How to Stop Feeling Guilty About Being a Mother
Having second-thoughts about being a good mother is a thing. Despite the common perception that only “working parents” or women with outside-the-home jobs experience guilt, I would argue that every mom has guilt. Having children is the obvious source of this guilt, but so are the many accolades, achievements, and impressive résumés that float about in our thoughts and in our society.
The concept of “mom guilt” has to be better understood first. Since Webster’s doesn’t provide a clear description, I turned to Google to check what other people across the globe are saying about it.
“It’s just the nagging worry that you’re not a good enough parent, that you’re not handling things correctly, that you’re making choices that might “mess up” your kids in the long term.” Health Reference
Feelings of inadequacy as a parent are what we mean when we talk about “mom guilt” or “dad guilt,” respectively. what to expect.com
When a mother does anything that does not include her children, even if it is for a short period of time, she feels guilty about it. Reference: The U.D.
Find any parallels? I jumped in at the parts where it said she “may screw up” your children or “takes time to do something for herself.” Let’s be honest: I’m quite sure my kids will either grow up to be amazing people or terrible sociopaths; I’m not sure what the medium ground looks like. That is, if the media’s depiction of a good upbringing is accurate. A good education, success in sports, exposure to the arts and culture, knowledge of economics and politics, and, of course, restricted time in front of screens to prevent brain damage, are all essential. The “exceptional human being” clause will be null and void if the above goals are not met. You know what the alternative outcome will be.
And then there’s the voice within my head asking, “Should I truly feel guilty?” Surely the vast majority of parents have some areas in which they’re falling short. Do I really stand out in this crowd, or…? Maybe I should have played that board game with my kid instead of telling her I had to do the client job due today. Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone out for coffee with my buddy the other morning before sending my kid off to school with his elder sibling. Perhaps I’m a horrible parent for giving my kid hot dogs for lunch and pizza for dinner on a regular basis. Sunday, huh? We bailed to sleep in and unwind after an action-packed summer. I could be teaching children that going to church, and by extension, believing in God, is a personal choice.
See? There seems to be no conclusion. For every option we settle on, there exists another that could out to be better. The question then becomes how to alleviate feelings of maternal guilt. There’s no denying the reality of this phenomenon. There is a widespread belief that has little to no foundation (at least in reality), yet it affects everyone.
To combat the “I should have done betters,” I have adopted the following two practices:
- Admit fault when you know better would have resulted in a better outcome.
Wow. That’s a challenging question to ask first, but give it some thought. When we feel guilty as mothers, it’s often because we’ve come to a fair assessment of some way in which we’ve fallen short. When I say “falling short,” I don’t mean things like planning a bunch of bad food for lunch and supper. Please understand that I am referring to more severe instances in which you may need to apologize to your kid. I apologize for the angry words I hurled at you the day before. Clearly, you shouldn’t have reacted like that. Also, “Yes, you heard your mother cuss. I apologize sincerely for my error.
These are the contexts in which our kids learn what it is to do the right thing and what it means to act immorally. So, sometimes when we feel guilty, it’s because our conscience or the Holy Spirit is chastising us for doing something in which we have no business having any role.
If you can take a step back and examine the situation that led to your feelings of guilt in this way, you may be able to grasp the gravity of your behavior. Once you’ve accomplished this, it will be much simpler to deal with and let go of other forms of guilt that aren’t as emotionally, spiritually, or physically damaging.
- Don’t measure anything without first shattering the ruler.
For many of us, this is a very challenging situation. Our success is evaluated in relation to some mental standard we’ve established for ourselves. Somewhere in our mothering toolkits, whether it’s Proverbs 31 or the mom down the street, we keep the yardstick by which we evaluate our own performance. Put an end to it!
Whether this was their intention or I just internalized it as a part of my upbringing, my parents instilled in me the idea that mothers should stay at home and contribute financially. My mother never once suggested that working outside the home was wrong. Nonetheless, it was characterized as selfish and an effort to detach oneself from the Godly example of a wife and mother even at the height of women’s rights coming to the forefront.
Then I married a man whose mom had to work to keep his family from becoming homeless when he was growing up. Then I got married and had kids of my own, and I went back to work because I could, because it helped my husband pay for school, and because I was prepared for the business world and he was not. Let me tell you, I pulled out the measuring stick and promptly shattered it. Submission to the Lord’s will for my life and the lives of my family was the only yardstick I required. Also, it was a really major topic.
After shattering the yardstick, I promptly set fire to the yardsticks representing Pinterest moms, crafty moms, and moms who attend every PTA meeting as volunteers.
Combating motherly guilt does not have to be a ten-step ordeal. It’s all a question of learning to accept responsibility for what’s yours to handle and letting go of the rest. There will always be wrongdoings for which to feel remorse. We are able to make a list of them. Forever in our hearts. They consume our thoughts. But the fact is that most of them will be forgotten by the time our kids are adults.
They will recall how you held them when they were unwell, how you worked hard to make ends meet, and how they eventually learned they couldn’t be the center of your universe if the family was to survive. Your moral teachings and the example of faith you set will live on in them forever.
This is the priceless legacy you are giving your kids, and you should feel absolutely no shame about it.