What is Mom Guilt?

From the moment I realized I was pregnant; I knew my life had changed. If someone had explained to me how deeply he would change my world, I could not have fully understood this change. Something we usually hear about is the bond that a mother and child have. Holding your baby right after they are born. Feeling a depth of love that is incomprehensible at times. It can be the start of mom guilt.

Something I have found present as well is guilt. I call it mom guilt. It’s the thing we feel when we choose ourselves over our child. From going out with friends or simply taking a shower. I have to remind myself of each time I make the choice of taking care of myself that I am also taking care of my child. This is modeling the appropriate way to treat yourself.

I have had so many parents, not just mothers, come to me and say they hate how they are exposing their children to their depression, anxiety, or other mental health symptoms. They feel immense guilt for it. Here is that guilt again! My response came from a place of knowing how that felt. Maybe not so much the extremes of my mental health. But the guilt of being a parent and worrying I might impact my child negatively.

Therapy is not selfish

I work with each parent who worries they are hurting their children by coming to therapy. Taking care of their mental health, is modeling how to address this when their child deals with it in the future. In a perfect world, our children would grow up without worries or problems. But realistically, we know this occurs. We may feel guilty as parents or caregivers for exposing our kiddos to challenging situations. Or we feel guilty for choosing to take care of ourselves first. We are actually providing them valuable knowledge of how to take care of themselves first in the future.

This does not make us selfish or teach our child to be self-centered. Yes, I have worried about those things too!  Instead, it teaches them that they are valuable, even when they feel down or vulnerable. They also learn that taking care of others is important, but so is taking care of yourself.

Quieting the Mom Guilt

The reason I bring up modeling this behavior and the importance is that it can help us quiet the “mom guilt.” We can remind ourselves, over and over again, that we are doing what is best for ourselves and our children – even if it means spending a few days at a crisis center or taking an extra lap around Target with a coffee for some peace of mind.

I have found sessions with my own therapist to be helpful. She helps remind me that taking care of myself is a must and that the guilt – is not a must, so we can work on giving those thoughts less and less attention over time. I’ve found that since I gave myself permission to take care of myself, I am able to be more present with my son and lean into the change that has occurred in my life, and really enjoy it – rather than fighting the way things are now and how they used to be.