I hear it all the time, moms telling me how they feel like a “bad mom” if they decide to go out for a girls night out, or set a goal that also requires them to be away from their family more. Maybe it’s training for a race, or deciding to start a business that requires them to travel some weekends.
If you’re familiar with what I’m talking about, then you’re probably also well aware of the term, “mom-guilt”.
What is “Mom-Guilt”?
Let’s take a second to clarify – Having the urge and desire to want to be with your kids while you’re out doing something else, whether it be going to work or self-care related, is not mom-guilt. It’s a natural feeling to miss your family when you’re not with them and more than anything, it’s a sign that you’re a caring and loving mom that enjoys spending time with your family. In my opinion, in moderation, this isn’t bad. It’s healthy to miss your family and be excited to see them again.
Mom-guilt, on the other hand, is feeling like you’re doing something wrong (the word “guilt” is defined as “having committed a crime”) or you’re not doing what you “should” be doing.
It’s so important to recognize the difference between missing your family and full on “mom-guilt” because first, you’re absolutely not doing anything wrong by having time away from your family.
Additionally, as Brene Brown talks about in her book, Daring Greatly, guilt is a term focused on the behavior. Such as, “I feel guilty because I left my kids to go out.”, and can lead to shame, which is a reflection on oneself, “I am bad because I left my kids to go out.” Suddenly, doing a much-needed activity for a mom becomes a personal reflection of one’s self.
An innocent activity, like going out with friends, is self-identifying with being a bad person. And, that is exactly why having awareness of your feelings and knowing how you’re feeling so you can stop the downward spiral of critical thoughts before they get out of hand.
If you’ve ever felt the previously described “mom-guilt” or worse, “mom-shame”, it’s important to take a step back and re-evaluate why you might be feeling this way, as well as ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Am I feeling this way because I’m feeling judged by someone else?
- If yes, do they have a right to judge me? (Trick question – the answer is always “no!”)
- Will taking care of my own needs first help me feel taken care of?
- How do I show up when all my needs are taken care of?
- Am I happier, more present, or more patient when I show up this way?
- What example do I want to show my daughter to model after if/when she becomes a mom?
Reflecting on the value of making yourself a priority when it comes to the benefits of your family is important. In other words – investing in yourself by making yourself a priority is investing in your family.
And if you need some more points around why making yourself a priority is important, I have a few right here for you:
It’s about quality, not quantity
When your kids are older, they aren’t going to remember the endless hours you spent with them. They’ll remember the memories you make with them, the time you spend playing with them and laughing with them. I once had a coach tell me about how she keeps a sign in her kitchen that says, “Be the Mom Your Want Them to Remember.”
It’s such a great reminder in the moments when I’m feeling less than stellar. I quickly think of why I’m not at my best and what I need to give myself to get there, and the answer usually becomes clear.
You’ll be happier and more patient
It’s okay to admit if your child is exhausting. It’s normal. Kids need a lot of emotional energy as they learn how to navigate their own feelings. Your job is to do you best to show them how to manage through hard feelings so when they get older they can handle them on their own.
In the meantime, all that emotional energy spent on them needs to be replenished in addition to any other energy you used up.
Taking care of yourself first will ensure you have enough emotional energy to go around, at least for the first part of the day.
You’ll make more memories
Do you remember the last time you made an awesome memory with your kids while you were scrolling Facebook on your phone, or thinking about all the things on your “to-do” list?
When you can take care of your needs first, you can let go of all the distractions and focus on creating moments with the kids that they will remember forever.
You’ll be present
Do you ever notice how you think of all the things you need to do at the worst moment? Like, when you’re driving in your car or taking a shower? Take the time to work on that running “to-do” list so you can let go of those thoughts and be fully present.
You’ll appreciate the time you have with yourself more
Seeing the results you can have by making your needs a priority could be the most rewarding part. Take time to take notes about the days when you do make yourself a priority, and the days when it slips by (that’s completely normal, btw).
Still Feeling Guilty?
Word to the wise:
Do not let your precious alone time be sucked up my social media. It’s so easy to say, “I’ll just take a minute and catch up on the ‘gram”, and before you know it, you’re down a massive rabbit hole looking at your friend’s cousin’s girlfriend’s favorite brownie recipe on Pinterest.
The number 1 goal of social media is to keep you on for as long as possible. On top of it, there is a growing number of studies showing how awful social media is for our mental health. So, although it might seem like an innocent activity to “relax”, it’s actually not.
Truthfully, I’m looking in a mirror, so to speak, as I write this. Social Media and I have a complicated relationship. If you find yourself getting sucked into the scroll far too often, here’s what I did. Set screen time limits on your phone. I recently learned how to set a limit on my phone for all social media apps, and when the time is up, it greys out those apps and doesn’t let any notifications come through.
You have the option of ignoring the limit or extending your time another 15 minutes, but try to stick as closely to the rules you set as you can.
There’s also a setting for nighttime limits, which I’ve also started using. Starting at 9pm, my phone silences all notifications until 7am in the morning. Since turning this feature on my phone, I’ve noticed I fall asleep faster at night and I’m less likely to check my notifications first thing in the morning.
*Slowly steps off soapbox*
About the Author - Jen Wright
Jen Wright is a Mayo Clinic trained Wellness Coach, Certified Cycle Instructor, mom, and wife living in Minneapolis, MN. With over 10 years of experience in Marketing, Project Management and Leadership for corporations, Jen became passionate about helping others through their health and wellness journey after overcoming her own health challenges. Jen has since helped hundreds of others create healthier, happier and more fulfilled lives through her caring and strengths-driven approach to coaching.
For more wellness and success tips, follow The Driven Mama on Instagram: @TheDrivenMama