Mom guilt, why you don’t need it and what to do instead

I saw a post from an Instagram mom, when I was gearing up to write on this topic. She was boarding a plane to go on a 10-days long holiday without her baby. She declared herself to be free of mom guilt. I couldn’t believe her.

Why?

Because at this moment my mind is unable to comprehend a state of existence without mom guilt.

I feel mom guilt sometimes. This is where I am right now. It doesn’t mean that it will be the same tomorrow or by the time I finish writing this blog post.

Meeting ourselves where we are in this moment is a huge step towards freeing ourselves from guilt. We honor the journey that is behind us and we open ourselves to the blessings of the journey to come.

Does mom guilt ever go away? I’m not sure. Guilt used to feel like a giant rock on my chest. It was dragging me down into despair for days. Guilt these days feels more like a little stone in my shoe. It is a bit uncomfortable, but I can easily shake it out.

Is it time to plan on going on holiday without your baby? I will tell you more about that later.

What is mom guilt?

Guilt is considered a mind game in Karam Kriya Numerology. It is a trick of the mind that colors our perception of reality. It makes us see a distorted version of ourselves and the world around us. It makes us chase an illusionary standard without grounding it into reality.

All mind games have their roots in three mistaken beliefs:

  • I’m not worthy.
  • I’m not able.
  • I’m not allowed.

How do they translate into mom guilt?

  1. I’m not worthy is at the bottom of the guilt we feel, when we nourish ourselves. Do you feel guilty about taking an hour for yourself? It can be translated into I’m not worthy of having an hour for myself. The danger of this mistaken belief is mom burnout.
  2. I’m not able is the guilt that comes, when we have the idea that we messed something up or a situation is out of our control. This mistaken belief is reflected in the questions we ask ourselves in our darkest moments. ‘Am I a good enough mom?’ or even worse ‘Am I a bad mom?’ This mistaken belief sends us into hiding. It can leave us feeling paralyzed and depressed.
  3. I’m not allowed is at the root of the guilt we feel, while we are trying to navigate all the expectations society is projecting on mothers. This mistaken belief and the guilt connected to it can turn motherhood into a prison sentence.

Guilt vs. shame

Behavioral science tries to make a distinction between guilt and shame but the boundaries between the two are unclear.1 Guilt is usually classified as ‘I did something bad and I try to repair the situation.’ Shame is classified as ‘I am bad in my core and I do anything I can do to hide this.’2 Shame drives us to create a facade of illusion. We are not trying to repair. We are busy with hiding our perceived faults.

What we experience as ‘mom guilt’ is thus closer to ‘mom shame’. Hence the questions in our mean inner self-talk: Am I a bad mom? What’s wrong with me? etc.

Is guilt useful?

Guilt – as we are conditioned to experience it – has no use for us as mothers.

  • Guilt separates you from your authentic self and what you truly want (This usually involves wanting authentic connection with your child and/or yourself).
  • Guilt separates you from your loving heart. It makes it difficult to be wholeheartedly present with your child.
  • Mom guilt seems infinite (You can read here more about the connection of motherhood and number 8). It is draining your energy. It sends you into a state of despair and paralysis. It leaves you feeling irritated, impatient and angry.

How to overcome mom guilt?

You feel mom guilt, because you care. You feel guilt, because you are a deeply caring mother. You are triggered, because you want the best for your children.

Surrender the idea of perfection. We are all imperfectly perfect humans. It’s great to want more and it’s great to feel gratitude for where you are right now and the amazing journey that brought you to this moment.

Having clarity on what you truly want is a great antidote for guilt.

If you feel mom guilt for yelling, my guess is that you want to communicate with your children more effectively. You may also carry an underlying frustration about your voice not being heard in general.

If you feel mom guilt for not playing, you probably want to have more quality time with your child or you feel triggered, because you miss your own play-time.

If you feel mom guilt for getting frustrated, maybe you just want some peace and quiet and there is nothing wrong with that either.

Having clarity on what you want gives you to opportunity to set an intention and move towards it one step at a time.

Remember that you are worthy, capable and allowed to have whatever it is that you want.

Walk your own motherhood journey with self-compassion. We are growing with our children. We are teachers and we are students. We keep learning every day. Some days we stumble, some days we do great. A polarity of motherhood that is inherent in its nature.

How to explain mom guilt to your husband?

The first thing your husband needs to understand: Mom guilt is real. These days the expectations on mothers are high. Most mothers experience mom guilt. There is nothing wrong with you for feeling mom guilt. It is not something that he needs to solve or fix for you. But there are tings he can do…

When you have clarity on what you truly want and what your needs are in this moment, it becomes easier for him to take the right action for you.

For example:

  • I feel like I messed this up. I want to do this differently next time. I need a hug. I’m feeling sad. I would like you to just listen to me.
  • I got frustrated. I realize I didn’t take any time for myself today. I need a break. Can you take the children out for a walk?

The more specific you are, the easier it is for him to understand, what he can do. That’s the masculine energy in action. When we understand it, we can harness it.

Mom shaming

How about the Instagram mom who went on holiday without her baby? She got lots of hate and mom shaming. It can be triggering to witness someone standing firmly in her identity. It brings awareness to all our unowned parts. It is often easier to push this gentle opening away with judgement, guilt and shame than face the pain of not living our truth. We are doing it to ourselves. We are doing it to other mothers.

Do I want to book a holiday without my children? Trust me, there are moments, when my head says hell yes. But when I put my hand on my heart I feel a contraction and a firm NO. These days that’s my only guidance on the big (and small) questions of motherhood. What does feel right for me in my heart?

We can be judged, shamed, given a guilt trip for anything and everything we do as mothers. You can get mom shaming for breastfeeding and you can get mom shaming for not breastfeeding. You can feel mom guilt for going back to work. You can be mom-shamed for being a stay-at-home mom. It’s unusual to be a a stay-at-home mom in the Netherlands. I do get comments on it sometimes. Let them talk.

As my sister, a mother of 4 once told me: I only take advice from someone, who lived with me for two weeks and did what I do every day.

I am grateful for that Instagram mom for showing me, what is possible. If she can take a 10–days-long child-free holiday, I can sneak out into my child-free garden in the morning and take 10 minutes to drink my cup of tea. Hell yes to that.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6143989/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5411344/

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