Mom guilt. It’s an elusive feeling that plagues a lot of women, knowingly or not. Nothing is off limits; mom guilt can spill over into every part of our lives. And if we are not careful, we may be living our day to day life operating under a mom guilt state of mind.
Why does mom guilt happen? In today’s world, women are not given the support that they so desperately need. Women are expected to give birth and return to work as soon as possible. Puppies are legally required to be with their mother until they’re 8 weeks old. A lot of mothers in the United States get no maternity leave, let alone paid leave. And if they do, they’re sometimes offered only 6 weeks to be with their newborn child.
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Personally, I’ve felt a lot of mom guilt revolving around wanting to stay home with my daughter. I couldn’t leave her. It crushed my soul to think of paying someone to watch her every day. And I know that put a tremendous amount of stress on my partner to support us financially. But mom guilt is a catch 22 — you might feel guilty if you do want to go back to work. Maybe you’re employed at a company you really love, or your work brings you joy and meaning. Or maybe financially, you have no other option. You know what the best decision is for you. If you follow your heart, you’ve made no mistake. Let go of the guilt and live your choice with confidence.
Another issue that can invoke mom guilt is the birth experience. If your birth didn’t go according to plan or was traumatic to you, mom guilt can rear its ugly head. This is a time when we need to be gentle with ourselves. We are not perfect. We are not super-human. We are women, who grew a precious child in our womb for many months and then went through the gauntlet of labor to bring that baby into the world. We are insanely patient and strong! It doesn’t matter if you got an epidural or didn’t. It doesn’t matter if you birthed your baby via C-section or vaginally. You gave birth. There is no need to feel guilty about anything you can’t control, especially in the midst of labor.
Living with postpartum depression or anxiety can be really challenging and can catalyze feelings of guilt. Postpartum depression affects so many women; you are not alone and there are resources to help you. It takes courage to admit these feelings and ask for help. Our hormones after birth are fluctuating and balancing out; add a newborn hungry baby to the mix and that’s a recipe for exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy. Check out postpartum.net for guidance and steps for moving forward, or contact your doctor about the best way to help relieve PPD and PPA.
How you choose to feed your child can be a trigger for mom guilt. There is this stigma that “breast is best”, but I think this is a harmful campaign for women because it puts unnecessary guilt on women who don’t want to breastfeed, are unable to, or who tried for months and months and suffered because of it. Breastfeeding is really hard in the beginning, especially if you’ve never gone through it before. We need to support other mamas and not shame them because they don’t feed their child the way you would. Fed is best. Your worth as a mother has nothing to do with if you bottle feed or breastfeed.
Along with that same line, the diet we chose to feed our child after 6 months of age can cause guilt due to perceived judgment. If you do choose to raise your child on a vegan diet, you might get some resistance from your partner, parents or extended family. They might make comments about how your child needs to eat meat or consume dairy to be healthy. Every day these beliefs are losing their credibility. We grew up in a society that conditioned us to believe that we need animal products to survive, but that’s simply not the case. Plant-based diets are nutritionally sound for all ages and can prevent the most prevalent diseases in our country. Don’t feel guilty for choosing a diet that you feel is the best for your child’s health, the environment or the animals that suffer because of our choices.
We live in the most technologically advanced time in history. There are screens every which way we turn. It seems almost impossible to keep the encroaching glow from our phones, iPads, and TVs from our little one’s eyes. I sometimes feel mom guilt for allowing my daughter to watch Sesame Street for a bit while I get some work done. Sometimes, an age-appropriate show is a tool we can utilize to take time for ourselves. You know what’s best for your child, though, so if you feel strongly about no screen time, stick to it! There’s no need to feel guilty for trusting your judgment and common sense.
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As mothers, we give so much to everyone around us. We work around the clock for little to no pay. We do the dirty work of cleaning diapers or messes off the floor. We are not perfect, and sometimes we can’t have it all, as much as we’d like to. But why should we? Let’s not let society’s ideas and standards take over our role as a mother. Trust your intuition and know that you are doing your best. In fact, you’re doing an amazing job. So take a deep breath and release those feelings of guilt. They are serving no one.