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Monday, June 3, 2019

How to deal with the Mom Guilt

Guilt: The most unproductive of emotions.  These are the words that my best friend said to me when I was waxing on about this feeling I get. This feeling that we shouldn't do what we really want to do because ...well just because. Because we feel guilty. Because we feel like we should be doing more. Because we feel like we should be more.

I'm a good mom. I know this. I love my kids and I try my best but I make mistakes. ALL. OF. THE. TIME. I usually forgive myself and move on, but somehow this mom guilt business keeps coming back. For me, it usually rears it's head when I plan a trip sans kiddies. It seems to be my biggest trigger - maybe because that's when the kids complain the most. There's a lot behind this "mom guilt" thing, but the most important things that I've learned from it are:
  • The feeling of guilt will come back, again and again, and again.
  • I'll survive. So will my kids.
  • I'm not alone. This mom guilt thing isn't just something I've got going on - its all over the parenting universe.
  • It's not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. 

In reality there really wasn't any place for mom guilt here, in the Bahamas - where I went without the kids (gasp!)

I know this isn't the first time I have written about mom guilt nor I'm certain will it be the last. Unless somehow I figure out how to permanently banish this feeling.  But to be completely honest, I don't think my mom-superpowers extend that far. But I have worked out some methods, strategies and resources that have been helpful.

How I deal with my mom-guilt:
  1. Be prepared: Whenever I have travel induced guilt, I throw myself into prepping and planning - for my kids at home. They are always left in great hands because I'm so fortunate to have family members around who are amazing care givers.  But I still feel this sense of stress that I'm burdening everyone else by having them watch my kids. So really it's a double dose of guilt! I like to stock the fridge and pantry, leave all emergency numbers, health cards, organize play dates, leave a detailed schedule and even sometimes a little present (ahem - bribes!) for the kids. Does it always go as planned? NOPE! Hardly ever in fact, but somehow it all works out. 
  2. Friends: They are my not-so-secret weapon. My girlfriends round out my support system and always know what to say to help relieve my feelings of guilt. Or sometimes they know to tell me to shut up and just do it. Either way works.
  3. Schedule Quality Time: I know, life is insanely busy and we are over scheduled about EVERYTHING. But I try to make a conscious effort to spend time with the kids doing something fun or just sitting and really being present with them. Even though I try this on a daily basis, I am trying something new: " a mommy & me day." Scheduling in a full day with each kid, one on one.
  4. Embracing it: as with most feelings, it's usually best to not bury them someplace deep down inside or to ignore them. I'm usually pretty good about facing my emotions and even unfurling them if I have to (not always a good thing - just ask my hubby!) But facing my feelings of guilt and just vocalizing them out loud (to an audience or not), helps in alleviating these feelings. Acknowledge what you feel and why. That takes away the power the guilt has over you.
  5. Being Honest: My kids are old enough now to have real honest, open conversations with.  I do explain to them sometimes what it is that I feel and why. Particularly that I try my best, but I make mistakes as a mom and that I love them always. I don't want to burden them with my feelings, but I hope that by sharing with them I can teach them to see me as a human and to help them develop empathy, compassion and understanding. It's actually been the most rewarding and helpful tool in battling "mom-guilt". They have shown greater compassion and understanding than I could have ever hoped for. 

This is me: Not feeling any mom guilt...well maybe just a little!

These strategies have helped me when I'm faced with this guilt business, but it sure is a process. I know that I will always feel it in my parenting, but I also know that I will get through it. That if I choose to do something for myself instead of for my kids ( like travel!), the feeling will inevitably arrive, but it will also pass. Because as my friend recently told me: "mama, you're allowed to enjoy your life."

Do you ever have feelings of guilt in your parenting? How do handle it? Please share in the comments below!


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