First off, what is guilt?
Two Types of Guilt
We all know that feeling of remorse (unless you are a psychopath). It’s a sting that hits the pit of your stomach. It can be a positive thing if it drives you to apologize or correct yourself, like when I threw a remote at my brother’s head and broke it (the remote not my brother’s head). I felt bad, apologized, never threw another remote at his head, and moved on with my life. Guilt can be negative, though, when it lingers and lingers and lingers. Maybe the feeling shouldn’t be there in the first place, and instead of it motivating you to do something positive it makes you feel bad about yourself.
Two Types of Mom Guilt
Mom guilt can be both of these types. Maybe you forgot to pick up your child from school, dressed them in pjs when it was crazy hair day, or threw away their favorite toy by accident. You feel bad about it, resolve to be more conscientious, and move on with your life. The keys to positive guilt is change and moving on. Most times mom guilt stems from the latter of two types of guilt. We feel bad about ourselves and we don’t just move on with our lives. More often than not this type of mom guilt stems from comparison.
Why is Comparison Bad?
C.S. Lewis once said that “comparison is the thief of Joy.” Isn’t that the truth? Living in a social media world, we recognize it and talk about it a lot with self image and material things, but it is also a huge problem with how we feel about mothering. This is my first time around the block, so I have no business being an expert, but when I see Jen mother of sixteen doing what seems to be all the right things, I feel down on myself. I’m not like her. My daughter can’t do backflips yet. My kid won’t eat peas. My kid doesn’t sleep through the night. I couldn’t breastfeed (freaking breastfeeding!). My home doesn’t look that clean. I work long hours. We have screen time. I didn’t know that. I haven’t been doing that. I have been doing that. I can’t tell you the amount of times comments like this have run through my mind. What are some comparison narratives that go through your mind?
Comparing My Child
Instead of feeling proud and grateful for a healthy baby girl, I’m stressing that she isn’t doing things that friends’ kids on social media are doing. I panicked when my daughter wasn’t walking when she was one. I wondered what I had done wrong. Did I not do tummy time enough? I was in a cycle of guilt. But guess what? She started walking just fine a couple months later. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes this is important because it can point out a need that can be addressed or accommodated for your child, but sometimes it is uncalled for and puts unneeded pressure on our children and ourselves.
Comparing Myself to Other Moms
I am not like other moms, so why should I ever compare myself? I grew up with different parents, different schooling, friends, beliefs, and life experiences. Why would the way I parent be anything like anyone else's? We get blasted on social media with conflicting ideas: you need to let your babies cry it out; don’t you dare let them cry it out because you’re teaching them you won’t always be there for them. In the end, do your research and decide what feels best for you and your child. The fact that you’re worrying about these things shows you’re a good mom.
Some of my fondest memories growing up were around bedtime. Would my routine go against some people’s views of an ideal bedtime? Sure, but they were great for my family. It would go something like this: cuddling up with my dad, watching a movie or tv show, reading goodnight stories with my mom, my dad singing to me until I fell asleep, and then running into their bed with all my stuffed animals when I woke up scared. I felt safe and loved that way. That’s not everyone’s story and not how everyone wants to raise their kids, but it felt and feels good to me. What are your kids' bedtime routines like? Do they have a routine?
Comparing Other Moms to Other Moms
Sometimes this comparison becomes such a habit within ourselves that we do it with other moms and it turns into judgments. Some moms may feel bad about something in themselves. To make themselves feel better they point out where they are doing awesome and another mom is struggling. With everything moms wrestle with, let’s be kind to each other--kind in person and behind closed doors. My mom once asked after I first had my little girl, “Don’t you just look at moms in the grocery store now and think how are they doing it? This is so hard!” Mothering is so hard.