Gilt.com instead of Guilty Mom

Two things happened when I became a mom. An overwhelming sense of loving something more than I ever thought possible, and also an overwhelming sense of doubt and guilt. Before Tess, I thought, and seemingly could, "do it all." After having her, I realized I no longer could. I had to start delegating, asking for help and, hardest of all, admitting that I needed it. There are, and will always be moments of feeling like I'm falling short, that I'm not doing enough, that I'm not doing it right.  "Mom Guilt" is real, and I know I can't be speaking for myself when I say that at least once a day I feel it, whether it's something like dropping a burp cloth on the floor and using it anyway, or going out to dinner with friends leaving your baby crying with someone else, feeling like we're not mothering up to par is a real real feeling. I spoke to amazing Lindsay Liben, LCSW, about it and she had some words of wisdom that I think can help empower us all to feel that we're doing just right. 

How to Gut the Mom-Guilt

The traffic signal changed to yellow as Michelle* jostled her stroller into the intersection determined to make the light and get her 3-month-old to movement class. She arrived sweaty, frazzled and with seconds to spare, but her entry was halted by a sign on the door which stated, “session is full.” Instantly she was flooded with panic and guilt. Where can I find a last-minute activity that will stimulate my baby? How could I fail her like this? What is wrong with me?

In some form or another, these intrusive questions plague every parent. They are symptoms of common parenting problem known as Mom Guilt. It is described as a feeling of shame in response to a real or perceived parenting infraction. A recent poll conducted by BabyCenter.com, reported that nearly 94% of moms experience this guilt. This means that every mom you pass on the street has had Mom Guilt (and those who haven’t are probably lying), and most of the time, we get triggered by imaginary transgressions.  

Perfection Objection

Thinking about sending your son to the park with a babysitter Abandonment: check. Refreshing your Instagram feed while your daughter plays in her bouncer? Neglect: check. These tyrannical responses to reasonable actions say more about you than your little one. Understanding the guilt can be a powerful tool to dispel it. These emotions are often fueled by irrational expectations about being a flawless mother. While intellectually you may know that perfection does not exist, the urge to be a perfect mom insidiously creeps into your thoughts and plants seeds of inadequacy.

If missing one movement class is the worst thing you do to your kid, then you are a pretty excellent mom. Being concerned about your child’s welfare is the mark of a good parent, but excessive worrying and guilt is not fair to anyone. Your child is not going to be traumatized because you weren’t watching her color. Try giving yourself the green light to be a “good enough” mom. Making mistakes is a valuable experience for both the mother and child. While it may seem counterintuitive, as long as your baby’s basic needs are being met, he will actually thrive when you mess up. He learns to adapt to living in an imperfect world and begins building his capacity to tolerate distress.

Gilt.com instead of Guilt

Allowing for this departure from perfectionism can be a freeing realization. Give yourself permission to check out. Self-care in any form is a prerequisite to being a good enough mom. You must grant yourself space to emotionally regulate, and if that means going on Instagram, listening to podcasts, or shopping on Gilt.com, then go right ahead. The thought that you have to be available to your child 100% of the time is an unrealistic expectation that can never be achieved. Even if you could devote all of your emotional bandwidth to parenting, it would not be a healthy option, because that would mean there is nothing left for you. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

Perfectionism Runs Deep

You cannot expect yourself to be perfect, and you cannot expect yourself to perfectly eliminate Mom Guilt. Instead, just be aware of your self-judgement, quiet the inner critic, and replace the critical thoughts with a dose of self-care.

*name has been changed

**If you are concerned about postpartum depression or other psychological issues, make an appointment with a professional or medical clinician.

Lindsay Liben, LCSW, has a private therapy practice near Union Square, focusing on women’s issues including infertility, depression, anxiety, and life transitions. She believes that by helping her patients get in touch with their most authentic selves, they can make choices that set them up for personal and professional success. Learn more about Lindsay and her work at LindsayLibenWellness.com.