Do you feel mom guilt and wonder whether it's an unavoidable part of motherhood or something you can get rid of? What if I told you that mom guilt does not have to be a regular part of your life? Learn more about the lies mom guilt is telling you and how you can get rid of it for good!
I was talking to a friend who had recently gone back to school to get her master's degree. As I was asking her how it was going, she said it was going well, but it was a lot of work. She said other part of her life were suffering and she ended with, "...so you know, I feel a lot of guilt." She said it matter of factly as if it was the natural thing she should be feeling. I felt sad for her because she genuinely wanted to go back to school and she did love it, but her joy was dampened by the mom guilt she felt.
Her assumption that I agreed with her mom guilt is common. Most moms I talk to believe that mom guilt is just an unavoidable part of being a mother and that all moms experience it on the regular. And I totally get it. I used to feel mom guilt a lot. It affected how I showed up in my life and caused me to push off my dreams for a long time. I assumed that my mom guilt meant that I was doing something wrong and that I wasn't cut out for motherhood, but then I realized that it was actually just telling me lies that were holding me back from my full potential. When I became aware of these lies, it shifted my perspective and I as I took a step back and saw mom guilt for what it was, I was able to let it go. It is not a common feeling I have in my life anymore and it can be that way for you also.
Mom Guilt Lies
After talking to many moms about mom guilt, here are the most common lies that I see. See if any of these resonate with you.
1. You should be able to do it all
For some reason, society's definition of a good mom includes being able to do it all. Labels like "supermom" are thrown around as badges of honor, but it's not very helpful because it represents an impossible expectation. While moms are very capable, it is not possible for us to do everything at the same time. The title "supermom" might feel good when you feel like you're on top of your game, but the flip side is that anytime that you're not, the same title feels like a weight on your shoulders. The guilt tells you that you are not doing enough, that you're not good enough, and that if you were a better mom, you would be able to do it all. But this simply isn't true. There's only so many hours in a day and you are only one person. Releasing the expectation to do it all will help you be able to hone in on the top priorities, so that you can get done all of the things that really matter. The surprising result is that you will likely get more done than before because you are no longer putting that pressure on yourself.
2. If you did more, you wouldn't feel guilty
This is a crafty lie because it feels really true. So many women are constantly hustling to get more done because they think that if they do more, they'll feel better. This is why so many women believe that they just need to be better organized, be better at time management, etc They think these things will help them get more done and then the guilt will go away. The question then becomes–when is it enough? The answer is that it's never enough. No matter how much more you get done in a day, the guilt won't go away because the guilt is not happening because you're not doing enough, it is happening because of the belief that your worth, how good of a mom you are, is dependent on what you get done. When this is your internal belief, then there is no end to the hustle. No end point where you get relief from the guilt. Deciding that your worth is not dependent on what you get done is the only thing that will free you from this lie.
3. You don't deserve to have fun or do anything for yourself until you get all your work done
In a survey I did about mom guilt many of the women talked about feeling guilty any time they did anything for themselves which included spending money or spending time doing things they love, like their hobbies. They believed that they shouldn't do things for themselves until they got all of their other responsibilities done. In fact, by not allowing themself to do the things they love or have fun, these women are, in essence, punishing themselves for not getting enough done. The problem with this is two-fold. One, does a mother's responsibility ever end? Who has ever reached the end of a to-do list? As soon as you get one thing done, another (or two) is added, so if this is your belief you will never do anything for you. Two, when you don't take care of yourself, you eventually burn out which will make it harder to show up in your life the way you want to.
It is a lie that you have to "earn" time for yourself and believing this lie is actually counterproductive to what you want (to be happy and take care of your family) because it will create the exact opposite results.
4. You are responsible for your family's happiness
Many moms think that it's their job to make their family happy. I know I did for a long time. The truth is, though, that we can't make anyone happy. They have to choose to be happy themselves. This means that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, your family could still decide to be unhappy if they want to. This lie makes you believe that if anyone in your family is deciding to be unhappy it is because you are not doing a good enough job. Mom guilt tells you that if you were a better mom, your family would be happier. But this isn't true. Sure, maybe you're not perfect and you could improve in some areas, but that doesn't necessarily equate to your family being happier. You could have a cleaner house and your family would still be unhappy. You could do everything you can think of to make them happy and they can still decide to be unhappy. Basing your success on something that is outside of your control will only end in disappointment. When you let go of this lie, you can decide to do your best to make your family happy, but if they decide not to be happy, you can allow them to feel that way without letting it define you.
5. If your family has to help you, you are failing
This lie is closely connected with number one, but it's a little different. It says that if you have to ask your family to help you, it means that you can't get it done on your own, which means you are failing, but this is a lie. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or failure. We all need help sometimes and when you accept that, you can ask for help without feeling guilty about it.
6. If you want more it means you are selfish and ungrateful
Everyone has dreams and aspirations, even moms. But many moms put their dreams on hold when they become mothers because of this lie. It tells them that they are selfish or ungrateful if they ask for more than what they have. It tells them that going after their dreams is wrong, but if you are feeling a call to something within and you don't follow it, it will effect your life. You will feel stuck in your life. You will be busy, but you will feel unfulfilled and likely resentful towards those obligations or towards the people in your life. By letting go of this lie, you will see that you are a person too and that you should get to follow your dreams as much as the rest of your family. When you start living more authentically, you will stop feeling resentment and start living with more joy.
7. You need guilt to change
Have you ever had some version of this thought, "I don't know what life would be like without guilt...will I still try to change and be better without it?" This was a surprising frontrunner in the Mom Guilt survey that I did. Many of the women thought that guilt was actually helping them and causing them to change. You think that guilt motivates you to be better, but if you’re being really honest with yourself, are you actually growing and changing with guilt or is it keeping you stuck? Mom Guilt tells you that you are not enough. That there is something wrong with you. When you think there is something wrong with you, you are not motivated to change. You want to hide. You yell, you distract yourself with food, social media, or Netflix, or you shut down and disconnect. When you let go of thinking that you need guilt, you open yourself up to a new way of changing. It's changing from a place of love and a desire to grow and learn. Changing from that place is what actually results in progress.
What mom guilt really comes down to
In these seven lies, there is a common thread–expectations.
In every one of these lies, there is an expectation that you are trying to live up to, whether you are aware of it or not. These expectations create the picture of what a good mother looks like and what your life should look like. When you are not meeting those standards, you feel mom guilt.
This is great news!
If mom guilt only comes down to expectations, then that means that you can redefine those expectations whenever you want and get rid of mom guilt completely. Here are four steps to help you get clear about the expectations you are operating with and how to change them.
1. Identify your current expectations
Write down what you think a good mother should be. What does she do? How does she think? How does she act? Don't filter it. Write whatever comes to mind.
2. Reflect on your list
Once you have your list take a look at every one of them and think about whether that expectation is creating positive or negative results in your life. Is it helping you get to where you want to go or holding you back? Cross out the ones that are creating a negative result in your life.
3. Define what a good mother is for you
On a new paper, transfer the remaining expectations from your first list and then think about what you want to be as a mother. Ask the same question from step one, but answer from a more authentic place. Instead of asking what a mother should be, ask yourself who you want to be.
4. How can you start living as that mom today?
As you look at your new list, think about one thing that you could do today to start living as the mom you want to be.
When you see mom guilt for what it is, that it's only beliefs and expectations, it has less power over you. If the beliefs and expectations are not creating the life that you want, then you get to redefine them any time you want; you always have the power to choose. As you let go of these lies and start living more authentically, you will be more present and be able to fully enjoy the good parts of your life–without feeling any more mom guilt.
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