Have you heard of “mom guilt”? I bet you have, given how frequently the phrase is thrown around on the internet and social media. It is something we as moms, working or not, grapple with every single time we choose to do something that does not involve our kids. Over time, ‘Mom guilt’ has become almost like a reflex for a lot of women. In fact, research shows that over 80% of moms have some sort of guilt for not spending enough time with their children. But despite that guilt, we need to be aware that if we are doing all that we can, that is enough!
I first encountered this strange anxiety after I returned to school when my daughter was 8 months. I got questions like “You must miss her so much”, “How is she doing without you” and so on. Although well-intentioned, often times, these questions would leave me feeling like I wasn’t a good enough mother because I was choosing to be at school, to finish a PhD. They made me feel like I was not doing my job, when really, like most moms, I was doing multiple jobs: mom, wife, clinician, and researcher. Over time this guilt has definitely lessened, but here are some tangible ways that I have overcome ‘mom guilt’.
First, like any good scientist, I turned to research. Studies of guilt have shown that experiencing the emotion does not lead to any changes in your action. So even if I am feeling guilty, I am not likely to quit my degree/career to overcome it. Rather than constantly feeling guilty for choosing task A over task B (whatever they may be for you), I think it is important for us as women to:
1). Give permission to ourselves to enjoy doing task A, even if it means task B does not get done.
2) To not feel burdened to excel at every single thing we do. We are all allowed to have “off” or “bad” days, because after all… we are all human!
Second, I looked for shared experiences. I started chatting with friends who were in the same position as me, to help normalize my experience. This helped me feel that I was not alone, and that other women were going through the same thing. I felt we could lift each other, and share our emotions and exonerate ourselves of the guilt in a collective way.
And last, I started to be more intentional. I did this after reading a study that showed that while current day mothers spend less time with their children than their parents spent with them, they spend better quality time with their children than previous generation parents. When I read this, my mind was blown. I was feeling guilt about not spending enough time, but I found solace in the fact that by being intentional with the time I have with my daughter, I can make it about the quality and not so much the quantity. I try to do so by leaving my phone at the door when I get home, to make sure when my attention is on her, it’s FULLY on her.
Today, I want you to look hard and fast at this guilt that you may experiencing. I want to urge you to give yourself permission to not feel guilty and take care of yourself. You know why? Because you want to be able to spend quality time with your children, versus feeling like you aren’t enough. You can’t pour from an empty cup – so fill up your cup without feeling guilt.
Until next time friends!