Letting Go of Mom Guilt
The painful twist in my heart, the tight pull in my belly, the shiver across my shoulders, and of course the tears welling in the corners of my eyes. It is that now familiear but once foreign feeling.....MOM GUILT. It can come up any time and any where. Mom guilt is triggered by the biggest of choices and the smallest of events. It is as if mom guilt came in the job description of motherhood, yet it is a task that serves very little purpose compared to the enormity of the feeling.
Mom guilt reaches even the tiny pockets of time I get to spend alone, reclaiming lost energy and nourishing myself. I have never met a mom that has not experienced mom guilt regularly. It can be as pervasive as air and can turn the most positive of intentions into negative experiences.
Guilt is a normal feeling but excessive, non-contained guilt can lead to anxiety and depression. It can feel like a wet blanket that you can't get rid of. To preserve a healthy heart and healthy mind, we need to keep guilt in check. As with any emotion, guilt is influenced by your thoughts and beliefs. If your thoughts sound something like "I don't deserve time for myself," (a shame-based thought) or "Good moms are always with their children," (a rigid thought of judgement) or "If I do/don't do XYZ something bad will happen" (a fear-based thought), guilt may be a prevalent emotion. Guilt lets you know you are "going against the rules." The rules are often set by you, or others in your past or present, and are rigid and unattainable.
In order to let go of guilt, changing your thoughts is the first step. Notice the thoughts your are having about a situation that is succeeded by a feeling of guilt. See if there is inflexible language being used. In the above examples, there is a flavor of either/or thinking. The goal is to soften the edges of the thought by restating in more flexible terms. "Every human needs a chance to recharge," or "it is unrealistic to always be with my children," or "I am choosing to XYZ and my children are safe."
Notice how you may feel better just by shifting your thoughts in this way. Next, acknowledge whatever feelings are present, whether they are positive, negative, or neutral. As you acknowledge them, fully accept them as part of your experience. Validate your emotions, as each one is okay to have and are only temporary.
The last step is bring all your attention and awareness to your next task. Whether you are at work, a friend's home, running errands, or taking time for self care. Allow yourself to be in the moment. If thoughts of judgement or criticism come up, gently acknowledge and let them fade into the background. Refocus your attention.
As with anything, letting go of guilt is a practice. By allowing yourself to journey through life in this way, you are building emotional resilience and your ability to be present and accepting of yourself. Each time you practice it, a new layer will emerge and be released. Just take it one step at a time mamas, there is no rush to these things.