How To Let Go Of Mom Guilt Once And For All

April 23, 2018

One of the reasons I started blogging about self-care is that it’s what I needed more of in my life.  One of the things that most got in the way of me practicing self-care?  Mom guilt.  I was in the thick of it just a few years ago with my boys; they were probably three […]

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One of the reasons I started blogging about self-care is that it’s what I needed more of in my life.  One of the things that most got in the way of me practicing self-care?  Mom guilt. 
I was in the thick of it just a few years ago with my boys; they were probably three and one at the time.  I wasn’t making any time for myself.  It was such a weird dissonance for me because I would go to my office as a therapist and tell people “Take care of yourself! Take care of yourself!” and then in my own life I wasn’t living it out.  Eventually, I got to the point where I was like: “This is ridiculous, I’ve got to start taking my own advice!” And shortly thereafter, this little blog of mine was born.
I now know this is a problem that is common for so many moms, – it’s hard enough to find some time for yourself in the day, let alone to make it a regular practice.  And then when you do, it can feel like you should be doing something else… because this whole mom gig is never-ending.  As a mom, there’s always something more that you could be doing.  You’re just never all the way done with it.  This demanding job continues for 18 years…but truthfully, it continues well beyond that…just ask my mom.  She still does a ton for me, including but not limited to answering my frantic questions about the freshness of meat…and basically cooking in general.  It ain’t my strong suit, friends.
Mothering is a huge, all-encompassing job.  And while being a mom is a blessing and an incredible honor, it can come with a high price tag in the form of that never-ending mom guilt.
Everyone knows that self-care is good for them; I don’t think anybody would argue with that.  Yet the question remains: how do you combat the guilt that comes along with taking some time for yourself, or taking a regular time for yourself if you’re a mom?
First of all, you must think about why you practice self-care in the first place.  For me, I need to be reminded of my reasons over and over again.  I’m a better mom and a better wife and just a better person when I’m taking time for myself, when I’m being intentional about having alone time.  I confess that I’m pretty much the biggest extrovert in the world…I know, I know it’s tres chic to be introverted, but I am who I am.  😉   I love being an extrovert, but ever since I became a mom, I’ve become a bit of an ambivert (that’s a thing, right?).  I definitely have a more introverted side to me these days… I begin to crave some time by myself after a while.  
It’s so important for me to set aside some time just for me and  to continually give myself permission to do that.  But I’ll be honest, sometimes that was easier said than done.  Sometimes I would find myself looking to other people for that permission; I would look to my sister or other moms I knew and wonder are they practicing self -care?  Or are they just  cleaning their house and playing with their kids all the time? 
Other times, I would look at my husband and be wonder: is it really ok for me to take this break? Often, I would feel guilty thinking that  he just got home from work and now he’s going to have to take over with the kids right away in order for me to go for a walk or get a break.  But eventually I realized (and he essentially told me) he’s a much happier dude when I get some self care! He truly offers to go to the store for me so I can take a nap on the weekends because we both know that everyone is happier and healthier when I’m doing that.  
Another important thing to remember is that we have got to model self-care for our kids.  One of the biggest gifts we can give our kids is to model healthy coping for them.  Intentional focus on healthy coping simply wasn’t a parental priority in the generation I grew up in. But these days, we have such an opportunity to do things differently.  Regardless of how old your children are, when you engage in self-care and they see you take that break, you are showing them that it is ok for them to do the same thing.  And that is a huge blessing.  That’s going to set them up in life so well when they grow up, go off to high school or college, and eventually become full-fledged adults.  
In my private practice, I work a great deal with adolescents and I get so sad because these kids come in and they’re stressed out; they’re burnt out and they’re overworked and they don’t get enough sleep at night, and they are on the edge…and when I suggest they take something off their plate or take some time for self-care, they look at me like I’m speaking a different language.  Similarly, many of us have been conditioned from a young age to be more and do more and it turns out to be a very sad and frustrating existence if we don’t interrupt that way of thinking.  It’s all about retraining your brain and knowing there are so many more reasons to engage in self-care than to refrain from it.  
One last thing to remind yourself of:  you’re never going to be able to give enough of yourself to your kids.  No matter how much you are present with them, no matter how much you play with them, they will take as much as they can possibly get of you. So rather than thinking: “Are my kids getting enough of me today?”, think about what “enough” means from your perspective as a mom.  
A few years ago, I was reading this mom blog…this mom said something truly profound as she was struggling with mom guilt.  She asked herself each night before she went to bed “how did I connect with each kid today?” And if she had some intentional time with each child, however brief, she could let herself off the proverbial hook for the day.  So I challenge you to begin to think about your day like this, where you are looking for what you did right as a mom rather than focusing on what wish you had done differently.  Did you make a snack after school and ask your child how their day was?  Did you tuck them into bed and ask them their high and low for the day?  It doesn’t have to be this huge, big deal thing like a trip to the zoo or a pool party.  You’re looking for ways that you’re connecting with your kids, you’re looking for the ways that you’re being a positive role model and a positive influence on them in the way that you care for them and in the way that you care for yourself.  
Friends, being gentle with ourselves teaches our kids to be gentle with themselves.  And, in a way, everything that we do for ourselves is something we are also doing for our kids.  So let that marinate while you go make yourself a nice hot cup of tea, or an icy cold margarita for that matter because, mama, you’ve earned it!

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