All of your life you hear messages about being a super mom. Being there for your children no matter what. So once you become a mom you start to follow this advice. You buy how to books, you start to read mommy forums on the internet. You end up making millions of little decisions about raising your child just in the first year. From breastfeeding to bottle feeding to sleep training to crawling to walking to speaking. Every decision you make impacts your child and your family. The pressure becomes unsurmountable and you end up questioning most of your decisions. You look on Facebook and other social media for support and instead you see pictures of these seemingly perfect moms with their seemingly perfect children. So, you end up with Mom Guilt. Mom Guilt is that feeling you get when you feel like you aren't doing enough for your child. Below are some of the most common mom guilt moments and suggestions on how to overcome them. They include not breastfeeding, going back to work, needing a break from your children, creating a child free room, and keeping bottles/pacifiers for too long.
There is a big push for breastfeeding babies. This push makes sense when you look at the research that shows the biological and emotional benefits of breastfeeding to the child and mother. If at all possible, breastmilk is shown to be the best source of nutrition for a baby. But, each family is different. There are countless reasons for why breastfeeding might not work. These reasons range from milk production issues, latching issues, personal comfort issues, convenience issues, time management problems, calorie intake issues, etc... So, you end up using formula. You end up feeling guilty about going to formula because all of the mommy blogs and society tells you that in order to be a good mom you need to breastfeed. In order to feel close to your child, you need to breastfeed. In these moments of guilt, I think it is important to remember why you are using formula. You are using formula because you know that above all, your child needs to eat. Your child needs calories and nutrition to grow. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether your child got breastmilk or formula. What mattered is that you are doing what it takes to help your child thrive.
Going Back to Work
So maternity leave is coming to an end and you are going back to work. Whether its a financial decision or a lifestyle decision, you feel guilty about not being with your baby. After all, children need their mothers, right? You feel guilt when the nanny comes, or when you drop your child off at day-care, or when your child stays with grandma / grandpa during the day. You start to question your decision about going back to work. But the reality is that a lot of women go back to work. Families are moving towards a dual income household. You are probably not the only working mother at your company or the only mother feeling guilty about being back at work. And, over time, your child will adjust to the new routine. You are modeling to your child what it means to be a part of the work force. You are showing your child that you can be a mom and work at the same time.
Needing a Break From Your Children
Every parent has had this moment. A moment where your child or children have become so overwhelming that you need a break. It might be the terrible twos, it might be the months of sleep deprivation, it might be the constant whining. Whatever it is, you've reached your breaking point and need a break. But the Mom Guilt kicks in. You start to tell yourself that you love your children and so shouldn't need a break from them. You should be able to tolerate anything that they throw at you (figuratively or literally). That's how grandma did it right? Grandma never got a break from her kids. Well, life is different these days. We recognize the value in self-care more than any other generation before us. In order to be a good parent you need to be able to have your breaks. You need to have time to recharge your battery, to take care of your health, and take care of your emotional well being. So, take as many breaks at you need. There's nothing wrong with bringing your kids to grandma's house for a few hours so that you can rest. Or having the kids start day care a few days per week so that you have some time to breath. No other job in this world is 24/7.
Creating a Child Free Room
This is a tough one for a lot of parents. Kids have a tendency of taking over the entire house. All of a sudden their toys are scattered in every single room of the house. You don't recognize the calm and serene home you used to have. You are told that your child should be allowed to go anywhere you go so that they feel close to you and don't feel rejected. However, creating a child free room is a great way to create the oasis you need in your home to help you relax when the kids are asleep. It's a great way to express your individual style, hobbies, and likes. It's a great way to not lose yourself in the mommy role that you have assumed. Don't feel guilty about the need to have a child free room. It can be your bedroom, your bathroom, your pantry. Just one room in the house that is off limits to the kids.
Keeping Bottles / Pacifiers for Too Long
This is another big cause of Mom Guilt and even shame. The Pediatrician told you to discontinue everything by age 1. But here you are, with your 18 month old twins, who still use bottles and pacifiers. You feel so guilty and ashamed of using these things past the recommended age that you even look around in public to see who is watching you before pulling them out. I agree with doctors that these things should not be used past the age of 1 year. I also know that you have to do what's best for your family. I was that mother with the 18 month old twins using bottles and pacifiers. I understand the guilt of keeping these aids in place and I understand the fear of conflict that will arise when you remove them. These are great soothing tools for a lot of babies / toddlers. I believe that it's a family's choice of when to get rid of bottles and pacifiers. There's not right answer to this conundrum. If your kids end up using bottles and pacifiers for a little longer than recommended because your family does not have the emotional energy to deal with the conflict of removing them right now then that's perfectly OK. You need to have the emotional and physical energy to see it through when you decide to remove these tools so that your attempt is successful.
I hope that this blog has helped reduce some of your Mom Guilt. I know that it's present in our everyday lives so please feel free to reach out to me if there are other Mom Guilt moments that you would like to discuss.
Written by Linda Meier Abdelsayed, LMFT
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