Mom Guilt: Confessions of a Therapist- Part Two

How do I know if I’m doing this right?

I recently posted a blog about our desire as moms to get things right as we make decisions about how to parent and raise our children.  In that article, I stated that often there is not a “right” answer but there can be a “best” answer for our child and our family.  However, this can be really hard to discern in a society that has so many opinions and so much information on how to mother!

In my first post, I focused on the importance of knowing your values, as they act as the filter for how we make our decisions as moms.  This post will focus on several common barriers to be aware of, as they can get in the way of our ability to exercise our values in motherhood.

Comparison – One common barrier is that of comparison.  Comparison is such an easy trap to fall into!  That mom always dresses her kids so well.  This mom never yells. That mom always seems to know what to say and takes advantage of every teaching opportunity.  She’s more put-together, more creative, more whatever than I am…the list could go on and on! When we get blindsided by comparison, nothing we do seems right.  And all too often, we can miss what is going on that is good– right in front of us!

Judgment – Another barrier is the fear of judgment.  Mom-shaming is very much a thing in our society.  There are many “hot button” issues that moms can be criticized for- from how their children sleep, to how they are fed, to whether or not a mom works in or out of the home. Through social media and other outlets, opinions can run rampant.  Instead of feeling supported, moms often feel shame, which can plant seeds of doubt about their decisions.  While mom-shaming by others is very real, there is also an aspect where we can be our own harshest critics.  And this leads into the next barrier of “shoulds” and expectations.

“Shoulds” and Expectations – When expectations are given free-reign, we as moms can fall into the trap of “shoulds.”  I should have breastfed, then my baby would not be sick.  I should have stayed home, then my child would not be struggling at school.  This is one of my greatest personal barriers.  I can spend so much time picturing how things “should” be, that I find it hard to be present in the moment and can become upset when my expectations are not met.  For example, we recently had family photos taken. I spent so much time stressing over hair and outfits and making everything look good – while trying to make memories with my family, I made everyone miserable!

Exhaustion – A final barrier is exhaustion.  Being a mom is tiring! There are seasons of motherhood where sleep is minimal, and gone are the lazy Saturday mornings of sleeping past 9am (or even 6am!).  When we are not firing on all cylinders, it can be challenging to make thoughtful decisions. And, while lack of sleep can be draining, there is also the very real phenomenon of a mother’s mental load, and the impact that can have on our energy and ability to focus.  With all that we carry as a mom on a daily basis, from schedules to to-do lists, it can be hard to find the time and mental space to make our best decisions.

The first step to removing barriers is to simply develop an awareness of their existence.  What barriers can get in your way and drown out your own voice, making the decision-making process that much more challenging? 

Written by: Rebekah Jones