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Dealing with mom guilt

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Telanna Swan-Jeffers with her three beautiful children

Moms everywhere have probably experienced mom guilt at some point in their motherhood.  We cry, stress and get burnt out as we try to run our family affairs.  Mom guilt is real and can affect the dynamics of family life.  This month, SheHub is  focusing on family.  I wrestled about what I wanted to address because family is so important to me.  It was important to me to share something that was very authentic, but also something that would also be meaningful.  Back and forth I went with ideas until my daughter suggested mom guilt, having dealt with it myself.

So, what is mom guilt?

Mom guilt is the emotion mothers experience when trying to lead a life of perfection by trying to live up to others’ expectations and standards of the type of mother we should aim to be.

I’ve experienced some form of guilt over my 24 years of being a mom.

The guilt of being a single parent, which even though I am married now, will still creep its ugly face around the corner.  I made the decision when my daughter was young to leave her dad.  I always thought it was the best decision for her and myself, but the guilt I had at times would make me regret that I took her away from having a traditional family.  I’ve even gone as far as apologising to her for not giving her the complete family she deserved to have. I compensated for that guilt by being everything that she needed, while leaving nothing for myself.   I forgot about me, the things I loved and the dreams I wanted to pursue. Throughout the years, I was told couldn’t raise a child in a single parent household, but guess what, they were wrong.

“Just because people don’t believe in you, doesn’t mean you have to stop believing in yourself.”

I also know what it means to be in a marriage that doesn’t work.  People will make you feel like you are going straight to hell if you want to leave.  I would like them to know, that doesn’t help.  Staying when you are miserable doesn’t work, because your kids know you are unhappy too.  It’s a tough decision to make, one that I made almost ten years ago.  At the time my middle child was very young and a daddy’s girl.  The level of pain I felt every day having to look in her face knowing that I chose to separate from her daddy left me with profound guilt. I was embarrassed when I had to explain why my husband was not with me.  At that time, I had not realised that I owed no one an explanation.  After a year of separation, we resumed our marriage, but even to this day, I swear she still has anxiety about that season of our lives.

I’ve grown over the years and have begun focusing more on the things that make me happy, and I want you to know that you aren’t selfish for wanting that.  Mom guilt is real, and you will see it from time to time just as I do whenever my son asks me to play Minecraft, Fortnite or some other video game.  I feel guilty because I understand that he wants me to spend time with him, but I dislike video games.  I tell myself love is about compromise, so I should want to play these games with him.  I understand now that I don’t have to do everything that he wants me to do, I can say no, and I don’t have to feel guilty about it.  There are other things we love to do together, like nerf wars.

Five ways to escape your mom guilt:

As a mom, you are the heartbeat of your family, and I want to share with you 5 strategies for letting go of your mom guilt.

  1. Don’t bear guilt that is not yours: Figure out what is important to you when it comes to your kids. I would worry about my kids’ behaviour because I felt that it reflected on me as a mom.  Now, I realise it is really about their choices.  There was a time where I would fuss because my children’s clothes didn’t match, or they didn’t put on lotion, but hey that’s on them.  I may feel disappointed if a teacher calls me about my child, but I don’t bear the guilt because I raised them right and they have choices.
  2. Give up the idea of being a supermom: I don’t feel the need to be the mom that gets everything done.  I can leave dirty dishes in my sink for the night if I’m too tired and that’s alright with me. My kids don’t have to have perfectly made lunches, and if we get homework done, we get it done if not, oh well.  Do what is right for you.  If you are a good parent, your kids already know, and you are their Shero!
  3. Ask your kids!: The truth is between school and extracurricular activities you could be asking for time off to attend these functions every week. Be honest with yourself; there will be times that you don’t want to go.  These are the times that you should ask your kids, “Do you want me there?”  “How important is it to you that I am there?”  Their answer may surprise you.  I know I was surprised the day my son said, “You can come to the next field trip don’t worry about this one.”  We put more on ourselves than we must.
  4. Live in your own lane: Compare yourself, your family and your life to your standards and values, not someone else’s.  Mom guilt will creep up on you when you are busy comparing your life to others.  You are putting people on a pedestal and creating unnecessary expectations for yourself and family.
  5. Just say NO!: It’s ok to say no. It doesn’t mean you don’t care; it means you care enough to admit you don’t have the time. John Maxwell said, “You have to say no to the good, so you can be available to say yes to the great.” Recently I said no to being on a committee, so I could be available to participate in other activities for my kids.

The next time you feel mom guilt rearing its ugly face remember you don’t have to be perfect, it’s okay to do life on your own terms and your kids already think you are the real MVP.

Telanna is a businesswoman and personal excellence coach.  Through her free resources and personal coaching, she helps moms manage their time effectively so can live out their purpose, by permitting themselves to do what they love.  Find her on your favourite social media platform @escapeyourmess.

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