“I don’t even know when it started. It was like from the day my older daughter was born, I felt this weight on my shoulders to do it all. From not producing enough breast milk to taking a shower for too long only to find my baby up from nap and crying, all of it made me feel guilty,” explains my 35-year-old neighbour. If you’re a mum, you’ve most likely felt the same sense of inferiority, otherwise known as mom guilt. In a recent interview, ace tennis player Serena Williams opened up about her feelings, “Mom guilt is real. I always feel so guilty when I’m doing something on my own. I don’t know if I’m a good mom, and I don’t know if my method works, but I’m very hands-on with my daughter, and it was the same with our parents.”
Regardless of whether they are famous or not, most mums feel the unrelenting pressure of being superhumans for their kids. This often results in them neglecting their own needs in order to ‘win’ at parenthood.
What is mom-guilt, really?
According to research, mom guilt is the feeling of not being able to fill in the role of what it means to be what society deems a ‘good mother’. The reason why it is called ‘mom-guilt’ and not ‘parent-guilt’? This is because historically, women have always spent more time being caregivers. According to a recent survey by Mylo, 76 per cent of expecting and new moms felt that reasons like household chores, lack of time for themselves and sleep deprivation were the root causes of their stress. Failure to keep up with their responsibilities led to a feeling of guilt and frustration.
Some things moms need to stop feeling guilty about
While researching for this story, I came across a large number of reasons as to why moms felt guilty. Here are some of the most common ones:
“I went to the salon to get my hair coloured today after a month for an hour. I felt terrible about it.”
“My child missed the school bus because I didn’t wake up on time.”
“I spent time relaxing instead of cleaning my house.”
“The book covers on my child’s books weren’t put as perfectly as her friend’s.”
“I gave my child pizza on a weekday because he threw a tantrum.”
“Giving one kid a longer hug when both kids have fought. I hate dealing with the betrayed look on my other kid’s face!”
“Not being able to afford an expensive birthday party for my girls.”
How to deal with mom-guilt
Believe it or not, dealing with mom guilt is possible, if a bit difficult. Here are a few tips that can help you get started. Of course, if you feel mom guilt is more severe and limiting in your case, and leads to more anxiety, do consult a mental health professional.
Stop believing the things you see on social media
Post-baby bodies, Instagram-worthy birthday parties, great skin and hair days, and more. Social media paints a pretty picture of what people’s lives look like, but it is important to remind yourself that these are their best moments. If these posts make you feel bad about yourself, hit unfollow and move on.
Stop saying ‘I should’
Remove the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary. You’re doing the best you can and that is enough. There is always going to be that mother on social media whose kids wear perfectly ironed clothes and who cooks delicious-looking meals. She has her struggles too, she just doesn’t show it.
Think about the bigger picture
If you’re a working mum and feeling serious guilt about it, think about this: In the next few years, the baby will go to school full-time. Taking a break from everything is something that only a privilege few of us can afford, seeing as to how companies don’t look so kindly on taking long breaks.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent
As long as your child has your attention, a sense of security and time to play, fall and explore, they really don’t need a schedule that is chock-full of activities. A perfect parent is a myth, like unicorns. Understand that you’ll never have all the answers and may never react in the right way and that is okay.
Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup
Taking care of yourself is the best example you can set for your kid. Plus, doing things that bring you joy like playing a sport or seeing friends while he or she is looked after by family or friends can help you refuel your energy. In the end, this may help you to be a calmer parent.