How to Keep Mommy Guilt in Check

If you read my last post you know my views about mommy guilt. You know that mommy guilt says some wonderful things about you (I listed 10, but most likely there are more) and so it is not necessary to get rid of it entirely.  Furthermore, you can expect it to pop up from time to time as a natural part of being a mom.  

Still, even though guilt, like every other human emotion has its purpose and usefulness, too much of it can be detrimental to your emotional and psychological health, and thus, to the well-being of your kids as well.  So what can you do to keep mommy guilt in balance so that it doesn't control you?  Here are some tips and things to remember. 

  • You fret because you care! The fact that you worry about your job as a mom is a sign that you care and that you take the responsibility seriously!

  • Your feelings and struggles are normal. Most other moms are on the same boat as you, and there’s nothing wrong with opening up about your struggles. You'll find you're not alone.

  • Find support. It helps to be able to share your stress with a supportive group of friends, or even an online community, or to read blogs or articles on the issues you struggle with.

  • It’s ok not to be perfect. Remember your kids don’t demand or expect that you be perfect; they just want to be loved!

  • Lower your standards. Give yourself a break and adjust your expectations. Your kids will still love you even if you don’t sit on the floor to play with them for hours or make their veggies into little animal shapes. You'd be surprised how just a few minutes of undivided attention (15 or less) can make a huge difference to your kids. (By the way, I rarely remember my mother playing with me as a kid, and it didn’t scar me!)

  • Review your priorities and pick your battles. Ask yourself whether a task needs to be done today, or if it can wait until another day. I find that doing this immediately reduces my stress level, which enables me to be a more patient and attentive mom. Evaluate how important it is that the house look spotless when there isn’t anyone coming over. Assess how important it really is that your child put on that cute outfit you want them to wear as opposed to the same old clothes they always insist on wearing. Think about whether you actually have time to cook today versus just eating the leftovers from yesterday that are still in the fridge.

  • Take time for yourself. Mothering is a full-time plus job and it takes a lot of energy out of you. That battery needs to re-charge! Meet for coffee with a pal, schedule a once-a-month girls’ night to hang out with your girlfriends-- sans kids! Go get your nails done, or purchase a membership at Massage Envy so you can get one 60-minute massage per month.

  • Practice relaxation strategies. I personally find that starting the day with my gratitude journal and some meditation helps me get centered and boosts my mood for the rest the day. I have also been experimenting with using essential oils as a means to help me relax and also help my kids calm down if they're agitated or can't sleep. I find that using essential oils is a natural and safe way to enhance relaxation and overall health. My favorite is doTERRA.

  • Get good sleep as often as you can. Yes, you’ve heard it a million times. Well, make it a million and one. Granted, it may not happen every night, but it’s been demonstrated that good sleep helps us improve our mood, and thus be less stressed and crabby during the day.

  • Exercise regularly. Not only will you have more energy and better cardiovascular health, but you’ll have a wonderful stress-reliever and mood booster.

  • Surround yourself with positive people. Mood is contagious, so if you want to feel calmer and more upbeat surround yourself with people who support and inspire you, and who are fun to be around.

  • Have a date with your partner once a month. Many times with parenthood our couple relationships sit on the back burner, but research has shown that when children grow up with married biological parents who have a healthy relationship, they experience better social, educational, emotional, and behavioral outcomes. Plus it’s a great way to model healthy couple relationship for your kids. For more info on this you may wish to read: "Why My Husband and I Kiss in Front of Our Kids"

  • Be compassionate with yourself. Feeling guilty is a normal and expected part of being a mom, but beating yourself up about your personal flaws or parenting failures does not help. In fact, it may contribute to developing mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

  • Accept that you will lose your cool sometimes. Yelling at my kids is one of the things I tend to feel guiltiest about. I’ve discovered that I’m most likely to yell when I’m in a hurry and the kids are taking their sweet time. Giving myself and them extra time to get ready helps, as is curtailing my own activities, so I’m not as rushed to go from one place to another. Also, sometimes you may need a time out. Perhaps having a code word to indicate to your child that you’re about to lose your cool might be a good idea, or if they see that you’re getting increasingly irritated they can say the code word to you and that may function as a trigger to go take break and a few deep breaths.

I hope that all of these suggestions help you to keep your mommy guilt in check. Even though guilt is normal and even healthy, remember that too much of anything is not good for you.  If after implementing these recommendations you still find yourself struggling with mommy guilt, or if you're experiencing depression or anxiety, you may wish to consider an individual consultation with me to discuss whether therapy or coaching would be good alternatives for you.