How To Make Sense Of ‘Mom Guilt’? Navigating Through Our Ugly Emotions
‘God is in the sadness and the laughter, in the bitter and the sweet. There is a divine purpose behind everything and therefore divine presence in everything.’ – Neale Donald Walsch.
We’ve all heard about mom guilt and the nasty hold it had on us. We’ve all been through it and can speak about it in volumes. The worst thing is that it doesn’t only come from others but also from within us, from feelings that we are not doing enough or could have done better or fear of making grave parental mistakes. Even if it comes from others, it reflects what we think.
Mom guilt held me to ransom as it did to everyone else. It kept pushing me to the brink so that I wouldn’t feel like a bad mommy. It is a tyrant of sorts, and I won’t disagree that it can be cruel.
But as I evolved as a mum – (my munchkins are now 9 and 11), I realize that we may have been a tad bit harsh when we analyze ‘mom guilt’. I think we have collectively made it the black sheep of parenting – an annoying pest that keeps telling us that we are not good enough, could be better, or falling short in some way.
But as I reflect on my life choices as a parent, I am surprised at the nugget of wisdom it has offered me. On the outside, it looks and feels ugly- like a feeling or emotion that makes us feel bad and guilty. But if you dare to investigate deeper, you will find an invitation to change. It is like a signal, an intuition within us that something needs changing, that we are going on the wrong path or something is amiss.
In his book, Matt Licata, psychotherapist, and writer, ‘The Path is everywhere‘; uncovering the hidden jewels within you’ talks about all feelings as invitations to be explored. He says that all feelings like guilt, etc., are intrinsic and essential parts of the human experience. They come not to harm but to reveal. They are not obstacles to the path but the path itself.
But in society, we label these things as wrong and hence, resist interacting with them. He suggests opening a line of communication and have an open dialogue with our emotions. We don’t have to do whatever it says (fuse with it), nor should we resist it and treat it like an ogre who wants to have us for lunch.
We can engage with our feelings by journaling or talking to it as a friend and asking it what it wants from us, what it has to say. It may come out harsh initially, for we’ve been treating it like an underdog for a long time. As you begin to rekindle the relationship, you allow a pathway for its wisdom to come to you. We can give it a listening ear and do what feels right for you as much as possible, honoring yourself in the process.
With time, as you’ll develop a healthy relationship with it, with boundaries in place, you will know faster what is right and what needs to be done, and when. It is like a muscle that gets honed with regular use and is best used without brute-forcing.
It responds well to respect, love, and kindness and will give you the same response it gets. It may be difficult at first because most of its suggestions invite us to change, rock the boat, ruffle feathers, change the status quo, and threatens the reptilian part of our brain that loves safety.
Some Of The Things Mom Guilt Transformed In Me
It gave me clarity on what I wanted to be as a parent. It made me realize that I did not want to be a zombie mum trying to be superwoman and exhaust myself. I wanted to spend time with my children and enjoy them; something with corporate life was difficult. It made me realize that I did not want to be a machine and work on autopilot.
It gave me the courage to take chances, draw the line with employers, and quit when it was time to let go.
Make Better Career Choices
It helped me switch careers from banking to teaching to enjoy the best of both worlds. It taught me to think outside the box and made me look for work that suited my needs rather than the other way around.
It taught me to be a human and realize I don’t have to be a superhero, that I did not have to stretch myself thin and overdo everything only to get burned out. It taught me that it’s ok if I goof up in motherhood. I can apologize and forgive myself.
It helped me learn that it’s ok to ask for help.
Make Time For Rest
It taught me to make a short time for myself for rest/rejuvenate – that a happy mum is a more present mum and hence, a more accepting person.
Power Of Influence As A Parent
It taught me that I am a role model and powerful influence in my kids’ life and they subconsciously learn from me, so my choices teach them more than other forms of learning. So when they were old enough, I gave up teaching and came back to the career I loved. I am hoping this teaches them that it is ok to prioritize their interests and ambitions as well.
Improve The Quality Of Life
It taught me to make time for the things that I love and nurtures me, so I write blogs for myself and in publications, read, journal, exercise, and do things that nourish me.
Accept The Kids As They Are
It taught me to allow my kids to be them and not what I want them to be. Like Dr. Shefali Tsabary said ‘When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini-me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature.’ For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is.
So, the next time you want to blame mom’s guilt, I invite you to look at it with an open heart and mind, befriend it, make it your ally, and ask for it to share its innate wisdom. Please do not treat it as the Gospel truth or the big bad wolf out to devour grandma, but an inner middle, which is part of who we are, and take its guidance.