How do we define motherhood? Typically, it looks different for every mother… so, why do we constantly use the term “good mom” if motherhood takes a different style on each wearer.
Raising children is hard. It is even harder when we hold expectations for ourselves as to what it means to be a mother—specifically a “good” mother. Our standards are often so high that we cannot possibly live up to our own expectations. When we don‘t meet such expectations, we then judge ourselves, feel badly, and perhaps experience guilt.
We default to the standards of our conditioning and external societal pressure. We become so deeply affected by all the institutions surrounding us—educational institutions, religious institutions, cultural institutions, among others. Whatever we subscribe to is conditioning our lives.
Setting high standards for ourselves is not helpful. It creates a pervasive feeling of not doing enough. Oftentimes these standards foster a sense of not parenting “right,” or create a sentiment that we are “messing up our kids.” These are all experiences I have heard from clients and experienced personally.
Free yourself of mom guilt, dad guilt, or parent guilt. Whatever hat you wear, question who is dictating how you wear it and how well you’re wearing it. Yes, this is easier said than done. However, here are some tips to free yourself from this indoctrination:
- Don’t listen to people who are preaching what you should and should not do. Tune out any outside noise.
- Tune into your own wisdom of what you know to be true right now. Do what feels “right” for you and your family.
- When you feel triggered and guilt creeps in, try to take some time to do things that energize you—time for yourself to release these feelings and know you are doing the best you can every day.
- Know you are enough just as you are (and so are your kids).
- Reach out for help. Talk to someone you love and trust who won’t push their own expectations on you. Go for coffee, go for a walk, or just have a conversation to help you move through the guilt.
- It is ok to have a bad day. Try to acknowledge it and let it pass through, without bringing judgment to it. It is what it is— a bad day.
- Don’t “should” on yourself, that only brings more guilt.
- Be realistic with what you can and cannot do so that you don’t put added pressure on yourself.
- Know that just being with your children is the most important thing and everything else (i.e., laundry, what kind of cereal is in the pantry) is secondary.
How can you embrace motherhood and leave guilt on the sidelines? What do you need to do to let go of some of the expectations that you hold for yourself?