Mama, we have all been there:
We’ve all flown off the handle and yelled at the kids, even though we promised ourselves we wouldn’t.
We’ve all messed up dinner; burned the casserole, or forgot to take something out to thaw, or bought the wrong ingredients.
We’ve all had to make the choice between an adult commitment and a kid commitment.
We’ve all missed an awards ceremony.
We’ve all stashed dirty dishes in the oven ten minutes before the in-laws are due to visit.
We’ve all had to choose between kids.
These are the universal truths of motherhood: You’re not going to get it right 100% of the time, and you’re going to beat yourself up over it way more than anyone else ever will.
If you’re reading this today, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you’re having a bad day. Either one of the above scenarios happened to you, or something really similar.
You’re feeling like you’re a bad mom because something happened that either shouldn’t have happened or that you could have handled better.
It’s part of being a mother. Regardless, the mom guilt from what happened is going to stick with you for a while.
Mom guilt sucks. It’s one of those things that is unavoidable, but it’s also one of those emotions that we hold on to way longer than we have to.
I have a friend who, while pregnant, fell asleep right before it was time to pick up her daughter from kindergarten. Nothing bad happened. The school called, my friend went and picked up her daughter, and everything turned out fine. My friend’s daughter is now twenty-seven, and expecting her first child. My friend still feels guilty. I’m not even certain her daughter still remembers the event. It certainly didn’t leave her with long-term scars.
Somehow, the entire social construct of motherhood made us think that we were supposed to be perfect. I’m not sure if it was June Cleaver vacuuming in those pearls, or Carol Brady, who managed the blended family without any problems that couldn’t be solved in half an hour, who made us think we were supposed to be perfect. But for most of us, motherhood is messy, frustrating, sometimes infuriating.
And it’s always imperfect.
It’s not imperfect because we’re bad moms. It’s not imperfect because our partners are horrible or because we don’t have family surrounding us or because we work too much overtime. It’s imperfect because we are mortal human beings who screw up once in a while.
It’s time to ditch the mom guilt.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Ditching the mom guilt takes an actual change in your mindset. It takes changing the voice inside your head telling you that you’ve done a horrible thing, that you’re a bad mom because you lost your cool or messed up dinner. It takes being aware that beating yourself up serves no purpose in the grand scheme of motherhood.
Because here’s the deal. Yes, it sucks that you lost your cool and yelled at your kids. Yelling at kids isn’t productive in the long run, and isn’t going to get any better results than if you had been calm and patient.
While it may have gotten the trash taken out or the kitchen swept in the moment, it’s not going to make your kids more conscientious or aware of when things need to be done.
But you already knew that, right?
And that’s why mom guilt isn’t going to actually change your behavior either.
You know what you did wasn’t the best course of action you could have taken. Dwelling on your failure isn’t going to make you a better parent. The knowledge that you screwed up is all that you need to make that happen. You can learn that without beating yourself up.
The next time you’re feeling a heavy load of mom guilt, take a look at the reality of what you’re feeling guilty over. In most cases, when you look at the big picture, it’s something pretty minor.
It’s not something that’s going to leave your children scarred or do irreversible damage to your relationship with your children.
It’s a human mistake, and we need to take our lessons from it, and then leave it behind us, where it belongs.
Work consciously to ditch the mom guilt, and you’ll find that you feel guilty much less often.
Learn from your mistakes, and then file them away without beating yourself up over them. That’s the same advice you give your kids when they mess up, right?