Goodbye, Mom-Guilt: Letting Go and How To Do It

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Two kids play on the floor surrounded by a mess of magnetic building tiles

Being a first-time mom is challenging. You are initiated into a completely new human experience. 

There’s a lot to navigate during this period. You’re getting to know your new baby and yourself, and your family is adapting to a significant adjustment. There is a lot to take in. You are getting opinions and “advice” from loving friends, family, and the content you are reading. It becomes tough to filter out others’ voices from your own and figure out what truly feel is right for you and your family.

Sifting through all the new information is overwhelming. It can lead to self-doubt (“Am I really doing enough?”) and guilt.

How Do We Start to Let Go of Mom Guilt? 

When we feel guilty about not being or doing enough, it helps to question the story behind the guilt. I’ll show you what I mean. A common example of mom-guilt I often hear is, “I feel guilty taking time alone, away from my child.” The thought behind this, or the underlying statement might be, “You should never be alone without your child.” Now ask yourself, do you really believe this? I hope not. 

Introduce “Both/And” language.

Guilt tends to live in the “Either/Or.” Meaning, that you either feel one way or the other. An example of Either/Or language looks like this, “I love being a mom, so I shouldn’t want to spend time away from my children.” Both/And language sounds like, “I love being a mom, and It’s okay to spend time away from my children.” Both/And language allows for two feelings and circumstances to be valid at the same time. 

After personal examination, these are just some of the things I am saying goodbye to mom-guilt over: 

  1. Hand me down clothes. When I became a new mom I wanted my baby to have all new things. Although my first baby had a lot of his own clothes, we also received an abundance of hand-me-downs from other family members. I find so much value in these pre-loved clothes now, and my second son primarily wears second-hand. 
  2. Developmentally appropriate behaviors. I remember feeling like I was doing something wrong when my first baby wouldn’t sleep throughout the night. Babies are supposed to wake up frequently. They want to be held by their mother. Sometimes toddlers develop picky eating behaviors. And kids hit milestones at different times. 
  3. Mothering differently than you do. I may set different boundaries, or have different values and interests. I may allow more screen time, and make my kid a different meal at dinner. I know what’s best for my family and I trust another mother knows what’s best for hers.  
  4. Plastic toys vs Wood toys. Okay, I love the Montessori mission, and we do not need all our toys to be made of wood and minimalistic. Some of my sons’ favorite toys are the plastic ones and that’s okay.  
  5. Co-sleeping. With my first baby, I was working in a hospital setting, and the narrative was that co-sleeping meant you were endangering your baby, so I did not dare to co-sleep. I remember being awake with my newborn all night with exhausted tears down my face wondering why he did not want to sleep in the bassinet. I learned how to co-sleep safely, and have been doing so with my second son. It’s easier to feel less guilty when you’re well-rested.  
  6. Post photos of my children on social media. Okay, this has been kind of a big one people have been speaking about lately. I love that parents are assessing their own risks and benefits of posting photos of their children. I have also weighed the risks and benefits and determined that I enjoy sharing memories of my little ones. 
  7. Prioritizing my time differently than another mother. I used to feel like I was being shamed when I saw social media photos of other mothers in their clean kitchens, or how they prioritized their exercise routine. I realize now that this interpretation of shame was my own insecurity about not accomplishing similar tasks throughout my day. Once I accepted that I prioritize my time differently based on our needs, I no longer saw this content as a personal attack. 
  8. People disagreeing with my decisions. As a first-time mom, this used to lead to second-guessing myself, “My decision is being questioned. Should I change it?” At the end of the day, I need to feel the choice I made wasn’t just to please someone else or to avoid conflict. 
  9. My house looking lived in. When you come over, you will find dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, and maybe a pile of clothes somewhere. You may not find the floors freshly mopped, and may see dog hair on my couch. For everything that has been done, 10 things haven’t. I no longer hold onto an unrealistic expectation that my home needs to appear “perfect.” 

Once I started to trust myself to make decisions that are more aligned with my values as a mother, I became more secure in my choices and in my mistakes. The mistakes were mine and not the consequence of ignoring myself. This sense of security has lifted the weight of “mom-guilt” off of my shoulders. 

 

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