If you are a mother, the term Mom Guilt is likely a familiar one (at best). At worst, you spend a large amount of your mental time hashing out what you could have done better, different, or maybe what you wish you’d not done at all. The first 4 years of my mothering life were plagued by mom guilt. The last year and a half, no longer living under that heavy rain cloud, has been joyful and liberating! And since it is exactly one month before MOTHER’S DAY, we think this is the perfect time to kick off a little Milk + Mascara Mom Love Campaign!
The background: my son had just turned 4 and my daughter was 1.5. It was early fall & a new preschool year had just started for my oldest. During a parent meeting, we were asked by the amazing teachers to share our areas of parenting strength and challenges. A list immediately formed in my head of my weaknesses (imagine a scroll unfurling & running the length of the room). I suddenly realized that my greatest weakness in parenting was my own self loathing and bullying. I was missing SO MUCH in my children’s lives because my head space was filled with would have, could have, should haves. I made a commitment to myself that evening (and I said it out loud to my fellow parents – an absolute key to my quest!) to combat my chronic mothering put-downs with some very intentional self-love. And I decided this wouldn’t just be a week-long endeavor, but one that I’d keep doing until I changed my narrative.
The challenge: every time a thought enters your mind that is nagging and negative (“I’m such a bad mom”…”I’m the worst mother”…”I shouldn’t have been gone so long”…”Did I really need that workout/massage/alone time?”), STOP mid-thought, acknowledge the tendency you have to criticize yourself, and identify something you are proud of as a mom. It doesn’t matter if it is a large, generalization of your mothering, or a small, fleeting moment that felt like a triumph: whatever makes you feel good about yourself on this maniacal mothering ride! And then repeat.
The result: FREEDOM! Sweet freedom from harsh, unhelpful thoughts! My brain tendencies have changed dramatically and I find myself naturally playing this little mental “put-up” game:
I am NOT the crafting, home activities mom (just not my strong suit)…however I am the mom that provides a ton of local, out-in-nature adventures for my kids. Maybe this is you or are you the reverse?
I’m not great at pretend play and actively engaging in Legos for long periods of time…but I might be THE BEST mother on the planet when it comes to daily dance parties and belting out tunes unabashedly.
My son will shortly be running circles around my math and science knowledge…but both my 5-year-old and 3-year-old will hit you when you least expect it with a rad (and hysterical) vocabulary word.
I swing and miss constantly in “teaching moments” or explaining something in an exciting way…but I talk to my kids like they are big people and I’m a pretty dang funny mom.
I don’t love to give my kids a lot of tv time…but when I do I make the MOST of it: instead of wasting it with mom guilt, I crank out a task I’ve really wanted to tackle, I sit in indulgent silence, drink a cup of coffee, I do a quick workout, or I lay on the couch next to them and close my eyes for 30 minutes. When it is over I give myself a little inner fist bump because my mom game is stronger and I did not, in fact, rot my children’s brains.
The examples are endless and so is the breadth of your awesomeness! Please join me for this brain (and heart) reboot! And keep in mind: we have strengths and weaknesses as employees, friends, partners and relatives…how can we expect to be perfect as parents?
I also like to remind myself that the day my kids were born, I too became a newborn mother (initially as a first-time mom and then as a new mom to multiple kids). I have given my children all the space they need to grow at their own pace, so my mothering deserves the same nurturing love.