*I want to preface this post by saying that what I call mom guilt could also be referred to as dad guilt. I am not trying to exclude all the daddies out there. However, in my personal and professional experience, I do feel that dads experience much less frequent and intense guilt related to parenting than moms do. How’d they do that?
I remember talking to a friend of mine (a year or so before I had a baby). She was the mom of a 6-month-old. I asked her how she liked being a mom: “It’s good but I feel guilty about everything. No matter what decision I make- I am screwed”.
This stuck with me. I remember thinking, smugly (you know, the way you think before you have kids),
“I am not going to do that. I know that I have to take care of myself first. I am a therapist, after all. Self-care is the priority”
I had no idea.
Mom guilt is something I see every day- in my own life, in my client’s lives, in my friends and family’s lives… Heck! I think my mom still has mom guilt and I am 34! Not only does mom guilt serve zero purpose, it is killing us.
It starts when we are pregnant. Not gaining to little or too much weight. The restrictive diet. Getting the right amount of exercise- but not too much! And then in the hospital you feel guilty about non-medicated (all births are natural!) vs. medicated births, breastfeeding and pumping. Allowing guests vs. getting quality time with baby (and maybe some rest???)
From the get-go we are bombarded with trying to please everything, meet all of the expectations and requirements and hoping we don’t make any mistakes. We also feel as if we are supposed to know exactly how to be a mom… naturally. This is bullshit. The first way to defend against mom guilt is to admit to ourselves that being a parent is a learning experience. We have no idea how to parent this child because every child is so different. What works for yours may not for mine and vice versa. Accepting that we can fake it ‘til we make it allows us to cut ourselves a break, laugh off some of the missteps, and most importantly, enjoy the ride!
In response to my preface: Why are dads so much less burdened by guilt than moms? I think the main reason is that the expectations are much higher for us. Ever notice how when a dad watches the children it’s called “babysitting” or “watching the children”? When a mom watches the children its parenting… right? This is crazy! Let’s raise the bar for the dads. Expect 50% of the parenting from them… and then get out of their way. I know I am not the only one that micromanages my husband’s parenting! We have to stop this. Let them find their style and allow them to become the best parent they can be.
Lastly, let’s cut each other a break. Moms can be incredibly judgmental and cliquey. This helps no one. We all need a supportive tribe around us in order to be successful at this crazy parenting life. Remembering, everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have. Instead of cutting other moms down, offer help, support and community.