Mother’s guilt is real. The moment you learn someone is growing inside you, you start to wonder about EVERYTHING. Is this cracker good for the baby? Can I walk with stilettos on? Should I cut down on sweets? Am I allowed to watch scary movies? Or see scary faces? Or wear make-up? I just heard our neighbor’s metal music. Is that unhealthy for the baby?
As a mom to a toddler who’s extremely sweet but can also get extremely bossy and exasperating, I often find myself with a short fuse. Too short, at times. And even when I realize I’ve been raising my voice a lot that day, sometimes I just end up yelling and then I will feel like I didn’t try hard enough to be more patient.
When he goes to bed at night and I watch him sleep like an angel, that’s when I get most riddled with incredible guilt. Have I been a bad mom today? I would end up staring at him for hours (Yes, I imagine how creepy a mom I can get) and then apologizing… “I’m sorry for being an angry mom, love.” A tear usually crosses my face.
Whenever that happens, which is frankly at least 10 times a month, I would pray for guidance, more patience and a stronger heart to become a better version of me as a mom. I would even mentally bat my head for committing a “crime”.
I don’t know… Is guilt naturally embedded on a mother’s DNA?
The crimes moms commit
No matter how awesome or hands-on or well-versed a mom you are, at some point (or for some, quite regularly), you will experience that mommy’s guilt. It could be anything from what you fed your children to how much time you spend with them to how often they get yelled at to not buying or overbuying toys to how much screen time they’re allowed and even down to how “sufficient” your reaction was when they showed you something that day!
Sometimes, we also lose our cool. We may even do or say things we never mean! For example, out of anger, you threw one of your child’s toys in the air... and then it broke. Even if you did it for discipline or any other good intention, the mommy guilt will still eat you up.
When something happens, ‘say, your sweet, innocent teenage daughter came home with nasty piercings on parts you’d rather not mention; or your straight-A child drops out of school; or your super polite son got arrested for assault; or even just your tot who’s not yet able to get all the ABCs you’ve been pushing her to learn, there’s always that little voice of guilt inside of you. What have I done or have not done for this to happen?
There’s also this “new mom guilt”. Am I doing it correctly? What if I’m not the perfect mom? Should I go to back to work or will I be less of a mom if I do so? I can’t breastfeed, am I not giving my baby the best? Or this “wanting a little me time guilt.” Is it okay if I go out to get my hair done? Will it make me a bad mom if I take some time off to shop or go to the spa or... breathe? Like no nursery rhymes or crying or whining in the background for a while? Is it okay if I feel like I’m not loving every single minute of motherhood? And mind you, that doesn’t stop there.
You’re not alone.
According to research (but don’t quote me on this), about 90% of moms regularly experience maternal guilt. We get constantly nagged by the feeling that our best is not enough. And since we think our shortcomings and unwanted outbursts are “crimes”, the mommy guilt eats us up — REAL BAD.
Well, just so you know, mother’s guilt is normal. Totally normal. Maybe it’s naturally embedded to our DNAs the moment we become a mom? I don’t know. But I know I experience mother’s guilt, too. A lot. And I’m pretty sure a lot of moms out there feel the same way sometimes. Just know that no matter how guilty you feel, make sure to wield that guilt into something positive.
Here are ways to deal with mother’s guilt. Let’s call it:
NOTES TO SELF
#1 I am not a Robomom.
News flash! You’re not a Robomom, you’ll never be one, and no one in the world except, perhaps, you, expects you to be. So chill.
#2 We should not judge ourselves based on the book.
As a mom, we all want to do things the “right way”. But, there is usually not one right way to everything. So take that pressure off. There are a lot of self-help books, parenting manuals, what have you, and while these can be really handy guides, you cannot possibly “copy” 100% of it. Besides, we are different people with different children, different situations, different lives. So if you’ve missed a few pointers from the book, relax. Chances are, even the author isn’t able to completely be “that mom” 100% of the time.
#3 Parenting and perfection is an impossible duo.
Parenting involves a lot of trial and error, experimentation and a boatload of I’m-going-crazy-I-just-wanna-pull-my-hair moments. From trying out different diaper brands, milk formula, vitamins, schools, food to endless attempts to seamlessly handle tantrums, parents are bound to make mistakes. The important thing is, we always try our best (no matter how many time we seem to fail). Of course, make sure these gaffes are NOT life-threatening.
You don’t need to sweat the small stuff. Every now and then, you should learn to laugh at your own fluffs and crunches.
#5 The “shoulds train” is not a healthy ride.
With a rising number of “parenting police” these days, we mothers often catch ourselves aboard the “good parent shoulds” train — a ride that tells you what good mothers should do and not do. These “shoulds” usually stem from social expectations and family pressures, but again, as mentioned in #2, we are not all the same. You can cherrypick some tips and styles but always do what works best for you and your family. Turn “what I should do” into “what I could do.”
#6 Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Despite having a lot of “mishaps” and committing a lot of “crime”, you have to learn how to shift your focus from time to time. Think: What things have I done right? This positivity helps lift up your spirit and lulls the guilt that weighs you down.
#7 Mommy guilt is a sign of love.
Having that mother’s guilt only means you care. It means you only want the best for your child(ren) and a single “warning” to be better alarms you. This can be a healthy motivation to be the best version of mom you can be.
YOUR BEST IS GOOD ENOUGH.
“Behind every great kid is a mom who’s pretty sure she’s screwing it up.”
Mother’s guilt is a motivator; an internal alarm system that allows us to pay better attention to how we are as a parent; a natural consequence of wanting to be a good mom to our kids. It is also a chance for us to understand ourselves and our child(ren) better. In turn, we have to make our children understand that parents, or life in general, is not perfect. This helps them accept imperfections and build resilience. This doesn't mean, however, that you should never apologize to your child. Certain situations actually call for an apology -- one that'll help you foster a healthy relationship with your kids as well as teach them to be well-mannered and kind-hearted human beings.
While mother’s guilt seems to be something that needs to be “cured”, you need to understand that it can still be a healthy part of motherhood. You just have to learn how to deal with it. Otherwise, it can make you judge yourself and make you feel inadequate. Well, momma, YOU’RE NOT INADEQUATE. YOU ARE ENOUGH. AND YOU ARE A SUPERHERO IN YOUR OWN LITTLE WAY. Here’s a cyber-pat on your back for a great job at mothering. (*pat pat pat*) We can do this. 💪🏻