Often when a discussion around “mommy guilt” comes up, the talk revolves around working moms. We aren’t going to get into the Mommy Wars and debate about the value of being a stay-at-home mom versus a working mom because moms can make their own choices about what feeds their soul and about what needs to be done in order to feed their family. Those choices should be respected. Instead, we are sharing some thoughts around the reasons moms may feel guilty and how insidious that guilt can be.
First, “insidious” is defined by Merriam Webster as “developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent.”
Wow! Insidious guilt may be happening, and you wouldn’t even be conscious of it until it takes a strong hold of you in one way or another. A person I have great respect for once said, “Guilt serves only one purpose—to let you know when something needs to change. Then it needs to be let go of.”
Perfect. If we acknowledge that we feel guilty then we know there is something we can change to minimize or eliminate the guilt. Sometimes the guilt is felt but the cause is completely out of our control. An example for me was feeling proud to be a breastfeeding mom only to find out years later that the bottles I had used to store breast milk were removed from stores because they contained BPA. My guilt over exposing my baby to something so toxic was so strong that I felt sick. But how was I to know at that time?
As moms we juggle a lot feelings and responsibilities at once. We may feel guilty for having to choose the cheaper version of something that isn’t organic or eco-friendly because in the end, we have to feed our families and we need to get the most out of each dollar. We may feel guilty for the time lost with our children while we struggled with Postpartum Depression or while we had to work far too many hours in order to make ends meet. We may feel guilty for letting the kids watch too much TV because we don’t have the energy to take them out on their bikes. We can even feel guilty for just wanting to have a dinner with friends away from the kids. We have endless to-do lists and often put our families first and ourselves last.
Mommy guilt can be insidious and relentless unless we are able to find balance and acceptance. Balance can be tricky because as soon as you think you have found it, at least in my case, something disturbs the balance: another baby arrives, we move to another city, bills accumulate… Then, add the day-to-day grind: going to dentist appointments, work, school, paying bills, relationships that need attention… Let’s not forget the plants that are dying, the carpet that needs vacuuming, and the clothes that need switching out: the Spring clothes for the Summer clothes for all three kids… and on… and on… and on. Balance and self-care sometimes seem more like a luxury for those who have a team of people to cook and clean for them. That’s not the case for anyone I know.
There is a helpful quote for bringing in some peace and reducing the guilt a mom feels. It states: “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.” At this point in your life’s journey, you have been given all that you need to do the best job you can. You can strive to do better while accepting that where you are is the right place to be.
There may be new learning right around the corner or a new friendship or support to get you through a tough time. Perhaps there will be a realization that you got to this point because your choices haven’t been in line with your life’s passion, and you need to rediscover what you feel passionately about.
Moms need to let go of guilt in order to allow more positive energy in. It can be exhausting and overwhelming to focus on the things that don’t bring you joy. Change what you can, appreciate where you are in your life’s journey, and let go of the emotions that don’t create peace in your life.
Editor’s note: If you may be struggling with Postpartum Depression or feel overwhelmed and sad for a long period of time, please contact your doctor. You can also reach out for support on Twitter by following @postpartumprog and @unxpctdblessing and connecting with other women with experience and advice at #ppdchat
Here’s another quote for inspiration:
“Wherever we are now is just a step on the way to somewhere else. Whatever we do and however well we do it, it is only a preparation to do something else, something different than what we are doing at this moment.” —Robert Louis Stevenson