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Inside: Mom guilt fills you with negative emotions that are only adding more frustration to your life. Here are some easy tips on how to let go of mom guilt and focus on finding positive solutions and building a happy life.
I was looking at the ceiling in the middle of the night. The whole house was dark and quiet, and I was alone with my thoughts after an exhausting day.
I was very tired, but I couldn’t fall asleep. It was like I was my entire day was unfolding in my mind, and I could clearly see everything that I did wrong.
The moment when I wasn’t patient with my son because I was in a hurry to get out of the house on time. The moment when I lost my temper because I felt overwhelmed by his behavior. The moment when I told him that we couldn’t play together because I had other things to do.
It was one of those hard days when nothing seemed to go as I hoped. And I regretted all those moments when I knew I could have done better.
But there was one conversation from earlier that night that daunted on me.
My son was preparing for sleep, and I was standing next to his bed, ready to give him a hug and a goodnight kiss.
“You need to ask me about my day now!”, he said while getting under the blanket.
This was a little bedtime ritual that we had, and I enjoyed asking him about his day before going to sleep.
“You are right!”, I said. “Tell me: What was something that made you happy today?”
“The sandwich!”, he replied quickly, with an enthusiastic voice.
“What do you mean?”
“You made me a sandwich with a little heart on it. That made me happy!”
His answer made me smile. I never even imagined that such a small detail could make him happy.
“I’m so glad to hear this!”, I said. “And was it something today that made you sad?”
“I was sad when I lost the Lego car, and we couldn’t find it.”
“Oh, I’m sorry about your car! Maybe we can look for it again tomorrow if you want.”
“Yes, we need to look again tomorrow!”, he said and smiled at me.
We agreed that we would do that in the morning and I was preparing to kiss him goodnight when I heard him say:
“What about you, mom? What made you happy today?”
I wasn’t expecting that question. But looking back at my day the answer came so easily!
“You!”, I answered. “You made me happy today! I love having you around.”
The truth was that in all that chaotic day he was the one who made me smile, who filled my heart with joy, who made me laugh at silly little things.
“Really?”, he asked with a big smile on his face. “You make me happy, and I make you happy! That’s why we are so happy together!”
I hugged him tight, and my heart melted as he put his little arms around my neck. I was so glad to hear him say that after such a hard day!
It amazed me how he could see things so differently than I did.
Why mom guilt is only making things worse
After my son fell asleep that night, I kept thinking about that conversation. When I looked back at that day, I could mad see the things that I could have done better. The moments when I felt like I failed as a parent. The situations when I wasn’t the mom I wanted to be.
On the other hand, my son was looking at that day in such a positive way! He was able to focus on the good things that happened. And most of all, he was able to see the good in me when all I could see were my failures.
This was such a precious lesson for me!
Kids have this incredible gift of teaching us to look at life differently. Their innocence and joyfulness allow them to see the beauty in all the small things that we often don’t even notice anymore. And most important, they have this wonderful way of accepting us the way we are and seeing the best of us.
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That night I realized that feeling so much guilt wasn’t helping me at all. It wasn’t helping me be a better mom. On the contrary, it made me focus so much on my mistakes that I forgot to enjoy the good things and celebrate the happy moments of motherhood.
Mom guilt filled me with negative emotions that were only adding more frustration in my life. These negative emotions only triggered more anger, more lack of patience, more disconnection. And I was caught on this vicious cycle of making mistakes, regretting them, feeling overwhelmed by guilt, and then making the same mistakes again only to feel even more guilty.
Instead of focusing on learning from my mistakes and forgiving myself, I was putting a lot of blame on me and beating myself up for every little thing that I did wrong.
I didn’t want my life to look like this!
My son deserved better than this and I did too!
I realized that it’s my choice to either let myself consumed by the guilt or deal with my struggles in a more positive and constructive way.
Mom guilt appears because as parents we love our kids so much that we would want to be perfect for them. But the truth is that we are not perfect, and we will never be.
What guilt does is slowing stealing us the joy of motherhood and make us feel like we are constantly failing. And this is a feeling that is very hard to bear!
The good news is that things don’t need to be like this!
Mistakes and trade-offs are part of motherhood. We learn every day how to be better parents to our kids. But we also need to learn how to be better at embracing our imperfections and letting go of guilt.
4 ways to let go of mom guilt
Here are the things that helped me let go of mom guilt and start focusing on building a happier life without beating myself up for the things that don’t go well. They made a big difference for me, and I’m sure that they can help you too if you ever struggle with mom guilt.
1. Be gentle with yourself with this easy exercise
Let’s say that you feel very guilty because you yelled at your child. I know how it feels. You probably feel bad about losing your temper, and you wish you could react differently.
There is probably that “inner critic” that makes you wonder why you weren’t able to keep your calm and react with gentleness and empathy. That “voice” inside you telling you that you failed and that you are not a good mother.
If you ever found yourself in this situation, I invite you to try this exercise:
Imagine that your best mom friend comes to you and tells you about an identic situation. She tells you that she yelled at her child and that she regrets it.
What would you answer to her?
Would you tell her that she is a bad mother and that you’re disappointed with her? Or would you tell her that she was overwhelmed by strong emotions and she can make things right again?
Would you think that she failed as a mom? Or would you be empathetic and understanding and help her find a way to deal with her anger?
It is not hard to imagine how you would react if your friend would be in this situation. If you can be gentle and understanding with another mom who goes through the same struggle, why would you be the same with yourself?
You deserve the same support and understanding.
When you learn to be gentle on yourself and tame that “voice” inside you that is constantly criticising you, something wonderful happens! You can let go of the guilt and start focusing on solutions.
Accepting your imperfections and forgiving yourself for your mistakes doesn’t mean that you don’t search for ways to improve. It just means that you are gentle with yourself in the process of becoming the mom that you want to be.
So next time when you feel guilty about something tell yourself exactly what you would say to your best friend if she were in this situation. You will feel better, and you’ll be able to replace guilt with concrete actions to help you improve what doesn’t go well.
2. Start by making one simple commitment
When we feel guilty, we tend to make big resolutions. Have you ever found yourself making promises like “I will spend an hour playing my child every single afternoon after work” or “I will never yell at my child again”?
The intention behind these commitments is wonderful. But here is the truth: If you are losing your temper, often you probably won’t be able to stop yelling in one day. If your evenings are always chaotic and full of tasks you probably won’t be able to find a lot of time for play every day.
Making a big commitment and not being able to follow it only brings more frustration. It can even make you feel like you will never be able to do that change.
So instead of making a big resolution when you feel guilty, try starting with a simple commitment.
Instead of “I will never yell at my child again” start with “I will go for two days without raising my voice”.
Instead of “I will spend an hour playing with my child every day” start with “This week I will reserve half an hour a day for playing with my child after dinner”.
You will be a lot more likely to keep these commitments, and this will give you a good feeling. And that good feeling will certainly motivate you to keep going and find new ways to improve things!
photo credit: Sofi photo / shutterstock.com
3. Make an action 8plan
If you notice that one particular issue seems to come back over and over again and make you feel guilty, take some time to focus on it and create an action plan.
Guilt is not helpful because it focuses on the negative things and not on solutions. An action plan does precisely the opposite.
When one issue is a permanent struggle in your life, focus on understanding why it happens and creating an action plan to help you improve things.
Here are some examples:
- If you feel like you are not spending enough quality time with your child, try to look at your schedule and find the tasks that you could eliminate, delegate, or simplify. Also, work on building a habit of spending some happy moments with your child every day.
You can also join our 5-day Playful Mom Challenge to get a fresh start and focus more on play and connection even on busy days.
- If you feel like you are easily getting angry and you want to become a calmer mom, look for the triggers that make you get mad at your child and work on them. Also, focus more on self-care and make sure that you have enough opportunities to “refill” your emotional tank.
You can also join the 5 Day Stop Yelling Challenge created by Amanda from Messy Motherhood that will offer you many helpful tips for dealing with anger.
No matter what the issue is, you can find ways to make things better!
Even with an action plan in place, there will still be times when things will not go as planned so don’t forget to be gentle with yourself when this happens.
Also, make sure to celebrate your wins. Every day when you make progress in dealing with your struggles is worth celebrating!
4. Focus on the positive things
Guilt steals the joy of motherhood because it is making us focus so much on the negative things that we forget to celebrate the wonderful things that do happen in our lives.
This is why I want to invite you to try another exercise:
Every time you start to feel guilty about something, take a pause and make a list of 5 things that you do well as a mom. You can write them on a piece of paper or name them in your head.
They don’t have to be big things. Even small things like kissing your child goodnight every day or preparing their favorite food at dinner matter!
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Finding these five things will make you feel better about yourself. This exercise will help you see the good things that you do and focus more on them.
Another helpful exercise that will allow you to focus more on the positive things in your life is starting a gratitude journal. Every day write in your journal one thing that you are grateful for and one nice moment that you and your child enjoyed together.
Recording the happy moments in your life will help you shift your perspective and enjoy motherhood a lot more! You will realize that even on those hard days when you feel like you are failing you can still find positive things to help you regain your balance and start the next day with a positive attitude.
Letting go of guilt is an ongoing journey in my life. I still have moments when I get overwhelmed by the feeling that I’m not doing things right but I learned to deal with them differently and not let them affect me as much as they used to.
I hope that these tips will help you too! And I’m convinced that this change will bring a lot of joy and positivity in your life!
P.S. Do you remember the Lego car that my son told me about in our conversation that night?
After he fell asleep, I searched for it and found it under the sofa. I took a small blue sticker, draw a little heart on it, and put it on the car. I left the car next to his bed so he could find it first thing in the morning. Then I fell asleep thinking about the smile on his face when discovering it in the morning. I let go of the guilt for all that went bad that day and went to sleep with the hope that I can learn every single day how to be a better mom.
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