Let’s start this blog with some questions. Should we allow societal expectations to dictate our ability to parent? If the answer is no, do we anyways? What is the “perfect mom” according to society? Is she attainable? Is there a woman in your life who you think is a perfect mom? (Let me let you in on a little secret...SHE’S NOT!)
As a mom of a 12 and a 9 year old, it comes without saying that I’ve been experiencing mom guilt for a solid 13 years! From the second we get pregnant everyone and their mother starts telling us what we should and shouldn’t eat or do. Only 6 oz of tuna, no deli meats, no alcohol, and the list goes on and on. But what’s so challenging is the inconsistencies in the “expert” advice. There’s really no “right” way of getting through a pregnancy or of parenting for that matter!. I was told by my doctors that Sudafed was okay to take while pregnant and with an awful sinus infection it was the only way to get relief. My daughter was born with a very rare heart condition called Permanent Junctional Reciprocating Tachycardia. Her heart rate was 120 beats per minute when she was born, now tell me that although the doctors claimed Sudafed was safe, (and I’m sure that it wasn’t a contributing factor), that I didn’t think that maybe, just maybe something I did contributed to her heart condition. BOOM! Mom guilt from the moment I went into labor.
Every caring, compassionate, and conscientious mother feels guilt for decisions that she makes every day and during every stage of her children’s lives. From the traditional stages of growing up and letting go of your toddlers hand to take his firsts steps and watching him fall and bonk his head against the coffee table, to letting go of his bike after taking off the training wheels knowing he is going to fall and scrape his knee, to letting her tell you about her “first boyfriend” knowing that at a point very soon, she’d come home crying because he “broke up with her.” How do we let go and allow our children to grow, thrive, and become independent without feeling a pang of guilt in our hearts that they will fall and fail?
Let’s go even deeper. What about the guilt that comes from parenting decisions we make in the heat of the moment? Or the ones we toil and consider deeply? For example, this week, a friend of mine told me a deeply upsetting story of her 4 year old who refused to put her clothes on to go to daycare. Her husband was staying home with their other sick daughter and clearly her 4 year old wanted to stay home too. The child flailed, cried, kicked, and screamed and ultimately she gave in and allowed the child to stay home. But the overwhelming guilt of knowing she was setting a precedence was eating her up. We all feel guilty for letting our child push us to our boundaries. After a suggestion of a time out, my friend told me, “Oh, that doesn’t work, I once had to keep putting her back into time out over and over again, and after an hour I just gave up! She just doesn’t listen! I’m such an awful mom!” No, you’re a mom who is doing the best she can!
Or what about over-scheduling our children? I’m very guilty of wanting to raise “well-rounded” children. So any activity they want to try, why not? Bring it on. Between my two girls, they’ve been doing dance since they could walk, (this season, they have 16 classes and my oldest does the competitive team!), chorus, gymnastics, swimming, softball, clarinet, theater, and horseback riding! WHAT?! Juggling schedules, (and let’s not forget feeding the children nasty fast food as they are running around!) is exhausting! And for all of you single parent’s juggling all that on your own, I have the utmost respect for you!
So whether it’s over-scheduling, disciplining, what foods they are eating, or letting our kiddos learn the hard way, it’s impossible to totally feel guilt free. We’ve ALL been there. So, what does a mom do when we feel the weight of society’s expectations crushing us to be the ideal, perfect mom? We have to take a step back, breathe, and discuss some serious self-care ladies!
I mean it. The phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is more than just a cute saying. Think about it. Every interaction, question, and decision you make each day takes a little bit out of you a little drop out of the cup. Know those days where the kids are CONSTANTLY fighting and it wears us out even faster? I feel like every morning I wake up with a full cup of patience and as the day wears on, the cup empties and sometimes I still have enough for getting through bedtime and maybe a little extra for some intimate time with the hubby, but often times, that cup is freaking bone dry by dinner time! So, how do we fill that cup enough to help us get through and not feel guilty about yelling at them for the 30th time to BRUSH YOUR TEETH?!
Dr. Julie Hanks who is a licensed clinical Social Worker, has some great ideas about how to reduce our mom guilt that make sense and helps gain perspective about what’s really important! Check out a clip of her describing her suggestions HERE. She suggests not comparing how we handle family life with others. We are all so guilty of trying to keep up with the Jones's and instead we should focus on what we are accomplishing within our own families. Celebrate the little things; earning a B+ on a test you know your teen stayed up late studying for, finding the time once a week to play a family game, or maybe it’s as simple as your 4 year old putting clothes on in the morning. We all could use the chance to stop and be unproductive, to reevaluate our negative beliefs, and expectations. We can only do as good of a job as we choose to. If we are unwilling to practice self-care by filling our cups, feeling truly fulfilled, and being kind to ourselves, the cycle of mom guilt will continue.
So how can coaching help? Let’s talk about the limiting beliefs you have about what your “perfect family” looks like. Let’s evaluate why you feel guilty knowing that you are enabling your children, yet not doing anything different to hold your children accountable the next time an opportunity arises. Let’s talk about self-care! If you are like me, I struggle with that one! But the only way to get better at something is through practice. And yes, practicing self-care is necessary to create habits that will allow you to let go of mom guilt!
So if you think coaching can help you let go of mom guilt, send me a message via the contact me tab on this page and let’s work together to help you live your best life!