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The Truth About Mom Guilt: Letting Go of Perfection

Guilt isn't exclusive to moms but we do corner the market. It starts almost immediately when you are looking down the road on impending motherhood: Don't eat this while pregnant, don't do that while in your first trimester, figuring out if you are going to go back to work, the list goes on and on and onnnnnn.

To be fair, I've always had a guilt problem. My parents always told me I was harder on myself than they could ever be which couldn't have been more accurate. I didn't figure it could get much worse than it had always been but man, when that kid popped out 6+ years ago I was in for a rude awakening. Not only was I an expert on giving myself a guilt trip but society took it upon itself to add kindling to the fire. *Cue the song "Disco Inferno"

"You shouldn't hold them to fall asleep." "You should pump so others can do the feed" "You are being selfish for not allowing us to do XYZ"

I wanted to be a good mom, a great mom, the PERFECT mom. I spent hours second guessing, researching, and trying to do everything just right. It was exhausting and left me feeling horrible about myself. I knew I needed to let it go but didn't have the first clue how to break the cycle. I needed to let go of the picture that I had in my head of how things were supposed to go and the kid I imagined in my head so that I could focus on how things were and the kid that I did have. Easier said than done but my hard questions, trial and error, and sleepless nights are your gain.

Get ready to dive into things I've learned about letting go of mom guilt and freeing myself from perfection purgatory:

  • Organic or Bust: When we first introduced foods I went overboard trying to only do organic, make everything myself, and was a bit neurotic. I still care about what my kid eats but slowly had to let go of the notion that if I didn't do it all right in the beginning that there was no hope. I was an extremly picky eater as a kid, ate McDonalds on occasion, and didn't know about the word organic until my late teens---I turned out fine. Lastly for some food for thought, even kids who eat 100% organic, grass fed, and all of their veggies still pick their nose soooo stress less.

  • Louder for the People in the Back: I do hate yelling and still try to stop myself before it gets to that point but even the best of us just react and yell before we can count to 3. I would be in tears after I would lose my temper and beat myself up for days after fearing I would scar my kid for life. I knew realistically that there would be times it would happen so focused on what I could do to aliviate my guilt and turn the metaphorical ship around. After that yell escapes me I try to lower my voice and gather myself. If I can't do that in the moment, I ALWAYS will circle back once we are all calm, take a breath, and explain that while I don't mean to raise my voice, THIS is what I'm trying to address and go through the problem at hand. Often times I will also apologize for loosing my temper. I want my kid to know I'm not perfect, adults can say sorry for the reaction, but that the rules, lesson, etc are still to be respected. This helps to mirror accountability, communication, AND stops my gult from nawing at me.

  • What About "Me Time": I can guarantee most of you laughed out loud reading that but stay with me. Our vision of me time is shaped by rom-coms, social media, and marketing designed to paint the idealistic picture for us to strive for. You see the posts from friends having a girls weekend, a sweaty selfie after an hour long yoga class, or a not so humble brag post about the spa day someone was gifted. While I'm not throwing shade at this, I am going out on a bold limb and say this isn't the norm and again can make us feel guilty that we aren't living like we are suppsed to or taking the me time we should. Me time doesn't have to be long, luxurious, or expensive. Short increments more often will do more to fill us than a long weekend trip (plus it's way more do able with littles). It may look like taking yourself out to lunch (by yourself or with a friend or partner) and enjoying a meal in peace. For some it's listening to music while they shower or moisturizing with a nice smelling lotion.

  • Bigger is Always Better: We all want to give our kids the best and latest of the greatest but it becomes exhausting and draining in ever way possible. I felt guilty for not having massive birthday parties, passing on an extravagant trip, or missing sign up for camp. Sometimes the energy level, calendar reminders, or the bandwidth to plan one more thing just isn't there. I would let it eat me up inside that somehow those singular "misses" would create holes in the good memories. I kept subscribing to the narrative that those big things mattered more. As the months and years went by though I had to keep pulling myself back to the reflective pool of my own childhood. Sure, the trips are fond memories but I remembered the little things more. Listening to music on the way home from softball practice, going to a local painting place, playing baseball in the driveway, and how we would get small plates of candy and sweets when we watched Willy Wonka. Trying to not overcomplicate memories actually makes true memories.

I could go on and on about mom guilt but that will have to wait for part two. Chances are you have eaten up your free time reading this are being pulled because someone needs something, you have to get ready to run to school pick up, or you just remembered you have laundry to change over.

Go forward remembering that being a good mom and being a perfect mom aren't the same thing. Perfect moms don't exist and we will burn ourselves out faster than our kids asking for snacks if we keep trying to achieve perfection. Focus on being the best you can be when you can be. Sometimes that means having a random dance party, saying yes to a random day date with the littles, and sometimes that means taking a moment for yourself so that you can resume calmer when the next tantrum hits.

Go forth and mom strong!

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