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December 22, 2017
Mommy Guilt is one of the worst parenting tricks in the book. There you are, perfect little baby in hand and, wham, in comes Mommy Guilt, making you feel like a failure when you’re not producing enough milk, taunting you when you leave your baby for the first time, gnawing at you, making you feel like you must not be doing enough to stimulate/soothe/protect/you name it your little one. At one point or another in your journey in motherhood, you’re going to need some tips for avoiding mommy guilt.
And then? The day you go back to work (for all you working moms). And you wonder, “Am I the worst mom in the world for leaving my precious baby in the arms of someone else?”
Now, I am all about women meeting their full potential, whether as working or stay-at-home moms (or as not moms at all, for that matter). It’s most important to do what works the best for all of us individually. Remember, I work full-time as a doctor. I love working. Still, it doesn’t stop me, on some days, from feeling like a complete jerk when I walk out the door and leave my girls behind.
It’s worse when they start to get a little older. My youngest daughter just turned one year old and she has perfected the “Mommy don’t go” cry which usually consists of, “mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom” over and over again while she clings to my pant leg. It reliably happens when I’m heading out to my job in the morning or when I’m all geared up to work out. It hardly ever happens to my husband (I’m sure it does, I just don’t notice it because I only have room in my brain for my guilt, not his as well). It’s enough to make me cry in my car occasionally.
What are my choices?
I could -and I have in the past- just decided it’s not worth it to feed the non-mom parts of me. I could decide to only go to work every day. To come straight home or go straight there all week long. I could never take the time to hang out with friends. Or never take an adult vacation. To never feel like I’m inconveniencing my partner or other caregivers.
It’s an option I see a lot of parents take. I could do it, too. But I know where that path leads me, and it’s dark and lonely and kinda muddy in that river.
Plus, the mom guilt itself doesn’t serve me well. I’m less physically and mentally healthy, I’m faster to get irritated and lose my cool with my kids. I’m, let’s face it, a pretty sad example of the balance I hope my girls will have in their own lives.
I could figure out what the real issue is, what scares me so much when I prioritize myself as much as the other people and obligations I have. Here’s my real worry: I’m deep down fearful that it will, in some way, mess my kids up. That they’ll internalize a message that they don’t matter to me.
Now that we’re really getting to the heart of it, what is the evidence that working or taking some time for self-care (I’m not talking about going out every single night ’til dawn. I’m talking about taking consistent time for yourself to re-group and re-boot) actually damages our kids? Wait for it… It’s not there.
Providing consistency. Tons of families come to my clinic asking about family dinners. They’ve heard a lot about their importance on social media and in books they’ve read. The truth is, family dinners are just one example of providing times throughout the day and week that our kids can count on. Kids thrive on routine. There are always times we have to make adjustments, but if you build in planned times to connect that your kids can count on, that is more important than you being physically present with your children 24 hours a day.
Being focused. It’s so much worse to spend all day on your smartphone while your child tries to get your attention than to take care of what you need to do in a chunk of concentrated time and then give our kids the undivided attention they deserve. Make the time you spend with your children purposeful instead of distracted and you’ll enjoy it more and not wish you were somewhere else the whole time. If you’ve taken your own time to take care of yourself, this won’t be such a challenge.
Allowing other caretakers to be equal players who provide that same level of consistency. Nine out of ten weekends in our house, my husband makes waffles and takes the kids to the park while I do something solo. The next morning we switch and I do something special with them. Both of us get our time to re-boot and we’re less resentful of each other’s free time. Plus we get some individual moments with our kids to make memories.
Mommy (and Daddy) Guilt is hard to kick, but the reality is, it just doesn’t do us any good. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of the other people in your life with an equal measure of love and commitment.
Want more mommy self-care help? Click here.
New mom? Know a friend who is? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care for Your Infant and Yourself.
Looking for registry or shower gifts? Check out our Newborn Gift Boxes, filled with inspiration, information, and a little love for all the modern mamas you know (including you!)
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