Letting Go of "Mom Guilt"
Don’t get me wrong—we certainly enjoyed ourselves on the trip. But the joy was often interrupted by a random thought about my daughter and how I was doing her a disservice by choosing to do something for myself over simply being with her.
I was victim of the “mom guilt”.
We hear that phrase thrown around a lot. A reference to the guilt a mother feels when she prioritizes anything in her life over some possible benefit to her child. It could be anything. Getting her nails done over going to another play date. Putting the TV on so she can rest instead of facilitating some sort of interactive play activity. Offering fast food instead of an organic meal to save time. Or, in my case, taking a trip with husband rather than another family trip.
After the trip, I took a deeper reflective dive into these feelings and truly gave some thought as to why I was feeling that way and if it was healthy. I determined that yes, it is normal to feel this “mom guilt”. After all, we all love our children immensely and are constantly striving to give them the best life possible. But, I also realized something else. As a mom, prioritizing one thing over another does not always mean valuing one thing over another. Prioritizing is often, for parents, merely a function of time. I chose to give fast food not because I value my child’s nutritional health less, but because the time I save from not cooking a meal provides benefits elsewhere. And sometimes the things we prioritize one day, are not the same things we prioritize the next. I may choose to get my nails done over the playdate this time because I have an important function to attend where I want to look nice. I may choose to prioritize the playdate the next four times. I still value the concept of providing social interactions for my child.
1. A Less Anxious Mom is a Happier Mom
This benefit was the easiest to spot. I was tried before we went on the trip and anxious to leave Bean behind. I hadn’t been sleeping that well, and I just never felt rested. Three days on a beach with a book provided me the relaxation I needed to start feeling more like myself. And, even though I still had fleeting feelings of guilt, I was overall less anxious and more relaxed. When I returned, I had more energy. I slept better. I smiled more. And you don’t need to go on a lavish trip to get these benefits. I have been making a conscious effort to go to sleep earlier. To have tea before bed. To do other things that make me feel more relaxed. All of these things are contributing to a better sense of self and a happier mom.
2. A Happier Mom Can Make a Happier Child
It naturally follows that a happier mom makes for a happy child. When I am feeling rested, relaxed and happy, I am more likely to get on the floor and play with my daughter. I am more likely to spend the extra minute or too cuddling, or to let bath time go longer. These are all things that make my daughter smile. Out of all the things I learned during my reflection after my trip, this was the most important. We sometimes forget that our emotional well-being is often tied to the feelings and emotions of others. When my daughter is happier, I am happier and vice-versa. Focusing on helping ourselves can often help those we love as well.
3. Letting go of Mom Guilt Can be Good for a Marriage
We hear it all the time. Time spent together without children can help ease tensions between spouses and supports a healthier marriage. But it is also the quality of that time that is important. If I spent all my alone time with my husband worrying about Bean than what would we really be accomplishing? It would be as if Bean was still right there with us. I truly see the benefit of getting undistributed alone time with your spouse. On our trip my husband had deeper conversations, caught up on much needed sleep, and more physical interactions that we do during a typical week. This does not mean we are not happy at home. It just is an honest reflection of the demands surrounding raising a child.
We all fight feelings of mom-guilt from time to time. But thinking more about how mom-guilt affects you individually can be helpful in alleviating some of those feelings. It will take work and time, and, honestly, those feelings may never completely go away. What is important is recognizing that you don’t have to feel that way over all decisions that you make. Let some of that guilt go!