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Mom Guilt is Hurting More Than Just You: Here Are 6 Steps to Break Free

Danielle Rich

We’ve all been there as moms. Dinner is on the stove, you have two kids fighting in the other room, your mother-in-law is trying to finalize holiday plans four months out, and your boss is assigning you projects after hours. All you want to do is press the pause button… if only life had one. When you’ve finally taken care of everyone else in your orbit and crawl into bed, a wave of guilt rushes over you for wanting a break from it all. Your mom guilt consumes you, eating into the limited sleep hours you have available.

Why is mom guilt so universal and what can we do about it? By now we know the value of self-care, so why is it so hard to prioritize and do anything for ourselves? 

We need to reset, to refresh, in order to be the best version of ourselves. Not only for our families but for us–for our physical and mental health. But we know it can be difficult to find that balance while we have so much else on our plate. 

What is Mom Guilt?

You know that little voice in your head that makes you think you’re doing something wrong? That voice telling you that you could be doing more? That you could have handled a toddler tantrum better? The list goes on. Mom guilt is an unrealistic perspective that we need to try and be the “perfect” mom. It makes us question everything we’re doing. It makes us compare ourselves to other mothers or the highlight reels of what we see on social media. 

Mom guilt can create an overwhelming sense of worry and an unrealistic need to attain perfection in motherhood that doesn’t exist. Because let’s be honest–no mom, or parent, is perfect. We’re all humans who are just learning as we go and need to remember to give ourselves some grace in the process.

Who Does Mom Guilt Impact?

Mom guilt does not discriminate. Its impact reaches past just mothers. When you’re running on empty trying to do a thousand things there’s no way you’ll be able to do them all well. So if you’re letting the guilt consume you, that’s going to impact the connection you have with your partner, the relationship you have with your children, the quality of your work, and the interactions you have with anyone else in your life

So what can you do about it?

6 Steps for Breaking Free From Mom Guilt

  1. Learn to Identify It. The first step to being able to break free from mom guilt is learning how to recognize it. If you can’t pinpoint that you are experiencing it, how are you supposed to combat it? Remember, mom guilt looks different for everyone so this step will take a certain level of self-awareness. What are your triggers or signals that you might be giving into mom guilt?
  2. Reframe It. You’ve recognized your mom guilt. Now it’s time to reframe it and break the cycle. A common strategy used in psychology is cognitive restructuring. This is where you take a negative thought and reframe it in a different way to change toxic thought patterns. In the case of mom guilt, instead of falling into a downward spiral when you catch yourself feeling guilty, try reframing your thoughts to something like “These feelings are normal and every parent goes through this. My self-worth as a mother is not determined by these feelings.”
  3. Drop the Judgment. The next step is to drop the judgment. As moms we need to stop judging ourselves, and we also need to stop judging others. Whether the judgment is internal or external, it isn’t healthy. No one benefits from it. Give yourself and other moms some grace. 
  4. Celebrate good mistakes. We are all human, we all make mistakes, everyone parent’s different and no one is perfect.  So next time you feel like you’ve messed up, or could have handled a situation differently, or you’re feeling burnt out, don’t be so hard on yourself. These are all things we can grow from as parents and learn from. And, life lessons are worth celebrating. 
  5. Talk About It- The next step is to talk about it. Mom guilt thrives in silence. We know that it’s something that all moms experience, so why don’t we talk about it more? Next time a friend asks “how are you?” instead of instinctively just saying “good and you?” let’s try being authentic and showing some vulnerability because it’s okay not to be okay. 
  6. Laugh at it. You don’t have to be okay all the time. Humans don’t live in this perfect cycle of rainbows and butterflies and positivity. Sometimes life is going to feel like everything is crumbling down around you. And when that happens, reach out to your support people for a lifeline. When you start sharing, you’re bound to find a few laughs along the way.

At the end of the day, mom guilt and self-care go hand-in-hand. We need to normalize taking care of ourselves as parents and stepping away from the chaos. By taking care of ourselves we can be better parents, partners, and people. Intentionally prioritize doing the things that make you feel good. Find the things that rejuvenate you. Take time to step back and clear your heart and head. Refocus and let go of all that built-up guilt that makes you second-guess. That will allow you to hear your inner voice and realize your innate ability to know that you are doing a good job. Remember these six steps on your journey of breaking free from mom guilt

  • Learn to identify it
  • Reframe it
  • Drop the judgment
  • Celebrate good mistakes
  • Talk about it
  • Laugh at it

Taking care of yourself will allow you to be the healthiest and best version of yourself. Doing so not only adds value to your life but helps you become a better and more present human. More importantly, it also demonstrates to your kids what taking care of yourself looks like–because that’s the most important lesson you can teach. In fact, that’s the entire point–raising kids who will eventually take care of themselves. 

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