By Shula Levin, LMSW
Last week, I was aimlessly scrolling through Facebook when I came across a post by an acquaintance of mine. The post was a picture of her cuddling her 18-month-old, accompanied by the caption: “My poor baby is sick today. Thank God I’m able to work from home and give him the hugs and kisses that only a parent can give!” I immediately felt the punch straight to my gut. How many days have I sent my daughter to daycare when she was sick? How many times has a stranger comforted her instead of me?
Mom guilt. We all have it in some way, shape, or form. Guilt over going back to work too soon. Guilt over missing the first smile, the school play, the doctor’s appointment. And it doesn’t only come to plague working moms. Stay-at-home moms feel the crushing weight of it as well. Guilt over not having the perfect, all-natural, organic dinner prepared. Guilt over feeling exhausted from entertaining their child all day.
According to a survey by baby-care product company NUK, nearly 90% of moms report feeling guilty at some point in their day-to-day parenting experience. In addition to the inherent expectations we place on ourselves, there are a variety of expectations from friends, family, and society at large about what the “perfect mom” should look like. Without making a conscious decision, we suddenly we find ourselves ashamed of not being a better mom and not meeting every unspoken demands placed on us.
But if every mother experiences this guilt, then what purpose does comparing ourselves to “better moms” even play?! Here are some tips to combat that voice of blame and shame that comes creeping in all too often:
- Have A Conversation: Share your concerns or feelings with family, friends, or colleagues. They can provide support and encouragement, while offering advice for better managing your responsibilities.
- Avoid the Words “I Should”: “I should” suggests you are doing something wrong. There is no one right way to be a parent, so who’s to say that you “should” be parenting this way?
- Have Realistic Expectations: We can’t all be perfect, 24/7, 365 days a year. Be realistic about what you can and cannot manage. That may save a lot of unnecessary angst.
- Celebrate the Small Victories: Since we spend way too much time beating ourselves up about things, why not be willing to offer a pat on the back when we do something right? It will put a smile on your face and might serve as a nice little confidence booster.
- Be Kind to Yourself: We are our own worst critic, so remember to treat yourself and speak to yourself with the same kindness and love you give to others.
So tonight, when I come home after my long day of work, even if the dinner I make my daughter is a frozen pizza bagel cooked in the toaster oven, I am NOT going to feel guilty about it.
Shula Levin is a child and adolescent therapist at Jewis Community Services.
Because children don’t come with an instruction manual, JCS offers a variety of programs, services, education and support for parents and families with children of all ages. Click here or call 410-466-9200 to learn more.