Mom Guilt: Confessions of a Therapist- Part One

As moms, we have all asked ourselves this question – am I doing this right? After all, we have been charged with raising a human being, so it makes sense to want to get it right!

Mothers are faced with countless decisions. Even before having your first child, there is the question of, how do I deliver? Will I return to work or be a stay at home mom? Will I use cloth diapers or disposable?

And the decision-making never ends! Everyday, moms are bombarded with decisions, both big and small, from, what will I make for dinner? To, how do I discipline my child? As they grow, decisions can grow from, do I send my child to private or public school? To, how do I talk with them about the horrific event being broadcast on the news? Whether big decisions or small decisions – we want to get them all right! But how do we know if what we are doing is right?

The catch? There isn’t always a “right” answer. But, there can be an answer that is best for our child and our family. However, in today’s society, that can be hard to discern, as we are faced with an onslaught of voices and opinions– anywhere from our well-meaning moms, to friends, to various “experts,” to random strangers we bump into at Target! To determine what is best when needing to make a decision, how do we know who to listen to? And with all the noise, how can we even hear ourselves?

I was recently asked to speak with a group of moms about developing discernment as a mother – in other words, how can we hear our own voice over all the noise, and feel confident in our choices for our child and family? In my talk, I focused on two areas: values and barriers. In this blog, we’ll focus on understanding our values and their importance.

Knowing our values is key to our ability to make decisions as our values act as a filter. In my talk, I shared the following “List of values,” compiled by Brené Brown, and asked the women to look at the list, and rank the items as “most important to me,” “important” and “not important to me.” After selecting what seems to be “most important to me” I then had them answer the following questions:

  • What behaviors support these values/how are they demonstrated in my life?
  • Who supports your efforts to practice these values?
  • What do these values bring/how are they life-giving?

When I first did this exercise on my own, I circled nearly every item on the list! They are all good things, so why wouldn’t they be important to me?! The clarifying questions are extremely helpful, as they make abstract concepts real.

For example, I would have identified health or wellness as something of high importance on my list. However, after reflecting on my own life and choices, there was a lack of consistency. My family recently went on a spontaneous hike up Stone Mountain on a gorgeous 70-degree day after weeks of rain and being cooped up inside. As this activity was a spur of the moment decision, my husband and I did not factor in the timing of the drive home, and while we had a great day together being active, we got home quite late and opted to have Taco Bell for dinner in order to get the kids to bed on time. What is reflected in this example (and countless others like it!) is not so much my desire for health as it is my love of nature and spending time with my family. Those are the values that come to the forefront in this story and consistently throughout my life.

When making decisions, as moms we need to know our values. Our choices need to line up with what we define as most important. In doing so, we will be choosing what we believe to be best for our child – and one might argue, that is actually doing it “right!”

Written by: Rebekah Jones