Being a parent means loving your children more than you have ever loved yourself. But there is something absolutely special about being a mother. And that “something special” is not the C-section. It’s what comes out of it. A child adds joy to every single day of our lives. And that joy might get so overwhelming over time that it turns into guilt. Have you ever felt like you’re not giving your child enough in return for the joy it brings to your life? That’s mom guilt.
You can’t escape it. Every mom experiences it at a certain point in their lives. If you imagined that you would be next to your child day and night, you would realize that idea is simply not realistic. You might have to return to work and leave your child with a babysitter or at kindergarten if your husband does not entertain the idea of being the sole breadwinner. Every generation of parents has to face the same fears and problems, although you might think that parenting is harder for you than it was for your mother. Nobody is perfect so there is no such thing as “the perfect parent”. Still, why do you feel guilty sometimes?
1. Unable to breastfeed
Not breastfeeding every time is one of the reasons behind new mom guilt. It’s also important to distinguish between moms who decide not to breastfeed and those who can’t breastfeed for medical reasons. In the first case, many think remorse is replaced with selfishness, convenience and a ton of arguments picked from the most recent medical experiments and scientific studies. Not breastfeeding a baby intentionally is a conscious choice.
Being unable to start lactation for medical reasons is a different story. Breastfeeding is a problem for women with true low breast milk supply. Certain medications are passed into the mother’s milk so breastfeeding under certain treatments is not recommended. Other medications such as those for the common cold decrease the milk supply. There are also some infectious diseases that might not allow a child to suckle because the risks outweigh the benefits. If the mother has HIV, HTLV (the human T-cell lymphotropic virus), tuberculosis (TB) or herpes on the breast she will be advised not to breastfeed her child. In other cases, babies might have a genetic disease and are unable to digest the milk correctly. So moms start giving formula to their babies and feel guilty for going against nature.
However, as long as you feed your baby properly, you don’t have to blame yourself. The best replacements for breast milk are cow milk and goat milk, but there are very good formulas based on soybean, too.
2. Mom guilt caused by going back to work
No sooner had you left breastfeeding behind than you return to your workplace. Moms usually get a mix of feelings about motherhood and work. Some moms would not want to get a job but they have to in order to provide for their child. Other moms love so much their jobs that they can hardly wait to start working again and further their careers. I know it can be hard to leave your child at daycare, and you might feel guilty for this. But your parents probably had done the same thing and had experienced parental guilt as well. It’s the natural flow of life. It’s what we call “normality”.
However, not being able to achieve a work-life balance is another amplifier of guilt. Yes, women are the best at multitasking. They can talk and work at the same time. Women just seem to cope with multitasking better than man! A woman’s mind is like a browser with 1,394 tabs open all the time. But when they lay on the bed late at night… that’s when the feelings of guilt sneak into their minds.
The best way to lower the stress levels caused by work-life imbalances is to talk with your partner and find the tasks he could take over because a strong marriage requires teamwork. Moreover, your partner might have a hard time overcoming parental guilt too. Try to have a peaceful conversation. It is known that women utter almost three times more words than males in a day, so make sure you speak your mind in a gentle manner and address the most important issues first before your verbal flow turns him off.
3. House is a mess
Once your child is born, don’t expect your house to look like a perfectly staged open house that you visit with a real estate agent. Babies grow fast and when they start walking… who can stop them from exploring and discovering their surroundings? If you run your household like a typical Millennial, clutter won’t be such a problem, but you’ll have to be more and more inventive about keeping kids away from the drawers where you keep your knitting needles or your new makeup kit. So, a kid will interrupt your daily activities a lot. Tasks that would normally take 20 minutes, with a kid around will probably take twice as much. You might even find yourself enjoying the cartoons so much that you forget to iron your husband’s shirts! Then guilt shows up in all its beauty and you start to blame yourself for being so unproductive.
Remember: you are a human being, not a robot! You can’t do everything! Set your priorities for every day and don’t put too much pressure on your shoulders. Leave plenty of time to hold your baby tightly in your arms and enjoy these precious moments with your child that fly so fast…Now put your hands on that vacuum cleaner and rely on meal delivery for dinner!
4. Mom guilt caused by spending time alone
When a child arrives in a family, everything changes and everything revolves around the baby. Being a full-time mom and dad can be exhausting. I would say that it is important to prepare your home for a new baby and make a few improvements that will help you relax and destress at home and don’t focus only on the newborn room.
Finish your basement, if you can afford it and make more room for your growing family! There are plenty of basement remodel ideas to choose from. You can turn your basement into a man cave and give your husband the chance to spend some time alone. Or you can turn it into a home theater where you can evade reality and dive into other’s fiction… Later, your kids can use that room not only to watch cartoons but to learn. Who knows how homeschooling will evolve in the future?
Another great idea would be to build a she shed where you can pursue your hobbies, your writing career or create some vlogs for your YouTube channel all by yourself! If you are talented or gifted, you can become a successful blogger or vlogger as a new mom. This shift in your career will allow you to work from home and take care of your baby at the same time.
But spending time alone should not make moms feel guilty. It’s not selfishness and it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity! All couples must nourish their relationships and date like they used to. Do whatever it takes to keep the spark alive. Don’t let yourselves be deceived by the thought that the money you spend for your entertainment would have better been used for your child’s needs. This kind of parental guilt will make you neglect yourselves. Don’t give in!
5. Using baby-monitors
I know this sounds strange but turning yourself into “Big Brother” could make you feel guilty. You wouldn’t like to find out that someone is watching you 24/7. “How would my baby feel about it?” you may ask. Your little baby doesn’t care! Have you heard about smart home devices? Modern baby monitors are one of them and come with very advanced sound improvements and even with video surveillance. However, leaving your child in his convertible crib is not that bad. Co-sleeping is more stressful for both parents and not safe for the baby. You may feel guilty now because you leave the baby all by him/herself, but you will also feel bad later when your child won’t sleep alone. The master bedroom is for the parents. End of story.
6. Mom guilt caused from comparing to others
You may experience mom guilt every time you compare yourself to other moms. Everyone has that friend who is a stay-at-home mother or an excellent career and seems to have a perfect life from the outside. You start to envy her and to feel less capable, less intelligent, less of a woman. Don’t fall in this trap unless you want your partner to feel some kind of parental guilt himself. Stop comparing yourself! Every family is different. If your friend is a housewife, that’s the decision she took together with her husband and that’s what works best for them. And don’t imagine that things will stay like this forever.
As your kids grow older, you will discover that mom guilt has more tastes and is more subtle. When you compare your kids with others, you might have the impression that you haven’t done well enough as a parent. Every parent thinks their kids are the best, the smartest, the prettiest… until they get in school and receive their first grades. While our education system must find a way to identify the smartest students, your job is to bring out the best in your children. Shape their personality, pay attention to their interests, and make sure they are in good company. You are doing just fine!
Don’t feel guilty if you can’t afford to send your child to a private school, either! There are so many kids who attended public schools and have a good job. Your child’s academic performance is not an indicator of his financial wellbeing in the future. Good grades do not guarantee a high paying job. Encourage your kid to learn and to do his homework, but don’t be too disappointed if he brings a D or an F from time to time. Don’t be too harsh on him!
There is no need to compare your kid with others, especially if your child has a disability. When your baby was born, you knew that he/she was special, even though deep inside you were hurting with new mom guilt and all kinds of thoughts. Your husband must have had intense feelings as well. You were both scared at the beginning and every day you adapted to live with a kid with special needs.
You have to make extremely complicated parenting decisions with regard not only to the best housing options for you as a family with a special needs child but also with regard to the most effective therapy or treatment that could make life easier for all of you. Most professionals will add pressure by saying that the success of a certain therapy or treatment depends upon you two. So when your kid doesn’t make the progress you have all anticipated, you blame yourselves and think that it’s your fault. In these situations, mom guilt only makes things worse. If you are both dealing with parental guilt, stop blaming your genes! Talk to a therapist! Or even better, choose to move to one of the best cities for families with special needs children. Look for other parents who are in the same boat, create a group on social media and share your ups and downs!
7. Kids move out
This is more than mom guilt. In fact, all parents will feel some kind of parental guilt when kids move to attend college, to work or to get married. It’s hard to imagine that nobody’s waiting for you to come home. Kids have their lives, now. You have to survive in an empty nest so the first thing you should do is to fill it. Yes! Fill it with people! Invite friends and family over and offer to host bridal or baby showers, if you have plenty of space. This is the best moment in life to keep in touch with the people you care about. Don’t let the empty-nester syndrome bring you down! You knew that your kids would grow wings one day…
Children don’t get to choose when, where and how they are born. They don’t know about parental guilt. They come in our lives and demand love and affection. They cause parental guilt and they are the ones who help us overcome parental guilt. Yes, you might have to feed them different formulas, you might have to go to work for them, you might have to leave the house dirty, and spend some time alone from time to time… But mom guilt shall pass, making room for memories that will last a lifetime.