A recent conversation with a single mom inspired this post.
She, like many mothers, single or coupled, suffered from the terrible affliction of mommy guilt.
This conversation was about her teenage son, who on an average Sunday afternoon erupted in a disrespectful rant filled with curse words, insults, and accusations. Instead of blaming her son for his poor choices, she blamed herself saying that he was frustrated with the current living arrangement where he had to share a bedroom with his elementary age younger brother.
Let’s say that, yes, the housing situation is less than ideal what would prompt this mom, working three jobs, to accept this type of misbehavior and further more to excuse it as a reasonable response???
This mom allowed her feelings of inadequacy to translate into a free pass for her son. A bad choice for many reasons, but though this scenario might seem extreme, it’s no different from giving in at the grocery store and bribing the kids with a candy bar, while they are flipping through the isles like Gabby Douglas, because “they’re tired” or “it’s your fault for not remembering to pack a snack”. Even though mommy guilt is a common affliction, it poses two very real side effects. One is the way you feel about yourself, that is the unhappiness and insecurity that creates a vicious cycle for the mom. The second is the way it impacts our children.
We know that in order to be good parents, we have to love ourselves the way we love our children. We know this, in theory, but in reality the negative self talk, sleepless nights and endless comparison laden emotional mommy meltdowns, end up leading us to a very unhappy place that creates children who have less confidence in themselves and in us. If WE believe that WE are doing something wrong, why won’t our kids?
So how do you diagnose mommy guilt? Take a look at a few questions adapted from a mini quiz by Valorie Burton, author of Happy Women Live Better, she believes we spend too much time beating ourselves up. I tend to agree.
1. Do you often point out mistakes or missteps, even when you have successfully completed a project? Think, Hubby: “Honey, dinner was great” You:”Thanks, would have been better if I hadn’t forgotten the cilantro”
2. Do you set your expectations so high, they are impossible to meet? Think, last weekend’s four soccer matches, three birthday parties, two book reports to help with and a work proposal of your own all while your husband was out of town for business. You went to bed feeling bad the kids had pizza for dinner instead of the roast you planned.
3. Do you forget to give yourself the grace to make mistakes, learn from them and move on? Think, are you still feeling guilty for forgetting your son’s favorite blankie at the zoo last month, having convinced yourself that he will need therapy for this tragedy?
If you answered yes to any of those questions you might need a fresh dose of the mommy guilt antidote. Check back on Friday for a healthy dose of my prescription in the meanwhile here’s four things you can try today to give yourself a break.
Put things in perspective. Every mistake feels monumental until you put it smack dab up against a bigger one. By comparison, the small victories in life can be overlooked without reflection. I’ve been using my phone to journal lately, but paper and pencil work just as well. I like to let all the feelings of guilt roll out and then leave them right where they lay. Every so often I look back and see that many of the things that seemed so critical in the moment don’t hold a candle to the real successes I have everyday. Reflection has an amazing way of forcing you to put things in perspective.
Take a break from the kids world and bring them into yours. Power of Moms founders April and Sarin talk about how mothers often get so lost trying to be the perfect mother that they forget that they were a person before they became a mother with set of unique and special characteristics. Were you a great swimmer in high school? Maybe play a mean game of chess? Instead of feeling guilty about what you aren’t giving your kids, show them your killer back stroke and let them tell you how awesome you are. Then graciously accept their approval, you’d be amazed at how sharing even a simple enjoyable task with someone you love can do amazing things to banish mommy guilt.
Acknowledge that you is no way to be a perfect parent, but a million ways to be a great one. Think pick one of those and move on!