I didn’t realize mom guilt was a thing until I was a new mom. I began to hear other moms talk about it — a LOT. I have friends who say they feel guilty that their kids are picky eaters, that one child needs them more, that they work or they stay home, that they don’t get out of the house “enough,” that they don’t do crafts. All of these women are amazing people and phenomenal mothers. Their children are well cared for, happy, and feel loved. I know these mamas are doing a great job muddling through motherhood with the rest of us, and I wish they could feel more pride and less guilt.
I don’t feel guilty about how I parent.
I have certainly felt badly about moments in my motherhood journey, but I don’t feel the level of mom guilt that seems pervasive in modern motherhood. I stopped teaching to stay home with my kids, so my identity right now is Mama. I need to feel confident about what I’m doing as a mother, because it’s so much of who I am right now. If I let feelings of guilt creep in, they would undoubtedly break down my self-worth.
So mom guilt isn’t welcome here.
These are eight things I do to build myself up and keep that mom guilt at bay.
1) Don’t take it personally
I know this can be very personality-dependent. I’m generally good at compartmentalizing things, and I’m not especially sensitive, so it’s easy for me not to take things personally when I parent. If one of my toddlers is upset with me, I don’t take it personally. It’s their job to push boundaries right now, and it’s my job to help them learn how to be kind and safe and to manage all their feelings.
2) Acknowledge strengths and weaknesses
Knowing my strengths and weaknesses as a parent helps me feel good about myself and improve my parenting. I focus on what I’m doing well, and I work to improve what I wish I were doing better. I’ve never been a particularly assertive person, but as a mother I need to be assertive for my children; I need to speak up, I need to be bold, and I need to stand my ground. I’m not there yet, but I don’t feel bad about it because I’m trying. I also know I’m a patient and creative mom (most of the time). These are qualities I appreciate, so I make sure to give myself props when I wait out a toddler tantrum calmly or set my kids up with an interesting new sensory bin.
3) Trust my heart
As a new mom, I quickly learned to trust my heart. I don’t feel bad calling the pediatrician multiple times if I’m worried about something. I don’t feel guilty saying no to invitations if my kids need a home day. I don’t feel bad that I stick to my kids’ routines and schedules no matter where we go. I don’t think twice about bringing a toddler in bed with me if they wake up upset at night. There are always going to be different paths to take, and questioning myself doesn’t change the decision I made. In the moment, I made the right choice if I went with my heart.
4) Do me
I’m my own person, and my family is unique. So I try not to compare myself to other moms. We are not living the same life. My kids are not their kids and they aren’t me, so our lives should not look the same. I will seek advice from other moms, read parenting books, and go to parenting seminars, but I have to do what works for me and my family — whether or not it’s mainstream or what other people think I should do.
5) Roll with it
I’m a planner and can be a bit of a control freak. I like to know what I’m doing when, and I like to do it myself. Having twins was not my plan, but it was the best thing that has happened to me. That incredible surprise forced me to be more flexible with my pregnancy expectations, my birth, and myself as a mother before my babies were even born. Accepting that life may go in an unexpected direction despite my plans has let me be a mom who is more flexible, adaptable, and relaxed. I don’t feel like I failed when an outing or activity isn’t going the way I expected, which happens pretty often with two 2-year-olds. I’m (usually) able to roll with it, learn from the experience, and still enjoy myself.
6) See what they see
My toddlers think I’m great, even when I’m not. Right now, they think I’m funny, brave, strong, and smart. They think my twin-pregnancy belly button is the best. They think I’m an amazing singer because I can sing all the songs from “Moana.” They don’t think I’m lazy when I feed them pancakes for breakfast and dinner — instead, they think I’m the best mom ever. They forgive easily and love hard. They think I’m enough, and I believe them. Because of their love, I more easily forgive myself for imperfect moments.
7) Practice positive self-talk
I never did this pre-kids, but since becoming a mom I do it a lot. I have adopted several mantras that help me feel confident in my momming. They give me an internal pep talk or help me calm down. I remind myself every day that I am a good mom and I am the best mom for my babies. I am. These are facts that I don’t question.
8) Build a mama village
My village — both online and in real life — is made up entirely of people who make me feel good about myself as a mother. The people in my virtual village are women I admire and who inspire me. They are not people I wish I was or make me feel less than I am. They give me advice, solidarity, and virtual high fives. Social media is for connecting, not comparing. I unfollow, unfriend, and remove myself from groups that aren’t lifting me up. And in real life, I surround myself with positive role models — my mom, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, my cousins, and aunts. Friends who knew me before kids and new friends I’ve met through baby classes and mom groups. They know I’m a good mom. They tell me so, and I believe them. They listen when I need to vent, they are my cheerleaders, and they are my unwavering support through this journey called motherhood.
At the end of the day, our children are loved, and we are all good moms. I’m the best mom for my kids and you’re the best mom for yours. We need to believe that, internalize it, and remind each other that mom guilt isn’t welcome here.