If you are one of those fortunate few who rarely visited guilt-ville before having a baby, the arrival of a little one usually comes served with a heaping side-dish of mommy guilt. Everywhere you turn, you can find something new to feel guilty about.
You take a moment to do something for yourself rather than be with your baby – GUILT!
You stay late at work to finish a project that you are working on instead of racing home to put your child to bed – GUILT!
You choose to buy pre-made baby food instead of making your own – GUILT!
You set limits and boundaries with your children that they are not happy about – GUILT!
You are not able to be all things to all people – GUILT!
And the list goes on and on…
When it comes to guilt, the most important thing to remember is that while people often say that they “feel” guilty, guilt is actually not a feeling, it is a state of mind. Left to its own devices, guilt can control you. Here are some Wellness Mama strategies for taking control back.
• CHECK THE WORD GUILT AT THE DOOR
Guilt is the only “feeling” that can leave you in a state of emotional inertia. When a mom says that she feels guilty, she usually feels as though she can do nothing about it. When you hear yourself thinking “I feel guilty that…”, stop yourself and replace the word guilt with any other true feeling. Repeat the sentence, but this time say, “I feel sad”, “I feel frustrated”, or “I feel bad”. These are feelings that you can actually do something about. If you feel sad about something, what might you be able to do to feel less sad? If you feel frustrated, is there anything that you can do to change that? Guilt however, keeps you in a place of not having to do anything, except – feel guilty!
• ASK YOURSELF IF WHAT YOU ARE THINKING IS “THOUGHT AS THOUGHT” OR “THOUGHT AS FACT”
Often, guilt stems from the belief that there is a “right” or “wrong“ way of doing things. We experience guilt when what we are doing does not match what we believe to be the “ideal” way to do it. When this happens, ask yourself whether your thought is based in fact or is simply a thought. For example, if you are thinking “I feel guilty when I get a manicure”, stop and replace the world guilt with the word bad. Upon reflection, you might think “If I was a good mom, I would want to be with my child every second that I can”. So is that thought as thought or thought as fact. Does spending every second of your free time actually make you a good mom or is that just thought as thought?
• RE-EXAMINE YOUR PRIORITIES AND GOALS
If you feel guilt, it might help look at your goals and priorities and assess whether they are still realistic. We often experience guilt when we have not achieved all the things we set out to accomplish in a given day/week or year. By readjusting your expectations and goals, you can set yourself up for success as opposed to setting yourself up for a trip to guilt-ville. Decide which of your priorities you NEED to do versus those that would be NICE to do. In motherhood terms, decide if you need to be the perfect mom or if you are willing to be the perfectly imperfect mom that so many of us are.
• MiNIMIZE THE CIRCLE OF GUILT
Often we bounce our thoughts, ideas, and fears off of others. While getting another person’s perspective can sometimes be helpful, be careful whose opinion you solicit. If you tell your opinionated family member what you are thinking, don’t be surprised when he or she provides you with an opinionated answer. While social media can be a great source of support for many moms, keep in mind that if you release your thoughts to the world of Twitter or Facebook, you just might receive feedback that makes you feel “guilty”. Discuss the object of your guilt with people whose opinions you respect. Although sometimes difficult, try to own your own motherhood as opposed to someone else’s opinion of what he or she thinks would be best for you and your family.
• GUILT IS NOT ALWAYS A NEGATIVE THING
Can there be a positive side to your feelings of guilt? Perhaps. Guilt can be a mechanism to help keep you in touch with your feelings. If you experience guilt, it could be that there is an area in your life that needs to be addressed. That is not always a bad thing.