Sorry to be the one to tell you, but when it comes to motherhood, there is no manual you can purchase. (You have to wing it.) One thing, however, that many mothers do experience at one point or another on their parenting journey is the feeling of not being good enough—or that you’re failing your child in some way.
Well, ladies, this is called mommy guilt, and can happen to the best and the baddest of us. And admitting you have felt this type of self-judgment doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human.
Whether you beat yourself up for using the “wrong brand” of diapers that gave your baby a rash, not spending enough time with your child, using baby formula because you couldn’t breastfeed, feeling you made a mistake you can’t take back, or anything else that comes to mind—and makes life that much harder as Mom—you have in fact experienced mom guilt.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure or prescription you can take to make it go away; but there is hope. Should you happen to be experiencing a bit of mommy guilt, here are seven tips to help ease your mind.
Reflect on the good, not the negative. “We have this mental filter that seems to forget all that we have accomplished and all that is going well for us. The more we consciously identify the good in our day, the more we can open up our minds to recognizing and appreciating the good instead of filtering it out,” advises Cara Maksimow, therapist, coach, and author of Lose That Mommy Guilt, Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom. What was the best part of your day? What are you grateful for? Really stop and take inventory of all the great things happening in your life — it really does help. “By taking the time to recall the good and the positive, you’ll be reminded you’re doing so much better than the ‘mommy guilt’ leads you to believe,” adds Maksimow.
Focus on quality time over quantity. This one’s a biggie. “Be intentional about the time you’re able to spend with your child. It’s important that children see they too are a priority, even if the time spent together is not as frequent as Mom would like,” mentions Cheryl Skinner, parenting coach and educational consultant.
Live in the present. Why worry about the past when you can’t change it, or stress yourself out about a future that has yet to happen? Live in the now, and focus on what you can do today. “Being present is about giving your full attention to the ‘right now.’ It’s a direct route to satisfaction, gratitude, and happiness in your life,” says Tracy Cutchlow, author of Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science.
Follow your own path. “Let go of the expectations that you should do this or that as a mom,” recommends Stacy Haynes, counseling psychologist and author of Powerful Peaceful Parenting: Guiding Children, Changing Lives. Remember, there’s no parenting manual that says you have to follow XYZ steps in order to be considered a good mother.
Practice self love. It’s okay to want “me time.” And, you something else, it’s okay to take it. Nap. Spend time with your friends. Do absolutely nothing! The choice, Mom, is up to you. “Feeling rejuvenated will help you be more present with your children,” notes Yvonne Kay, author of Mindfulness Medication and The Missing Ingredient.
Retrain your thoughts. Truth be told, mothers are more likely to rattle off things they should or need to do, instead of the accomplishments—big or small—they were able to achieve. Parijat Deshpande, a certified wellness coach and perinatal counselor, advises expectant mothers and moms switch up the language they use on a day-to-day basis. “Replace ‘I should’ with ‘I am,'” adds Deshpande.
Allow others to help. “Having a healthy support system—who you trust and can depend on—will provide the comfort you need to get away, whether it be on business or for play,” reminds Deanna Omoniyi, therapist and founder of Kalamazoo Empowerment Services in Kalamazoo, Michigan. No matter how cliché it sounds, it really does take a village to raise a child. Don’t be afraid to call up a life line, speak to a fellow mom friend, or join a mommy group.