I’m sitting here writing this blog post as our four-year old son practices the ax kick he learned in Tae Kwon Do. He insisted on wearing the Miles Morales Spider-Man Costume that is such a pain to put on; the individual fingers on the glove never want to cooperate! Did I mention that he has yet to turn off the annoying jingle that has been playing on a loop from his keyboard for at least 3 minutes? That’s a long time when it’s the same obnoxious melody! Yea, Sis, it’s time to get away. I’m dying to plan a girls trip! The world is slowly opening again and I want to make good on all those promises to saying “yes” instead of turning down an adventure.
And yet, how is it then that I feel discomfort when it’s time to pack? This nagging feeling keeps me from agreeing to the weekly coffee with friends. Taking time to engage in self-care, adult conversation, and a well-deserved break from parenting is almost blasphemous. At least, this is how I interpret the tug in my spirit.
I’ve been having this conversation with friends about Mom Guilt lately. It’s been a stressful time for many of us who are parenting, given the increase in responsibilities over the last year in quarantine. As the great Maxine Waters says, “Reclaiming my time…” is crucial. Here are a few tips to addressing the nagging nature of Mom Guilt.
Brene Brown freed me with the clarification of what guilt is. She distinguishes between shame and guilt; she tells us the latter means “I did something wrong”. Shame says “You are bad”, which has us internalizing and berating who we are as a person. With this in mind, the concept of Mom Guilt needs to be made plain with a simple question: Did I do something “bad” or “wrong” when considering taking time to myself? If you consider all the wonderful things you do to care for your family, sometimes above your own needs, then I’m sure you can answer “no” to the question. A follow up question to consider regarding shame can be: Am I a bad person for wanting to take 30 minutes to read a book? The more you practice being intentional to redefine these terms, the easier it will be to talk yourself out of Mom Guilt.
Consider your attachment style.
I write about the 4 styles of attachment in my book, Daddy Issues. This concept helps us to better understand what gets in the way of us feeling secure in relationships. Are you more distant rather than engaging and involved with your friend or lover? Do you find yourself being a “helicopter parent”, one who hovers over their child’s every move? If you identify with the last question, I’m willing to guess that you may have an anxious attachment style... so, no wonder you’re experiencing Mom Guilt! Those of us with an anxious attachment style are more willing to sacrifice our own needs to make sure the other person is happy. So, when your friends invite you for coffee, you think of how little Timmy needs you more than your friends when he’s probably dying for some space of his own! How do you think your ability to be secure in who you are in a relationship impacts your guilt? Sit with that.
Become familiar with your values.
I encourage my therapy clients to take an inventory of their values system. How do you prioritize family? Finances? Respect? Loyalty? How do these things change on the list in order of importance after a life event? Knowing these things help you draft a personal mission statement by which you can make decisions about boundaries, who to have in your space, and when to say “yes” to you! For example, if you know having peace is a value, then it’s time to work in more time for yourself. I’m sure it will only make you that much more ready to be the mom you want to be.
Society dictates that women sacrifice everything, wear the cape at all times for everyone else, and put herself last. We are just recently experiencing a collective awakening that says otherwise. Choose to model for your children the importance of self-care and independence. My hope for you is that you can stop carrying the burden of Mom Guilt for your fulfillment and ability to give from a more whole self.