I have never seen women put more pressure on themselves than those who are mothers. I have observed, facilitated, and participated in small, practice groups for therapy over the last several months. I have been truly amazed at the consistent, underlying theme in mothers.
Some women in my groups spend all day with their children, then spend one hour studying their graduate school material, which is meant to lead them to a future helping people, to provide for their families, to set an example for their children, yet they are burdened with guilt.
Then, they feel guilty for feeling guilty. Even the most seemingly self-aware, logical, and mindful individuals seem to battle with this. It is not just the multi-tasking mothers, though.
A mother of a dear friend of mine contacted me after seeing my focus on “mom guilt” through social media. She grew up in a time when the “working mom” was not popular. Even getting a college degree was considered taboo then.
However, she said she always felt guilty because she could not provide the financial benefits that she would have liked for her kids to have vacations and different experiences. She thought she was denying her kids fun memories. Even as a woman who was home with her kids most of the time, she still had mom guilt.
This leads me to these questions: Is it ever enough? And, if it isn’t, why?
My friend’s sweet mother beautifully said, “Mom guilt really comes from the love only a mom can give. We all have it.”
Ah, how true.
We want so badly to be the best for our children. We want to give them all the best options. We want to be there for them, provide for them, and set an example for them. We want to do it all. We want to have it all. Because we love them so much. And we fear anything less than giving them everything we can.
What if that underlying truth is the answer to help us with guilt? We stop and question ourselves left and right. Maybe we always will. But what if when we stopped, we considered why we were stopping.
When I am taking time aside to work on my schoolwork and I feel my stomach flip because that familiar guilt is coming up, what if I said:
I am feeling guilty because I love my children and I never want to deprive them. I always want to do my best for them, and I fear I am not by stepping aside and doing this. Yet, that very concern is what makes me a good mother. I am always considering how my actions will impact their lives.
When a mother is going back to work for the first time and cries, worried she is ruining everything by choosing to go to work, what if she said:
I am feeling guilty because I love my child and I never want to deprive him. I always want to be there for him, and I fear I am not by leaving. Yet, that very fear is the thing that will always be a reminder of why I am a good mother. I truly, genuinely, want the best for my sweet baby, and I am always navigating through what that looks like for me and my family.
When a mother is staying home, but had to sacrifice finances to do so, and she feels guilty, wondering if she is a bad mother, what if she said:
I am feeling guilty because I love my kids and I want the very best for him, but I fear that my not being able to provide them with as many trips or experiences is depriving them. I feel like I am not giving enough. Yet, my desire to want more for them is a sign that I am a good mother, always wanting to give all I can to them.
Guilt is uncomfortable. It might be inevitable as a mother because we are never absolutely, without any small doubt, sure that our decisions will be perfect for our children. The truth is, we are not perfect, so our imperfections may impact them.
Note: If you think you are perfect, you are probably lying to yourself and have a big ego. If you think you are a perfect mother, you are also probably denying your flaws.
What if we gave mom guilt a new approach? What if when it rears its head, we say:
Ah. A reminder that I love my children dearly and I am always wanting to do my best for them. That is a good sign.
Mom guilt comes from lack of confidence in our ability to be the very best mom we can be for the children we love so dearly, but the reason it is so common is because the love of a mother is so unexplainably big that we can hardly keep up with it. Let us use that guilt to be a reminder of our love, so that it in turn, reminds us of what we offer our children. After all, there is no love quite like a mother’s love.