Mother's guilt is real. Nearly all of us experience it. We are racked with guilt, feeling that our best isn't good enough. We struggle when work commitments prevent us from attending school events and we are crushed by the looks of disappointment on our children's faces. We wonder if choices we have made, such as what school to send our kids to, have not had far-reaching negative consequences, if a different path would have resulted in happier, more well-adjusted kids. We moms might feel guilty when we can't afford something for our kids or are nagged by the feeling that we simply don't spend enough time with them.
All moms, even the most amazing, attentive and committed moms, feel at some point that they are not good enough. A Pew Research Center survey found that the number of moms who want to work full-time is declining, from 32 percent to 21 percent between 1997 and 2007, indicating that mommy guilt is getting the better of many American women. No matter what we do right as parents, we tend to more often focus on our failings.
Mother's guilt frequently visits me as I prepare my three children for their school day. Maybe I realize that, on a cold day, I've forgotten gloves and a hat for my 6-year-old or that the children went to school and left their lunch boxes on the counter. Just recently, I forgot to bring the plates for a school party and immediately felt guilty when my son said, "Mom, why did you bring the plates so late?" I had an excuse, but my son could care less that I posted bringing the plates to his school function on the wrong date in my electronic calendar.
Mother's guilt isn't going anywhere and we all will be stricken with it at some time or another. Think about your own mother. She has probably shared with you her memories of parenting and what she believes she could have done differently to impact your life for the better.
Here are my personal rules for silencing mother's guilt:
• Get real. Understand that perfection and parenting is ridiculous. Accept that you will make mistakes and be honest with your children when you drop the ball.
• Stop judging yourself. Your best is good enough. Stop comparing your best to other classroom moms, working parents and neighborhood families. Live out your own story and stop attempting to star in someone else's drama.
• Turn in your supermom cape. Acknowledge that love is the only requirement to becoming a supermom.
• Keep it positive. Focus on the positive things that you are doing. Instead of looking at what isn't working with your parenting, ask yourself, "What am I doing right?" Ask your children the same question. Their answers might surprise you.
• Laugh. Learn to laugh at your flubs.
• Know that a little guilt makes you healthy. It means that you care about your family and the way that they experience you.
• Don't sweat the small stuff. Sometimes we are our own worst critics. Breathe in and blow it out. Tomorrow is a new day.
• Create a supportive community for yourself. Consider joining in with a group of moms that are non-judgmental and supportive.
Mother's guilt is only natural and is the consequence of wanting to be a good mother to your children. However, in the end it will only weigh you down. Consider my tips and shed those extra pounds! You'll find that you feel lighter, happier, and more ready and willing to enjoy motherhood for the important and fulfilling experience that it is. And when faced with the disappointing fact that you are not capable of providing your children with everything you want for them, remember that no child that grew up with love in their home was left wanting.
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