Mom Truth: Guilt
14 months ago I became a mom to a beautiful baby girl who I fell madly in love with instantly. Since than I have been filled with many different complex emotions (shocker that love isn’t the only feeling), one of those feelings being guilt. I have learned in both my professional and personal life the term “mom guilt.” This is a term that rings true for many moms.
There are many triggers for mom guilt, each specific to the individual. How many of these sound true for you?
- Leaving your child or children in the care of others.
- Going back to work.
- Taking a break- I sometimes find myself calling a “mom timeout.”
- Not being able to manage everything that life brings our way on top of the mom duties.
- Body changes that occur after having a baby.
- Is my child developing as they should be and am I doing enough to foster this?
- The emotional ups and down and feeling guilty for these different emotions.
- Cleanliness of the home.
- Parenting our own way and dealing with other’s expectations.
- Feeding your kids Kraft Dinner, leftovers, or other things we question as nutritional.
- Sleep training, especially letting our little ones cry it out for a bit.
- After you behave in a way that doesn’t line up with the mother you want or think you “should be.”
- Prioritizing our own needs.
- Asking for help or reaching out for support.
- Desiring roles other than “mom.”
- Leaving our kids at daycare a tad bit longer to grab a coffee on the way (or maybe that’s just me).
Guilt shows up when it wants, but we get to choose whether we let it have a personal attack on us or not. Instead of “I’m such a bad mom” try “I am human and I am learning”. Instead of “I wasn’t cut out for this” or “it feels like I can’t do anything right” try “I didn’t like that choice, I’ll do differently next time.” By reshaping our statements towards ourselves we can be less internalized with guilt and also less self-deprecating.
I’ll give you three of my learning moments with guilt (and trust me, I am still working on these too).
- Going back to work after maternity leave. I went back to work when my daughter was 10 months old. I was feeling immense guilt about leaving her, especially at that age. Why? Because I had it engrained in my mind that I should be my child’s primary caregiver until she was at least one year old. I immediately would not think of my own needs and only hers. What I realized was that I love my job and it was the first real and honest step towards having a self-identity again. Secondly, my daughter was thriving at daycare, she loved it and still does (and it doesn’t hurt either that we have an amazing child care provider). Lastly, I learned to set healthy boundaries with my work and home life so that I had nothing to feel guilty for. Guilt gone (well most days).
- Taking care of myself. I have always been a person that takes care of others. Then you add a child to the mix and another reason to not take care of yourself enters the picture. I find it very difficult to find the time to take care of me, and like I said above, I am still a work in progress. When I do take the time, I am immediately filled with guilt. What have I done to help combat this? Honestly, I remind myself that if I do not take care of me, my cup is going to run empty, and then what do I have to give to everyone else, especially my daughter? I have truly noticed that after times of self-care I am beyond excited to spend time with my little one. I have this new energy and it’s so fun. I have worked very hard to not call it “mommy-time” as I am not JUST a mom, I had to remind myself to call it “Chelsey time.” Which leads me to the last learning moment….
- Find the small wins within every day. I had this lightbulb moment a couple weeks ago while we were sleep training (yet again) our daughter. I was posting on social media to my other moms out there about our progress. On one of my story postings I concluded with the statement “parent fail or good start?”. As soon as I wrote this I paused. This is EXACTLY what I work with a lot of my clients on for many different thinking distortions related to anxiety and all its emotions. We can go down the rabbit hole of focusing on the negatives of what didn’t go right, feeling like a failure, and fighting the guilt, or I could look for the moments of growth that we were having, and in fact, there was three.
I will leave you with this quote I saw once and I remind myself of all the time.
“Your kids don’t want a perfect mom, they just want a happy one.”
Sincerely yours in the fight against mom guilt,
Chelsey Zelizney, BA, BSW, RSW
Registered Social Worker / Clinical Counsellor
Aspire Too Counselling & Professional Services