You are a mother; not a martyr!
If you grew up with a mother or around mother figures who were self-sacrificing, always putting others first and who seemed able to do it all, it makes sense that you might struggle with mom guilt.
Mom guilt is the irrational belief that you are not a good-enough mother, despite doing your absolute best under the circumstances. While guilt can be healthy when it motivates us to act in accordance with our values, irrational guilt can lead to low self worth, depression and anxiety.
What causes mom guilt?
- Mom guilt may occur as a result of postpartum depression (but is not an indicator that one has postpartum depression).
- Existing anxiety disorders – mums who are anxious are more likely to worry that they are not a good enough mum.
- Societal pressures play a significant role in mom guilt. This includes messages from our own family and friends about how we should parent, comparing ourselves to other mums, social media’s portrayal of mums who seem to do it all so effortlessly (while looking glam), mums at school who seem to be doing so much more than us and social media posts that are constantly telling us about what is best for our child.
- Working mums (who are actually working to give their children a better life) often struggle with not spending enough time with their children, not having enough energy at the end of a busy day and missing events in their child’s life (such as sports).
- Over-identifying with the role of mother can also play a role in mom guilt. While being a mom might be one of the most special roles in your life, you are more than just a mom.
We don’t talk about enough about mom guilt for some of the following reasons:
- Constant reminders of what a blessing it is to be a mum
- Being reminded that our mums did it without complaining
- Social media mostly portrays the fun and glamorous aspects of parenting
- We feel that sharing our difficulties means that we don’t love our kids
- We feel that we’re the only one whose struggling
- We compare ourselves unfairly to moms who (outwardly) seem to have it all together.
You are only human! The mental load of motherhood is exhausting, because there is a lot to juggle (including the mental labor of planning so that everything can go as smoothly as possible).
If this is something you struggle with, here are some important reminders:
- Stop comparing yourself to others mums because (a) you don’t know what goes on behind the scenes; and (b) you don’t know what their load is and what resources they have available.
- Being a good mom does not mean doing more or spending more time with your child. A good mom is a present mom. What matters most is the quality of time you spend with your child.
- In order to be a good mom, you have to fill your own cup. You are not being selfish by taking care of your physical and mental health needs. Children need parents who are present and emotionally regulated. Your stress levels have an impact on your child -so take care of you!
- Recognise who you have in your village. How can you share the load? What resources can you call on? What can you outsource or delegate?
- Be mindful of your own self talk and remind yourself that you are trying your best.
- Know who you can turn to for reassurance – fellow mums or a mom blogger, whose posts resonate.
- Trust that you are doing your best.
Your child does not need a perfect mom – your child needs a present and mindful mom.
– Rakhi Beekrum | Psychologist, motivational speaker and mental health advocate