3 Science-backed strategies for helping you overcome mom guilt
1. Don’t magnify the issue; accept it and move on
One of the reasons for all the guilt is the human tendency to magnify offenses. Sometimes you’ll scream at your kid and use words that you shouldn’t.
Although it’s not OK that you lost it, it’s also not a federal offense. Obsessing over it while feeling guilty about it for months – even years – isn’t doing you or your kids any good.
If anything, it’s negatively affecting your relationship with your kids.
Remember, when guilt goes too far, it’s actually decreasing your motivation to do anything about it. You end up more self-critical and question your ability to be a good mother. All that self-criticism has a negative ripple effect on your actual abilities.
Instead of magnifying your offense, do the following anytime that you feel you’ve messed up:
- Calm yourself down using slow, deep breaths through your nose.
- Once you’re calm and able to think more clearly, identify what you did wrong. Be realistic about what happened and how you reacted. Be honest with yourself without going overboard.
- Identify a reasonable punishment that you consider positive parenting, given the offence (and go through with it). For example, you might help your six-year-old clean up a mess, after screaming bloody murder at him or her. Or you could help your teenager do their laundry, after swearing at them. This doesn’t mean you don’t punish your child for their bad behaviour, but it means you’re accepting the consequences for your own bad behaviour, too.
- Apologise to your child. This is difficult but will help you let go of it. It will also garner more respect from your child.
- Identify what you’ve learned from the situation and how you want to apply it moving forward.
You’ve probably heard that you should learn to forgive yourself. But that’s easier said than done. Moreover, it can backfire and make you less likely to learn from your mistakes or take responsibility for them.
Research suggests that having a more balanced, realistic view of yourself leads to more success and motivation than when you have an inflated or deflated self-assessment. Don’t obsess over your mistake or just let it go without feeling bad about it because that’s counterproductive.
Guilt isn’t something you must live with just because you work
2. Separate your self-worth from your behaviour
Sometimes, you feel like you’re a bad person because of bad behaviour. That’s when you need to invoke unconditional self-acceptance.
Unconditional self-acceptance involves separating yourself from your actions and behaviour. You might think that this is a way out of holding yourself accountable, but that’s not the case.
People who practice unconditional self-acceptance understand themselves better and are more capable of receiving negative feedback in a positive way.
You do this by changing your thoughts over time.
- Proactively decide that you want to accept yourself unconditionally. If you don’t, then you’ll never get there.
- Identify the thoughts and feelings that are preventing you from accepting yourself. You must work through these feelings and thoughts if you want to let go of them.
- Accept where you are now while working toward the future. This means being OK with where you are because you’re proactively working toward something better.
- Accept that self-care is about self-respect. That will help you to better prioritize it. Self-care has numerous benefits, including creating space to think clearly, lowering stress and anxiety levels, and building self-confidence. This will make it easier to start letting go of negative thoughts so that you can start accepting yourself fully.
3. Practice self-compassion
Self-compassion is about treating yourself with kindness and is associated with better self-worth. Being self-compassionate enables you to forgive yourself and move on. Not only will it help you to forgive yourself, it will make it easier to accept yourself unconditionally.
Just like in learning to unconditionally accept yourself, self-compassion requires consistent, intentional practice.
- Practice mindfulness meditation to become more aware of your thoughts and observe them
- Any time you feel guilt for something you’ve done, ask yourself how you’d treat your child or a good friend in the same situation
- Acknowledge your inner critic whenever it shows up and reframe it in a friendlier voice
- Use positive affirmations
Guilt isn’t something you must live with just because you work. Not only does it rob you of your joy as a mom, but it hurts your ability to be your best and therefore hurts your relationship with your child.
It’s time to adopt these practices so you can ditch the working mom guilt and start enjoying both your personal and professional life more. You deserve it!
Heather Moulder is an executive career and mindset coach, attorney, and founder of Course Correction Coaching who helps successful-on-paper-yet-unfulfilled-in-life professionals create a balanced, fulfilling life without sacrificing their success. Connect with Heather for weekly tips and strategies on creating success on your own terms.