Drop the Mom Guilt


mom guiltI was recently watching a well-known series on a well-known streaming platform. The scene that caught my attention was one of the main characters struggling with breastfeeding. She did everything she was supposed to do; making lactation cookies and drinking loads of water, she had even hired a lactation consultant, yet she and her baby were both exhausted and hungry. Her husband, mother, and brother were all putting pressure on her to continue this struggle. It took her best friend to tell her to drop the mom guilt and get the baby some formula. It really struck me that all moms live with ‘mom guilt,’ and it’s about time that we start to drop the mom guilt.

Mom guilt is the feeling that we are not enough, focusing on what we lack rather than what we contribute. Mom guilt comes in all forms; being a working mom and missing key milestones, being a stay-at-home mom and feeling less for not contributing financially to the family, and feeling guilty for not being more available to your husband. 

My question is, why do so many of us feel inadequate?

From day one of announcing a pregnancy, there are constant signs and signals from the entire world telling us that we are not enough. Pregnant mothers have so many rules to follow, don’t eat seafood, don’t consume caffeine, eat a balanced diet, don’t put on too much weight, make sure to exercise; the list goes on. Once you become a mother, those rules and judgment become ten times worse; breast is best, don’t allow the child to have sugar, don’t hold the baby too much, don’t allow the baby to sleep with you, make sure you get outside for some fresh air, sleep train and so on.

Girls are told how to be and what to do from a very young age. We are compared to perfect figures who are not real. Think of the number of teenage girls suffering from body dysmorphia due to comparing themselves against photoshopped images of women with the perfect make-up and lighting. Even the most beautiful women in the world cannot match up to this unrealistic comparison.

With mothers, the comparison ramps up extortionately. If we ask mothers what is the perfect mother, the usual answer is a depiction of a Stepford Wife. A mother who not only turns up immaculately but cooks everything from scratch using organic produce. A mother who always has time to make crafts with their children. A mother who has a beautifully decorated home that is always immaculate. A mother who witnesses every milestone and attends every sports game and school concert. A mother who can create Halloween costumes from old clothes. A mother who makes time to exercise and also ensures that she is eating the right foods to nourish her body. A mother who always has time for her husband. This mother has patience and never loses her temper. Has anyone ever met this person? I certainly have not.

The Stepford Wife was a fictional character; never mind that (spoiler alert!) she turns out to be a robot that men created. Even if we downgrade the comparison of Stepford wife to the 1950s homemaker, the comparison is not rational. In the 1950s, very few women worked. Families could sustain themselves with one income, and many families lived very close to their extended family and had grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings to help out.

Comparing ourselves to an impossible standard creates a downward spiral for our emotions and moods. Every morning we wake knowing we will never match these standards, and therefore, every day, little by little, we lose a bit of our confidence and begin to question if we are enough. Long-term feelings of inadequacy can lead to depression and anxiety. 

So how do we conquer or drop the mom guilt?

Give yourself some grace, particularly if you are at the start of your parenting journey. Our children will not remember the immaculate home or the organic, handmade dinner. They will remember the laughter, love, and time they had with us. Prioritize what is important to your parenthood journey and stick to those goals. Also, remember you and your husband are in a partnership, and he should take his share of the responsibilities, including the emotional load.

A trick I learned a while back is to question what advice you would give a friend in your predicament. We are always softer on our friends, have their back, and judge them much less than ourselves. Using this technique will allow you to take back your power and confidence and finally begin to drop the Mom Guilt.