Mom Guilt: good enough is good enough
Updated: May 30
If you’re a mom reading this, then you know all about that damn word. Guilt. Mom guilt, meaning the feeling that you’re not measuring up as a parent, doing things properly, or all in all screwing up your children’s future, plagues us all. It’s something that we don’t often communicate with each other as moms either. We see other mothers on social media who just seem to be “doing it right” that we don’t dare say, “Hey, do you ever feel mom guilt?”
First, right now, I Want You to Verify Yourself as a Good Mom.
The fact that you’re worried about your kids and whether you’re doing the parenting thing right means you are an amazing parent! Bad moms don’t worry about being a bad mom - they don’t worry about feeling guilty or what they did wrong. They just exist. So when YOU worry or feel shitty - that is because you ARE A GOOD MOM, you just don’t feel good at that moment. I want to help you resolve that shitty response you feel so that you can recognize those moments and rise above them.
Where Does Mom Guilt Come From?
Much of the guilt we feel comes from external sources. Social media, family, and friends can often make us feel insecure about our parenting. Small mistakes can seem like huge failures when we compare ourselves to a model of who we want to be - sometimes our own mothers can contribute to this ideal.
Mom guilt can also be internal as well, and a natural part of mothering. We are obsessed with our kids sometimes WAY more than they are obsessed with us. We pine over what we are doing wrong/right - but it’s not always something we necessarily want.
The internet, screen time, school, food, our bodies, other moms, tv, working, not working, resting, buying things for our kids, not being able to buy things for them, being emotional, not being emotional enough. There are so many contributors to this mom guilt that it can be a wonder that we even make it out with our sanity left intact.
How to Overcome and Recover from Mom Guilt.
Cultivate Healthy Relationships With Our Children.
When our children are younger, they are attached to us and it sometimes feels like they literally want to CLIMB BACK IN. It can irritate the hell out of us. We love them, yes, but we need our space. We’ve been walking around independently and autonomous for so many years pre-child, that we need our time to adjust to having a mini-us around all the time.
Then, as they get older and more independent, they don’t need us as much or as often. They are cool and chill and yet we are still obsessing about them.
We can begin to build healthy attachments to our kids at any age. As young children, we need to remember that the attachment our children have to us is because they need something from you. It’s nourishment and a safe place to land after they’ve gone exploring. We attune to their emotions and, as we build that relationship with our child, can tell what they need - sometimes before they even tell us. As our children turn into young adults, we need to let them wander. They need to experience things, mess up and come back to our safety. We can do that for them. We just need to let out our leash a bit more.
At any age, we need to be there, less to obsess over them, and more to provide them with that comfort they need while allowing them to explore this brand new world they’ve been brought into. Even as teenagers, there is still so much to learn and experience and we need to give them that freedom to find those experiences.
If we can develop these secure attachments with our children, they will grow up to be happier, have stronger relationships with their siblings, friends, colleagues, and overall just be trusting, independent, and fulfilled members of their future communities. Once we’ve built this healthy attachment, the little mistakes we make mean less.
We can’t be available all the time and that’s completely okay.
Although we need to be there to comfort our kids when they need us, we can’t be “turned on” to their needs at all times. It’s impossible and can actually inhibit their ability and development. And our own need for self-care. No child is ever going to keep score on whether you’re doing everything right. All they want to know is at the end of the day, you’re there as a consistent, dependable, and constant presence in their life.
My kids are on their devices a lot. It’s a global-freaking-pandemic. There are bigger issues in life. They want to be doing that. They are happy. We make them eat meals with us, play games and go for walks, but ultimately - we are not entertaining them 24/7. And that is okay. They are happier for it - and so are we.
Stop trying to prevent mistakes from happening.
If we do something that feels shitty to us, like yelling at our kids, spanking them, etc - what can we do about it? In these moments, we need to figure out what and why it happened and then seek to find any solutions that we can that are within our control. The biggest thing you can do when mistakes happen is to TALK to your child about your response and their response and apologize if you feel that it is the right move. At the same time, you need to completely validate and acknowledge both of your emotions so you can take steps to improve.
The key is not to not make a mistake the key is to acknowledge and apologize for the mistake.
We want to teach our children they can screw up and will still be loved, right? Why don’t we demonstrate that TO them by reflecting that in our own actions? They are their own people. They will make their own decisions, mistakes and have their own consequences. Our job is to be there and to love them - and show them that we love them.
Remind yourself that you are an awesome mom!
And that you feel like one too! Remind yourself about that time when you did that craft, or made a fort, or slime, or baked something together. Remember when they repeated back something amazing that you said, or they looked you right in your face and told you were the best mom ever?! These, and even the small moments you don’t notice that your children do, such as when you made them their favourite breakfast, helped them with a hangnail, brushed their hair, and so on. All of these amazing moments that you consider normal parts of the day are moulding your children, creating trust, and, as mentioned above, building that secure attachment.
Your mom did the best she did with the resources and abilities she had. We need to avoid that pendulum swing of avoiding everything our parents did in how we were raised and therefore doing the exact opposite. all. the. time. Nothing and no one are all bad. Some of the stuff our parents did was good parenting - we can moderate. We can learn.
You’re Not Going to Raise Perfect Children so Stop Setting Ridiculous Goals
My goal for our children is not that they won’t need therapy, because that is unrealistic, everyone needs therapy, but that they will only need a small amount of it.
We need to be mindful that trying to set unrealistic goals both for ourselves and our children, isn’t going to work. It’s going to increase that mom guilt, especially when our kids begin to resent us for it. Society sets unrealistic fucken goals about what we need to do and achieve as parents. Sometimes other moms can be incredibly judgy and may compare you to themselves and their own social circle. Stay away from these hostile relationships before they even have the chance to begin.
Remember, as you walk away from this blog and go back to the rest of the day that the bar for parenting can be lower than where we think it is. Just love and be there for your child. Name and validate their emotions. Build a healthy relationship with them and they are going to grow up to be incredible human beings. We don’t need to jump through hoops; we just need to make sure we aren’t creating those hoops for our kids.
Darrell and Amanda have a combined 45 years of experience supporting clients just like you. They get what it is like to raise children, be divorced, re-married and blend a family. They get you. Reach out today for in-person therapy if you are located in Kingston or Napanee - or if you're online, anywhere in Ontario.