How to Turn Your Mom Guilt into Motivation
Mama, have you felt guilty today? What a silly question. You probably barely got out of bed and were guilt-ridden with the thoughts that you overslept, didn’t prepare for the day, forgot something important for work, you name it. Our lives as moms are filled with mom guilt and it typically drags us down, fills us with dread and anxiety, slumps our shoulders over. We don’t usually think of guilt as a positive emotion and that’s because it isn’t. But what if, despite guilt being a negative emotion, it can motivate you to create positive change in your life? Would you approach your mom guilt differently?
Is it guilt or shame you’re feeling?
You’re probably thinking to yourself that every time you felt guilty, you just felt powerless and engaged in a lot of self-loathing, which may have led you to devour a pint of ice cream while binge watching some trashy show. There was definitely no motivation for any type of change. You just felt buried under your mountain of guilt which has a tendency to build on itself and grow without you even realizing it. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can reign in your guilt and put it to work.
But first, you need to understand what guilt is and how it’s different from shame.
The definition of guilt is a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
The definition of shame the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.
So while the definitions point to a similar feeling, there is one distinct difference – the feeling of responsibility. And that’s the key. If you feel you are responsible for something, you can fix it! Now of course you can choose not to take responsibility and fix the harm or perceived harm you caused and then the feeling will grow into shame. And shame is an immobilizing feeling ready to drag you into despair, hopelessness and helplessness. So don’t let that guilt turn into shame. Use it for good.
Ways to turn mom guilt into action
So let’s talk about how you can use that mom guilt for good and spur some positive behavior changes.
1. You yelled at your kids and now you feel guilty
This is a common one for all parents. So take a deep breath and know you are not alone and you didn’t damage your kids permanently. Next, check in with yourself and find out why you yelled. Is it because you’re having a stressful day and your kids added to it? Did they do something that was a trigger for you? Maybe they really did do something bad and this was just a reaction?
After some self-discovery use this as a teachable moment for you and your child. Use your guilt to make yourself apologize (a great habit for any age and life stage). It’s good for your kids because it teaches them that they are allowed to make mistakes and then apologize for them, parents also make mistakes, parents care enough about their(children’s) feelings to apologize. And for you, it serves as a reminder that just because you did a bad thing, you are not a bad person.
2. You feel guilty that you didn’t spend enough time with your kids today
This is a persistent feeling for working parents. You have to work many hours in today’s world and it greatly cuts into your time with your kids. Your kids may even tell you that they miss you so much and wish you didn’t have to work all the time. This tugs at your heart strings and makes you feel terribly guilty and cry into your pillow at night.
I get it. It’s tough when we can’t prioritize spending time with kids because we have to prioritize putting food on the table, having a roof over head and clothes to wear. It is a harsh reality of our life that we have to work a lot (in the US especially). But there is no need to feel guilty. You are teaching your kids so much by being a working parent. You are benefiting their emotional and mental development by showing them what responsibility and perseverance looks like. And because you have limited time to spend with your kids, your time with them is more focused. So there is nothing to feel guilty about.
3. You neglected house chores and took a break, now the mom guilt is eating you alive
I feel like this one goes out more to the stay at home parent than the working one, although working moms still feel that they are responsible for the majority of housework. So you took a well deserved break while your child napped and now the child is awake, the pile of laundry is no where nearer to being done and dinner isn’t about to cook itself. So much guilt.
How about we stop the guilt and talk about responsibilities. If you are constantly burnt out and feel like you’re running in a hamster wheel, it’s time you sit down with your partner and talk about creating housework routines and splitting responsibilities. Taking care of a child is a full time job. So if you stay at home, that is your primary job and the job of your partner is outside the home. This makes housework something to be split between the two of you according to available time and energy. Sit down, be honest, write down all the house chores, make a to do list, prioritize tasks, hang the list in a place you both can see, repeat every week. Then create a daily routine for yourself that incorporates brakes so you can refresh yourself and tackle your to do list. And if for some reason your day goes south and you don’t get something done, don’t feel guilty. Just add it to tomorrow and make it a priority.
4. You read an article that links maternal mental health to your child’s well-being and now you’re freaking out that your anxiety or depression is going to ruin your children’s life.
I’ve seen this happen way too many times. The research comes out not to guilt or shame mothers but to illustrate how mother’s wellbeing is paramount to the wellbeing of the whole family. But unfortunately, the mothers who are already feeling guilty and ashamed about their struggles, feel that this research isn’t meant to help but to hurt them. The message that women take out from this research is often “If anything is wrong with your children, it’s your fault!” But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
There is no reason to feel guilty about your mental health struggles.But this is a good reminder to take care of ourselves. Mental health is just like physical health, don’t waste time feeling guilty or blaming yourself. Instead, spend your time and energy on improving your overall health. Take control of your life. Go see a doctor and find proper treatment. Both you and your whole family will benefit.
5. Looking at Pinterest and Instagram makes you feel like all the other moms out there are making their children’s lives magical and you’re barely keeping your head above water. So much guilt!
I really think that social media has taken Keeping Up with the Joneses to a whole other level. If before you mainly kept up with those you immediately saw around you, now you’re trying to keep up with women from all over the world. And the worst part of it is you’re seeing a highly photoshopped version of those women’s lives. A version even they are jealous of because their life isn’t actually like that. But the guilt doesn’t seem to comprehend that. And so you feel guilty that your child has such a lousy mother that doesn’t care enough about them to do Pinterest worthy crafts with them.
But the truth is, your kids don’t care. Truly. Most young children want to just be outside, dig in the dirt and observe the world around them. And they just want your attention and a safety of knowing that they are loved for who they are. And so do the older ones. They just won’t admit it. So take that guilty feeling and use it for good. Maybe actually learn something that you can do with the kids (my husband recently learned how to make balloon animals) or teach your kids to appreciate the simpler things in life. They will thank you for it later. Maybe if they learn to love what they have, they won’t have to worry so much about decluttering later in life.
Main takeaways about using your guilt for motivation
I know I just scratched the surface of the many things moms feel guilty about. But I just wanted to show you some concrete examples before sending you off on your own. The thing you need to remember about mom guilt is that you don’t have to succumb to it. You can change whatever it is you’re feeling guilty about or change your thinking about it.
So go on, break out some pen and paper and list all the things you feel guilty about. Just dump them all onto a piece of paper. Next, look at each individual line and see what sort of action you can take to alleviate your guilt. Can your guilt be a teachable moment, a clue that your life needs some real change, an area in your life that you are neglecting. Guilt is merely a symptom, go and find the cause. I know you can do it, mama! You are incredible!
Originally appeared on http://escaprewriters.com