“I feel so guilty!” is a common phrase with most moms. We tend to feel guilty about everything, even if we’re doing something away from our kids that’s good for us!
Where does this guilt come from anyway? Dads don’t seem to have the same issue. They are more matter-of-fact about things. When I asked one dad why he didn’t feel guilty leaving his daughter to play by herself while he went to prepare himself lunch, he looked at me strangely and said, “Because I was hungry.” It seems so logical, doesn’t it?
If it’s so logical, let’s look at how to release this useless guilt in a very logical way.
1) Decide if it’s legitimate.
Logically ask yourself if you’ve actually done something you regret. Are you feeling real guilt or referred guilt? If you’ve actually chosen to work late to impress your boss rather than tend to your sick child, that’s real guilt. If your guilt is coming from somewhere or someone else—like the mom down the street who wonders why you’re not volunteering for her committee—that’s referred guilt. Acknowledge that it’s coming from someone else and you’re doing the best you can, then let it go.
2) Spin guilt into a positive action.
Missed your child’s piano recital because you were stuck at the office? Figure out how to do better next time. At the start of the school year log big family or important school events as appointments on your Outlook calendar or Blackberry to make sure there are no conflicts before you make any work commitments.
3) Forgive yourself, but don’t forget.
Life is all about choices. Sometimes we make a bad call, and that’s okay. We’re human. But there’s no reason to obsess over your mistake. Mentally letting yourself off the hook and resolving not to have a repeat episode can lessen anxiety and make you feel more in control of the situation. It’s all about checks and balances. Certain experiences remind you to reassess your priorities so you can pick and choose your commitments.
4) Set priorities.
We’re pulled in dozens of directions, and it seems like no choice comes guilt-free. When you’re working, you feel like you’re neglecting domestic duties, and when you’re spending time with your family, you feel like you should be prepping for that conference call. Even when you’re squeezing in a quick workout, it’s hard to let go of the pressure to play hide-and-seek with your toddler. Set a priority and give yourself a certain amount of time to focus on the task without worrying about other obligations.
We’ve been trained to believe that if we’re not with our kids 24/7 they’re being deprived of eternal love. That’s just not the case. I’ve surveyed thousands of children around the world and all they want you to do are simple things every once in a while.
I heard from one mom that she was walking by an outdoor pool and saw, with envy, a mom swimming laps while her toddler called out for his mommy. There was an older lady, watching her son. This mom then told me, “I thought to myself, “Why am I so willing to skip a workout because my child wants me?” Now she makes it a priority to exercise. She said, “It doesn’t hurt my daughter to be without me for thirty minutes, and it saves my sanity.”
Breaking free from useless mom guilt is totally possible, but you have to finally make the decision within yourself that you want to break-free. Do you? Or does the guilt serve you in a way? Does feeling guilty and talking about it make you FEEL like a good mother? Think about this and then make that very important decision.
When moms feel confident and at peace with themselves, they are unlikely to make choices or act in ways that cause them to feel guilty. When they feel insecure, exhausted or overwhelmed, they may do things or make decisions that they later regret, or act in haste or anger, all of which lead to guilt.