"Mom-guilt" is anxiety.
Updated: Jan 1
At the root of anxiety is fear; which explains how anxiety can often become significantly pronounced during major life transitions. I think we can all agree that becoming a mom is a MAJOR life-changing event. So many unknowns and uncertainties become evident in one quick instance in that hospital room. Dad’s, I have not forgotten about you and believe me, I know having a child is just as significant and transformative an event as it is for your partners but for the purpose of this blog, I am going to focus on the emotional, and mental toll that creating and nurturing life has on my mommy readers.
By the time you give birth, adopt your child, or however else your child may have come to your life, I assume you’ve had some pretty significant events like moving out of your parents home, spent some time in the real world and maybe even had to deal with some adversity, but nothing compares to being given the responsibility of raising a freakin’ human being! I don’t care how many baby books you read, things don’t get real until you have that vulnerable baby in your arms and are faced with the biggest challenge of your life.
Guide, mentor, provide, educate, love and protect this human until your last breath. Sure, no problem! (Read with sarcasm)
If that’s not anxiety-provoking enough, for many moms, there is another birth. The conception of an inner voice that accompanies us that questions our capabilities for the job. It questions whether we did enough, are patient enough, loving enough, basically good enough because we want to do it “perfectly”. If you follow my Instagram account or any other of the many amazing therapists out there in the social media world, you’ve probably already been in on the big secret...no one is perfect, nor will we ever be. Even you, moms.
So if we can consciously understand that, why the stinging feeling every time we believe we are falling short at this parenting thing? There are endless reasons really...the stakes are too high, the pressure is too much, fear of “failing” them, the expectations we and society have put on us all...
Motherhood speaks to our biggest fears: failure, vulnerability, guilt/shame, and comparison. All fertile ground for anxiety to flourish and take over. How do we tackle these influences so we can parent from a place of accountability, love, and acceptance?
Let’s break it down:
Comparisons: Don’t get hung up on “right or wrong”. We are bombarded with messages that we “need” to do certain things a certain way or else we are doing it “wrong”. Remember each child, family, and home is different and has different needs. Do your research, listen to others' experiences and recommendations but don’t get stuck there. Make your own discernment about if this works with your lifestyle and child.
Guilt/Shame are not one and the same. One speaks to our identity- shame, being a sense of not “being” good enough, and guilt: an emotion that can be appropriate at times but often misleading when it comes to parenting. Question and challenge that guilt and shame with a counter belief. Remember your fears often lie to you. You might in fact be doing what is best for your child and yourself, and the self-doubt is telling you lies. Your child needs a parent that is accountable and can recognize their mistakes but they don’t need a parent paralyzed in shame. If you could have done something “better” or differently, reflect on it, make a plan to try better, and make conscious efforts to do so.
Vulnerability is a state we often run from in our relationships. We equate it with weakness, but nothing could be further from the truth. Whether we like it or not, becoming a parent is one of life’s most vulnerable undertakings. I’ve often heard people say, “It’s like having your heart walking outside your body.” That’s scary! Acceptance that with parenting come some painful realizations, and one is that you cannot control a lot of things. Just as you have faced painful experiences and adversity, so will they. I’ve seen how often the fear of anything “bad” happening to our child “rules” our lives. We become obsessed with doing as much as we can to “protect” them, which can quickly turn into “over-protection”. When we overprotect we are enabling and not allowing them to develop really important life skills.
Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest form. When we are placing extreme pressure on ourselves to meet some hypothetical standard of “perfect”, we are inflicting self-harm. Speak to yourself with some compassion and empathy moms. Develop some grounding affirmations to help pull you out of the “perfection” down-spiral i.e. “I am doing the best I can, I am good enough, they are OK, I am OK, we will be OK. We put so many expectations on ourselves that are not realistic or helpful. Remember moms have the same amount of hours in a day and most of us are juggling too many hats. What we consider a failure might actually be a learning experience for us and for them. Let’s embrace the lessons.
Tip: An isolated mommy is an anxious and depressed mommy. You need to engage and connect with other moms going through the same things you are. Women (and men) that are going through similar challenges. Feeling validated and seen is a powerful remedy to many of our “human” problems.
You got this!