If there was ever a time in our lives where it was more important to let go of guilt, I don't know when it was. We are being expected to manage the unfathomable now. Home school...keeping calm...sifting through fact and fiction...keeping our family healthy...working from home...I could go on and on, but you already know the list. Cut yourself some slack. Whatever you are doing, I can guess with near 100% certainty that you are doing your best. So, if you fed your kid some frozen pizza, while they watched a movie...or ditched Zoom to head to the beach with you...you made the right choice. If you are feeling guilty that your kiddo ate chicken nuggets 3 nights this week...is that guilt encouraging you to make a change? If so, then it’s a useful feeling. If you are feeling guilty that your kiddo ate chicken nuggets because you think you should be feeling guilty, but really are ok with it because you were swamped and didn’t have time to make dinner those nights, but they are happy? Then let.it.go!! Do not let it turn into shame that you are a horrible parent! We are so used to expecting perfection from ourselves, that it's hard to let things go. But now is the time to learn!!
Let's take a look at some of the other guilt triggers that commonly pop up for us.
"I should love every minute of parenting."
A lot of moms feel guilty that they need a break. Or that they are not stoked about parenting all the time. No one faults you for having moments where you feel you’re in a little over your head, or a lot over your head. No one, who has been there, at least, questions why you need a break. Is it because you don’t love your kids or you are a horrible parent. NO. Is it because you are human...yep. So, if possible, cross this one off your list with a Sharpie. No one loves every minute of parenting. Ever.
"My kid LOVES to make me feel guilty."
Mama didn't raise any fools! Of course they do. As if we do not have enough self-inflicted shame and guilt, our kids can lay it on thick! Learn to recognize it ('cause they are sneaky little boogers!) They can have you buried under intentional guilt before you know it. Try to recognize it immediately and deflect!! You get to make the rules based on the information you have at the time. And you get to change the rules, any time you want. So if someone is trying to make you feel bad that "It's not fair!" or "So-and-so can...." too bad kid. Make changes to your plan/rules/expectations because you feel it in your soul. Not because your brilliant little manipulator (I say with love) guilted you into it!
So what’s the takeaway here? We could talk about Mom shame all day, but here is what I really want you to hear:
Learn to identify the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt can be useful as it can cause you to question your actions. Shame makes you feel like crap. Crumple it up and get rid of it!
Get to know yourself. Know what makes you tick, know what your personal values are, and learn what you need.
Take the word “should” out of your vocabulary. Stop doing things and feeling things because you think you should. Align what you do with your top 5 values.
Remember that being a mom is part of who you are. You are complex and detailed and amazing. Being a mom is PART of that, so eliminate the voices that tell you that you have to define yourself solely as that.
We have been led to believe that being a mom is self-sacrificing.. IT IS NOT...enough said.
If this resonated with you, I highly recommend you download Four Pillars of Mindful Parenting. This guide goes hand in hand with what we have been talking about, and will really help you look within for some self-reflection and offers actionable steps to help you eliminate shame in parenting.
For now, shake your guilt, love yourself, and hang in there.
Write 5 times you have done something this week because you thought you should?
Write down what you would like to have done.
What are some ways your child intentionally makes you feel guilty?
What can you say or do to deflect that?