From the time we start playing with baby dolls we are absorbing messages about what it means to be a good mother. Society certainly sets a high standard and most of us have internalized these expectations.
Of course, where there are expectations, there is guilt.
Now you’re probably a good mom – perhaps even a great one. But you likely have days when you question your competence and worry that you’re not even a decent mom.
Some days you berate yourself and feel guilty about all the ways you’ve failed your kids. I doubt there’s a mom alive who hasn’t worried that she was a complete failure, but here are some ways to deal with mom competition and ditch the mom guilt.
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Things to remember about the ‘Perfect Mom’
- Perfection doesn’t exist – except in TV shows, and they don’t count because the TV mom had a script to follow and so did the kids. You know good and well that YOUR kids aren’t following a script because if they were, you’d fire the scriptwriter.
- Ask yourself if your kids are safe, clean, fed, and happy. If the answer is yes (or even a “most of the time”), you’re doing fine. As my own daughter would say, “Chillax.”
- Happy childhoods start with happy moms. If you think you’re doing your kid any favors by being a martyr and always putting yourself last, the only one you’re fooling is yourself. I don’t mean that you have to turn into a selfish shrew (that’s not good for anyone), just be sure to include things that make you happy in your life. There IS such a thing as middle ground.
- DO things with your kids. Memories are more important than things. Read to your kids, play games, sing songs (if they’re little). When your kids are older, talk to them (not at them), listen to what they have to say, make an effort to be involved in a way that is appropriate for each child. Remember that your kids want your time and attention more than they want STUFF anyway. Yes, they’ll beg for stuff, all kids do – especially the big ones. Don’t let the begging for stuff get to you. Lots of parents buy things out of guilt. Don’t be that parent – it doesn’t work anyway so you might as well save your money. You’ll need it one day for college tuition.
- Quit comparing yourself to other moms. It seems that there are a lot of moms who want to compete with each other. I don’t understand why this is though. It’s not like there is a Mom award or Olympic medal that’s given out (the best mom awards are hugs when they’re little, and kind words when they’re grown). Competing with other moms is a waste of time and you don’t have to play. The ones who are busy convincing you that things are perfect at their house are either lying or delusional. No one has time for liars and those who are delusional belong in an asylum. You’ll be much saner – and happier – if you quit keeping score.
- Every child (and mother) is an individual with different wants and needs. This is another reason you can’t play the comparison game. You not only can’t compare your child to someone outside the family, you can’t even compare one child to another within your own family either. My three kids are so different we sometimes wonder how they came out of the same household.
- Kids need downtime (this includes tweens and teens too!). They don’t have to be involved in an activity every minute of the day. And neither do you. You need to quit thinking that your worth as a mom is based on how busy you and your kids are. The only thing that a lack of downtime does it to keep everyone exhausted.
- Be the best mom that YOU can be instead of worrying that you’re not perfect. Keep your end goal in mind. Mine was to raise kids to think for themselves and be independent. I can state with certainty that I succeeded in raising them to think for themselves, but there are times when I question the wisdom of this goal (like when they’re arguing or otherwise not doing what I want). You’ll have to decide on your own definition of maternal success.
- There is a fine line between standing up for your child and making excuses for them. Unfortunately, other people will probably have an easier time figuring out where the line is than you will. Some people will even feel free to tell you where the line is.
- Don’t say, “My kid would never…!” For some strange reason, these words seem to tempt fate to show us just how little control we really have. I can state with certainty that I’ve been sorry every time I’ve ever uttered these words.
- Realize that kids test limits and make mistakes and bad choices. Don’t beat yourself over the head and convince yourself that every mistake your child makes is your fault. You don’t have that much power!
Mom guilt can be very powerful. I know there have been days when I was sure that I was a complete failure as a mom and that I had made every mistake in the book. I probably did make every mistake in the book, but you know what – they turned out all right despite my mistakes.
No one said being a mom is easy though. You’re a Mushroom details some issues we all deal with as our kids become teenagers. And sometimes, even the best moms need a time out. What surprised me most was that mom didn’t tell me all I needed to know about raising kids. There certainly have been lots of surprises along the way.
So how do/did you deal with mom guilt?
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I’ve chosen a few books that discuss mom guilt. Goodness knows most of us can use any help we can get in this area!