Laurel Crossley, B. A. Parent Educator, Children's Life Coach
As a Life Coach and Parent Educator, one of the most common topics of discussion amongst Moms is their overwhelming sense of Mom Guilt. Certainly as a parent I had my fair share of inexplicable guilt and worry about making the “right” decisions when it came to my parenting. I remember when my first child was born I agonized over the decision of returning to work or not, was I going to work full time or part time, would I be able to keep up with all the demands of motherhood, work in and outside of the home, childcare choices, and never mind worrying about whether my child was healthy – mind, body and spirit. My guilt reached unbelievable levels.
When baby number 2 arrived my guilt had shifted from work-life balance to that of being an entrepreneur and taking care of two children to how will I ever be able to love a second child as much (not even considering my love would expand, not be cut in half) and being able to spend as much quality time with child number one and number two.
Guilt is a natural, human emotion that serves as an internal guidance system that protects us from doing something that might injure us or be harmful to others. It is the balance between knowing what is right and wrong. As a busy, working Mom, our sense of balance is often off-kilter and there are really few Mom role models that are able to parent successfully without guilt. Celebrity Moms that appear to have it all, also have chefs, personal trainers, nannies that are employed to assist her in ensuring she is well taken care of. And despite ALL the support they have, they experience mom guilt too. So, as a Mom, how can we separate ourselves from our Mommy Guilt to best support our needs and those of our family? Here are some tips I have shared in presentations, on t.v., blogs and radio programs.
1. Identify if the guilt is real or perceived. In order to ascertain whether we are experiencing real or perceived guilt, we need some criteria upon which we can “measure” that which we are experiencing. I turned to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary which defines guilt as: “the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty”; “the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously”; and, “feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy”. If you look at these definitions of guilt, are more likely to align with the last definition which is FAR different from actually having committed an offense subject to penalty of law.
2. Find GREAT resources to best support you and your family’s needs. Wouldn’t it be GREAT if we had a manual that supported Motherhood; one that could support us as we navigated through all the decisions – breastfeeding the right way, cloth versus disposable, nanny versus daycare, college versus university. No WONDER Moms have NO idea whether they are parenting the “right” way. As a Life Coach and Parent Educator, I am always looking for parenting resources to best support the families I work with. I have established my “go to” support people in my community when I don’t have the answers. I find the local Ontario Early Years Centres are FULL of great supports as well as your Family Physician and Daycare Centre. They can totally help you alleviate some of the guilt you’re feeling.
3. Understanding what you are doing is the right way of doing it. Moms have the MOST wonderful built-in navigation system – their intuition. Have you ever had one of those moments when you have gone against your intuition or gut feeling and it went terribly awry? That’s why we have our mom intuition. It provides us with the answer that is best suited to support our family. It let’s us know when our children are sick, when they are upset and it helps us make decisions about our own health and well-being as Moms. Some of the BEST Canadian parenting author’s I am connected to all share this thought – “if it doesn’t feel right and in the best interest of you as the parent or your child, then don’t do it”.
4. Letting go of following what you see other Mommies doing. Part of early childhood development is to categorize and label things as we begin to see the world around us. For example, we learn that a round orange item is perhaps a hockey ball or an orange. Classification of items helps us to learn. As Moms, we have this very interesting behaviour that is reminiscent of this classification – we look to other moms to base our decisions. Are we attending the “right” class, wearing the “right” clothes, putting our children in the “right” daycare, school or extracurricular activity? Are we living in the “right” neighbourhood, are we driving the “right” car, are we parenting the “right” way? What’s “right” for another Mom may not necessarily be “right” for you or your family. Get that intuition working for you and listen to your own head and heart.
5. Hire the “right” Mom advisors. Did you notice that the moment you announced your pregnancy you seem to have accrued many “advisors” offering you advice even though you didn’t ask for it?? Mothers and mothers-in-law, aunts, grandmas, best friends and heck even complete strangers are all ready to provide you with knowledge. It’s SO important that you find yourself the “right” mom advisors that support your needs first and foremost and then you can politely tell the others that the position has been filled
6. Put yourself at the TOP of your to do list! As Moms we are always taking care of everyone else’s needs. It is imperative that we put ourselves first taking care of our mental, physical and spiritual health. It’s amazing how the guilt seems to dissipate the healthier we are and the more secure we feel as women. The better we are, the better our families are and we feel GREAT!
The more you open up about your guilty feelings, the better you will feel, the more support you will find from other moms and the greater peace of mind you will experience knowing you have made the best decisions for your family!