How to Let Go of Mom Guilt and Embrace Grace Instead
Photo Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock
As mothers, we are constantly worrying about every little thing when it comes to our children. Medical appointments, play dates, and perfectly balanced meals are just the starting point. And even though we're already doing “all the things,” we constantly feel like it's not enough — especially when we start comparing ourselves to other mothers on social media, our friends, or even colleagues.
So, when we do decide to go out to dinner with a friend, get a mani/pedi, or take a nap, immense mom guilt ensues. I know this is very true for me, and it's something I’m proactively working on.
I’ve started to let go of mom guilt — I'm saying yes to the things that I want to do for me and no to the things that can wait, or I no longer want to do.
Over the years, I have put off so many things due to mom guilt:
* I’ve put off personal self-care in order to get their laundry done.
* I’ve put off learning how to play the piano in order to take them to soccer practice.
* I’ve put off going to the dentist and instead cleaned out the spice cabinet, linen closet, and dusted the top of the windowsill.
* I’ve put off drinks with my girlfriends because I already felt bad about working all day and my evenings should be all about them.
I know I’m not alone. I hear from women all the time how they feel like they’re letting their kids or family down every time they do something for themselves.
So, what do we do?
First, it’s realizing that feeling guilty is an emotion that’s based on the fundamental belief that what you’re doing is wrong and/or you’re not enough — good enough, being enough, doing enough, etc. The question then becomes, how do you know when it’s enough? How are you defining enough? The reality is that there’s no real measurement scale of what a good mom looks like. There’s no number that says, “Okay, you’re good enough now.”
Instead of focusing on not being enough or doing enough, since we clearly don’t have any real way of measuring it, I have found that embracing grace and self-compassion is the ultimate antidote for mom guilt. Here are three steps to giving yourself grace now that we've (thankfully) started a new year:
Step 1: Acknowledge
I acknowledge my feelings and accept that what I’m going through is a challenge, that I want to be a great mom, that sometimes it’s exhausting, but I’m also human and want pleasure in my life. I don’t dismiss or deny anything that is coming up for me. I’m just there for myself in that moment in time.
Step 2: Connect with Self
I physically connect with myself by putting my hand on my heart, giving myself a hug, bringing my knees to my chest, and just embracing myself. By allowing for physical-skin contact, my brain releases oxytocin and I automatically start to feel safe and grounded.
Step 3: Talk Kindly to Yourself
I talk to myself as if I’m speaking with a friend. I ask myself, “What does my friend need to know right now?” I’ve said things like, “It’s going to be okay, you’re doing great, tomorrow is another day, you got this, etc.” It’s always easier to say nice things to our friends than for us to afford kindness to ourselves. Then I ask myself, “Where do I want to put my time and energy right now?” The answer to this ranges from, I want to do something for myself to doing nothing to still baking the cupcakes for my son’s birthday.
By following these three steps, I’ve started to let go of mom guilt — I'm saying yes to the things that I want to do for me and no to the things that can wait, or I no longer want to do. Which means I now take long showers, find the time to hang out with my friends, do yoga, and take naps — with zero guilt whatsoever.
This post is part of a month-long January CircleAround series in which we asked writers to explore the topic "New Year, New You." After an extremely challenging year like no other, if you had to reinvent yourself in one specific way in 2021 based on what you learned in the pandemic, what would you do? Think of it as a New Year’s resolution on steroids. To see all the posts in the series, visit here. And if you'd like to contribute to the series, send us your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or post on our "2021 Vibes Wall."