Mom guilt…it doesn’t matter how short or long you’ve been a mom, we all know the phrase. We all know the feeling. And it’s alarming how often it creeps in. There seem to be endless opportunities to feel guilty over moments where there is no actual breach of trust or ethics or boundaries. It’s a real thing, this strange, uncomfortable emotion that rears its head over so many choices we make. Today, let’s set some new music to dance to, because guilt has no place in a happy heart and home. Loving, brave woman that you are – guilt deserves no place in you. It’s time to free yourself from mom guilt.
First: The Bigger Picture
In a post that’s mostly a rant, but a well-articulated one at that, Momsanity blogger Dawn Yanek runs down a whole range of things moms feel guilty about. Then, she lands on this – which I didn’t expect: “We call it mom guilt, and that’s cute. It’s not. It’s woman guilt. And it’s so culturally ingrained in us, we don’t even know it’s happening until it’s crushing us and we can’t breathe – and then we’re apologizing because we can’t breathe.”
The bolded lettering is mine for emphasis. I know that I (and most women) go around feeling apologetic about tons of things. Often, I wonder how to hold space for myself without feeling bad about it or the need to apologize. I wonder how to stop feeling like I’m responsible for the feelings of others. It’s an ongoing process. Dawn’s article made me realize that mom guilt is sort of like holding a picture frame over a panoramic view – the phrase “mom guilt” turns the broader idea of guilt into a bite sized nugget, easy to shove aside and ignore. But it doesn’t go away, does it.
Will you join me in looking now at the big picture and how to heal from it? We had mom guilt long before we ever became moms. Guilt is part of our psyche, and healing from it is hugely important. It matters for our own mental health. It matters because releasing our own guilt will give other women permission to do the same. Most importantly, our daughters will learn how to be women moving unapologetically in the world by watching us. That is a vision with power. I will do anything for my daughter. I’m all in.
How to Free Yourself from Mom Guilt
Psychologist Nick Wignall has this fabulous article about how he helps clients who suffer from what he calls Fake Guilt (we call it Mom Guilt). He says it’s a surprisingly common but rarely diagnosed condition wherein we end up making decisions based on incomplete evidence, even though we have done nothing wrong. His hypothesis is that fake guilt comes from a fear of sadness, helplessness, and/or a lack of control. In other words, guilt is a mask for deeper emotions that are scary to face.
Facing those deeper emotions and allowing them to be is the ticket to our freedom. Wignall also suggests scheduling sessions to sit with those uncomfortable feelings (yes, actually schedule it so that you gently face them. In doing so, they become less scary). He says we should think about those hard emotions like helplessness or sadness as normal, and not something to be hard on yourself about or to avoid. He also has this awesome concept called functional analysis, which means that you actually analyze the guilt and how it is serving you in the moment that it’s happening. By being curious about your guilt instead of judgmental toward it and yourself, you allow movement.
Mindfulness techniques are another powerful way to help return a mind from guilty thoughts to the beauty of the present moment. Sarah Rudell Beach of Left Brain Buddha is someone I recently came across who has wonderful resources on the topic. A mom herself, she offers kindness and a sense of humor when it comes to mindfulness practices.
Mom Guilt During the Holidays
It’s no coincidence that I am writing about guilt as we head into the holidays. Family time, gifts, expectations… this special time of year offers a ton of opportunity to feel guilty about things both small and large. Fortunately, this also means that the holidays hold a ton of opportunity to love yourself, just as you are.
Bright spirit, I wish for you a sense of presence in your life. I wish for you space to notice your guilt and gently allow it to reveal and heal the raw emotions happening beneath. It’s time to free yourself from mom guilt. You are a light in this world, and every single person you have met is better for knowing you. You are enough.
Thank you for being part of this go mama community! It’s an honor to share this motherhood journey with you. If today’s article spoke to you in some way, please share it on Facebook or whichever social media landscape you hang out on. May our loving energy inspire and lift each other up! Go mama!