Letting Go of the Mom Guilt
We work so hard to be good parents and we come down so hard on ourselves when we fall short of the expectations we set. What would happen if we talked to ourselves more gently? What if we gave ourselves some of the same grace, or some of the same forgiveness that we give to our children? Is there a way to let go of that guilt?
Alright Guilty Moms, we’ve got to talk about this. So many of you are hurting.
Nearly every day I receive emails from readers steeped in the sadness and hopelessness of guilt. Moms feel guilty for working, for yelling or for getting bored. They feel guilty for not doing enough, or for pushing too hard. I think guilt is something we all deal with as parents. Whether it’s because we’ve gotten wrapped up in the Myth of Perfect Parenting, or because we’ve genuinely messed up – we all feel that aching Mom Guilt sometimes.
We’re going to talk about how to let go of those feelings, or perhaps I should say, how to use them as a catalyst for positive action, so that we can grow and find the parenting tools that will help us enjoy our children.
Believe me, I make my share of parenting mistakes. I’ve yelled at my kids, grabbed them too roughly and even smacked them. (That is hard to admit, and the fact that this blog is read by thousands of people compels me to tell you that this is not a regular thing. It happened maybe..two times? Anyhow, thanks for allowing me that aside…) IT FEELS TERRIBLE to lose it with your kids.
And then comes the mom guilt.
When those feelings of guilt wash over me, it is all too easy to give up and think, “What does it matter, I ruined everything already.” Have you been there before?
When we are in pain we are more likely to lash out.
Positive Parenting is about finding the best in our children and in ourselves.
From the book Parenting with Positive Guidance (affiliate link):
“Instead of trying to control our children, we teach them to control themselves. Rather than governing out of anger, we guide out of love.”
When we do something that we are ashamed of, and are overwhelmed by guilt, it is not easy to keep up our ideals of guiding out of love. We make it even more difficult for ourselves to parent well if we continually beat ourselves up. How can we parent out of love if we are not able to extend that same love to ourselves?
When we feel guilty and upset with ourselves we are much more likely to lash out at our kids because we are in pain.
I am by no means saying it’s fine to hit your kids. Or that it’s fine to throw your own version of a temper tantrum to get your way with your children. I’m saying that we all make mistakes, and that one of the most powerful lessons we can learn and demonstrate to our children is that when we make mistakes, we pick ourselves up, learn from the mistake and move forward.
How do you let go of the guilt?
What do you do in the moment when you’ve just messed up?
I will be the first to admit that it can be difficult to back yourself down and cool your emotions. Here are a few things that may help; you can do all of them or just one:
- BREATHE deeply- You’ll hear it again and again because it works. Just feel yourself breathing and focus on that air moving in and out of your body instead of whatever went wrong.
- Find a quote or mantra that centers you, (Find this ahead of time so you can just say it to yourself in the moment.) I think of my favorite quote, by Carl Bard: “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” It reminds me that I have the power to change the situation.
- Think about relationship survival. What do you need to do to help your connection with your child survive? You’ve heard that cliché about, “In ten years this will be no big deal…” Well, this moment is probably one of those moments, but it sure feels like a BIG deal right now! It’s much more difficult than it sounds to put your relationship with your child first, but making that relationship a priority is the way you can show love to your child. This could mean drastic action- do you need to let something else slide? Would five minutes of snuggling now help change the course of your day?
- Try to take a mini break to “reset”. Walk outside, stretch, get a drink of water. Sometimes I go back to this post to remember how to reset my day.
- Begin to look for what new tool you might need. It usually feels like just when I get the hang of things, something changes and I need to find a new outlook. Always growing, right? If you’re looking for inspiration, this post lists a big collection of positive parenting books: Great Books for Positive Parenting. Specifically on the topic of guilt, many of my readers have recommended Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids by Julie Bort (affiliate link).
Instead of a Guilty Mom, perhaps you are a Growing Mom – still learning.
Can you be gentle with yourself as you learn?
You have it within you to change the way you move forward, to let go of ideas and actions that are destructive or no longer working in your family and try out something new. The great thing and the difficult thing, is that means you get to make the choices in your life. You get to choose how you move forward from mistakes. It is not easy, but I think it is empowering.
Hugs to you friends! You can do this. You are doing this. You are making the life you want with your children with small steps each day.
All my best,