Mom guilt has always been something I’ve struggled with and I know I’m not alone in that. As a mom, it’s like a rite of passage. They hand you your first born in the hospital and somehow they sneak the Mom Guilt Special in there without you even realizing it.
Well, they must do the same thing with each kid because my mom guilt intensified a thousand fold when I had my second. My baby girl, Navy, was born in February 2017 and I was not prepared.
I’m suuuper embarrassed to admit this, but when I was pregnant, I had heard how hard the transition from one to two kids was. I was not worried in the least. How much harder could it really be? I’d had one baby already AND kept him alive and happy for two whole years. I had this mom thing down.
Not to mention, I had an advantage. I had learned a lot about self help over the past couple years so I knew what tools to use to stay emotionally healthy. Those other moms didn’t have the same tools I had so it was understandable that it’s so hard for them. Me however, I’d be fine. I’d be better than fine. I was gonna rock at being a mom of two!
Yikes, was I conceited and naive.
Fast forward to two weeks after my second was born. I was not rocking it. I repeat, I was not rocking it. Something had gone terribly wrong.
I was quite literally a basket case. Holy crap, I was struggling. I would try so hard to hold it together all day but the second my husband would walk through the door, I would just erupt with emotion. He didn’t even have to ask how I was doing. I would look at him, he would look at me and I would burst into tears. Every day I would just count down the minutes till he would be home from work so he could save me from myself and my children.
Needless to say, I was not “emotionally healthy”. My tools were not enough and I felt so incredibly discouraged. I was done with the day come 10 am. Sound familiar?
Thankfully, I was made aware that the reason I was struggling so much was because I was drowning myself in guilt. Every minute. Of every single day.
I felt guilty for sleeping because I felt like I should be doing something more productive like self improvement or cleaning the house even though I was so so tired. I felt guilty anytime I was just cuddling my newborn because all I could think about was all the other things “I should’ve” been doing like making dinner, or doing laundry, or playing with my son. But the second I would put my daughter down to go do those things, I would feel guilty for not holding her.
I felt guilty no matter what I was doing! In my mind, if I was taking care of one, I was neglecting the rest. I was struggling so much because no matter what decision I made or what I was doing, I felt guilty about whatever else I wasn’t doing. ALL DAY LONG. No wonder I felt so crappy by the end of the day.
This is exactly what mom guilt is. It’s when we, as mothers, feel like we can’t do anything right. Not because anyone is telling us that we’re doing it wrong, but because we beat ourselves up for every action and every decision we make. Wondering if we’re making the right one.
“Should I go do the dishes? Oh, well then that would mean I’m neglecting my children.”
“Should I sweep and mop the kitchen? Oh, well then I’d have to put my kids in front of the TV so they stay out of my way and science has proven that their brains will rot if I do that so I really shouldn’t. . .But I really should mop. . .”
Lose, lose. Whatever decision you make, you feel guilty about.
Why do we do this?
When we feel guilty, we think it helps because at least we’re acknowledging that we should be doing something else. It’s kind of like being sorry. When we feel sorry for doing something wrong, it somehow makes it better. When we feel guilty for making a choice between two good things, we think it somehow makes it better. But it doesn’t. Feeling guilty in this situation, does not make it better. What does guilt do for you? Is it getting the dishes done? Is it making you enjoy motherhood more? No. What it is doing is robbing you of everyday joy. When we’re pouring out guilt towards the dishes, it makes it harder to fully absorb the good feelings of whatever it is we’re trying to enjoy. It’s okay to choose between two good things.
Yes, we as mothers have a million things on our plate that all need to be done. They’re all good things, they’re all important. Yeah, and you’re only one person. You simply can’t change that.
So, what do we do? What can we change?
Switch from Guilt to Choice
It starts with recognizing that everything is a choice. Yes, I mean everything.
At home I would get overwhelmed because I felt like there were so many things that needed my attention. There were dishes, there was laundry, and there was dinner that needed to be made. Oh but wait, there were also the two crying children that need my attention. Oh, and I couldn’t forget about that phone call I’ve been meaning to make for the last five days now. All of these things were happening in the same millisecond and I would torment myself. How do I know which one to give my attention to? They’re all good, they’re all important.
I now recognize that all of these things are just choices. They are all things that I can choose to do or not to do. I don’t have to do any of it. I don’t have to do laundry. I don’t have to make dinner. The world will not stop turning if these things don’t happen. And I don’t need to feel guilty when I choose to do one and not the others. It doesn’t serve me or my family to be feeling guilt all day long (CLEARLY).
For example, when I found myself frustrated with nursing, I would remind myself that it’s a choice. I don’t have to nurse. I can stop right this second and go to bottle feeding. But that’s not what I want so I’m going to continue to nurse. When I found myself frustrated that my baby would wake up several times in the night to nurse, I would remind myself that I don’t have to feed her. I literally do not have to feed her. If I want her to stop crying and to live, then yes I need to feed her. But it’s a choice. Everything is a choice.
You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to do dishes. Ever again. You literally do not have to do them. If you want clean dishes and a tidy kitchen, then you do but that’s your choice.
Make Conscious Choices
We all make choices every second of everyday but are they conscious choices? When you find yourself feeling torn or guilty because you “should” be doing something else, the first thing to do is simply recognize it. Literally stop yourself and say, “I have a choice here. I have 100% control over what I am doing in this very moment and if I want to change it, I can.” Then decide.
Instead of just letting my day happen, I started making conscious choices which lead to me taking control of my day and my results. I don’t let myself sit in indecision and guilt anymore. I started giving myself permission to soak up every touch and smell and sight of my baby for 15 minutes. 100% guilt free. 15 minutes of pure bliss. Can you imagine how much more enjoyable that was? When that time was up, I would ask myself, “Was that enough or do I want more?” Because if I wanted to snuggle her more, I absolutely could. But if I was good, I would put her down and choose to go fold laundry and I would do that guilt free too.
Honor Your Choices
As I would make conscious choices throughout my day, I would literally say to myself, “I make good choices.” “I honor my choices.” It was important for me to constantly remind myself that this new thing I was trying was good for me.
It may sound crazy, but I’d rather be on this side of crazy than the crazy my husband had to come come to every night.
So, anytime you find yourself feeling guilty take a breath and remind yourself that you’re making a choice. You make good choices. You honor your choices.
Be aware that every now and again, you will make a wrong choice and that’s okay! We all do. It’s better to be making conscious choices and getting them wrong every now and again than to feel like you’re not in control of your life.
Giving Up Guilt
Just one day of doing this and I was a whole new woman. A whole new (better and improved) wife and mother.
I know it sounds incredibly simple, maybe even too simple, but that’s just it: it’s so simple. I still don’t get how just doing this has made the world of a difference in my life. I feel in control again. I no longer feel like life is just happening to me or that I’m just a basket case stay at home mom that my husband dreads coming home to. I feel like me again. I feel happy.
I am so much more patient and happy and almost frustration-free when I remember to slow down and consciously make a choices instead of being frustrated at what I used to view as the unavoidable, hard and sometimes crappy parts of being a mom.
This has been a powerful lesson for me. It’s been a good reminder that everything, EVERYTHING is a choice. I don’t have to do anything. I choose. I am in complete control. It was not at all uncommon for me to feel like things were always spiraling out of my control. My kids ran my life. My house ran my life.
Now, I run my life.
Are you ready to give up guilt? Start making conscious choices and honor those choices. You are in control.
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