some things to note before you let guilt take over you.
- Be kind to yourself – You are not perfect. And neither is the mom you are comparing yourself to. Don’t be hard on yourself. We are humans first, humans make mistakes.
- Laugh at yourself – Life need not be so serious all the time.
- Be positive – Focus on the positive things that you are doing. Things that you are doing right than focussing on things you should be doing.
- It’s ok to enjoy your job – It’s what your parents educated you for, and it is what you have been doing for yourself before your family began.
- Treat yourself well – A happy mother means a happy child. Even if it means you have to sneak off for a movie by yourself or take a few extra hours of sleep by handing your child off to your mum or buying that pair of shoes instead of the play mat for your child. It also means meeting friends without your child or spending some quality time with your husband to keep the marriage alive.
- Create a supportive community of moms – Consider joining in with a group of moms that are non-judgmental and supportive.
- It’s your life – It’s your life, it’s your motherhood – live it like you want to. Every mother will want the best for her child, and so will you.
Mom guilt is only natural and is the consequence of wanting to be a good mother to your children. Be assured that every choice you make for your children will be deliberate and thoughtful. No one knows your kids better than you do and you will assuredly do what works best for your family. It might not be your neighbours or your best friend’s ideal of model parenting but it most definitely will work for you. For your child, you are the only mom and the best mom that is on earth.
Janice is a communications professional, a social media enthusiast and a mother of two boys (one deceased). A keen follower of parenting trends, she dotes on her son while photographing him and anything that catches her fancy. An ardent foodie, she cooks traditional and modern recipes – compiling all of it on her blog – ilivetoeatblog.wordpress.com. Working with startups and entrepreneurs on their communications strategies with her partner during the day, she has just enough time in the day to read, write and tweet @janoella.