by Dr. Wendy O'Connor, Positive Psychologist + Life Strategist for Women

Bye Bye Mom Guilt!

Is there anything worse than mom guilt? Sheesh it's a powerful monster, that guilt. And it robs us of joy in our lives because it rips us away from the the present moment (whether that be with our child OR when we’re trying to take care of ourselves). If we focus on feeling guilty and fuel the thoughts that make us feel bad, we will only increase our suffering. You know this is true. The bottom line is that when we take care of ourselves we are better moms. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Plan it. Identify what you need more of in your life to feel balanced and fulfilled. Is it self-care? Time alone without interruption? Quality time with your spouse or girlfriends? Also identify when you are most likely to follow through on committing to it. Would you have a better chance of following through at the beginning or the end of the day? A lunch break perhaps? Plan the activity AND the time.

2. List out the benefits of these activities you want more of in your life. Grab a pen + paper and write it out, for example: "One of the benefits of me getting to yoga is that I feel less stressed and I sleep better." Or, "One benefit of quality time with my girlfriends is that I leave them feeling connected and supported, knowing that I'm not alone on this journey." Or, when I take 20 minutes to be alone without interruption I feel my batteries recharge, leaving me less frustrated and less likely to snap at my children."

3. What triggers your mom guilt? Was it when you yelled at your kids this morning while rushing out the door? Was it when you left your baby with a sitter to get to barre class? Was it when you completely forgot about the dance company tryouts and had to face those disappointed tears? Write down the most common triggers and run them through a few tests. First, are the specific thoughts that triggered your guilt 100% true? Is it true that you're a 'bad mom' because you snapped at your child? Is that truly the only conclusion? Convince me. Second, does this thought represent something resolvable? Resolving the situation that triggered guilt can diminish our guilt feelings. Can you apologize to your child and take responsibility (without judgement) of your behavior so that you can move forward? Can you reach out to the dance company and see if there is any chance your daughter could try out at another time? Ask yourself if what is triggering your guilt is something you can resolve (it helps even if you can only resolve PART of the situation). Lastly, is there any other perspective that you can look at this situation from? Is the only answer guilt? Could you look at the very same situation through a lens of self-compassion? Of kindness? Could you identify a less judgemental way to interpret the situation? I know you can, give it a try.

4. One of the most powerful ways to overcome mom guilt is to talk to yourself as you would a dear friend. STOP the double standard now. When your friend tearfully discloses to you that she sent her child to school without a winter coat in 20 degree weather and that she is a terrible mother, what would you say? Honestly, how would you respond to her? Your heart would swell with compassion and empathy and you would reassure her, noting all of her incredible mom qualities. You would normalize her experience, admitting that you've been there x100. You would remind her of the times you've witnessed her nailing it at motherhood. Now, what might happen if you spoke to yourself in the same gentle manner? How would you feel to hear someone tell you all of those wonderful things? You can. That voice is yours. So the next time you beat yourself up for something you forgot, did or didn't do, remember this trick.

5. Lastly, our kiddos learn from our example. You want your children to grow up to be balanced, happy, healthy, thriving adults correct? How will they ever learn how to become that person if you don't demonstrate it for them? This is especially important to model when times are tough. The easy days are easy, but the difficult days are the ones you'll want your children to know how to navigate. The days they feel overwhelmed, depleted, burned out. You will want them to remember how mom did it, how she expressed her feelings and set boundaries with the world. How she had fun, laughed, prioritized her health and her wellness. These kiddos learn through watching. Would you ever encourage them to obsess over the things they feel guilty over? NOPE. You would encourage them to let it go, to move forward, to be easier on themselves. You’re modeling these behaviors for them, for yourself, and to be quite honest, for your sisterhood as well.

We are all in this motherhood boat together, and the waves are constantly crashing around us. Be that mom who teaches herself how to adjust the sails. Learn to navigate your life in a way that gives you permission to heal, to thrive, and to flourish.

P.S. If you find yourself struggling with prioritizing self-care because of mom guilt or for any other reason, schedule a call with me. I'm happy to chat with you about it!