We’ve all felt the mom guilt, haven’t we?
The mom guilt and the mom-shaming seems to be at epic levels, but have we ever stopped to consider if there might be some good to be found inside the messy mom guilt?
The other day I posted on my personal Facebook profile about how if something feels wrong to you as a mom, it probably is.
I thought this was a pretty innocuous statement. A mother’s intuition is a pretty common idea, and that’s what I was referring to. I was surprised when a few people contradicted me and even more surprised when the conversation turned to mom guilt and mom-shaming in our parenting choices.
It got me thinking about mom guilt and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, and are some moms confusing their own internal compass with mom guilt and mom-shaming?
Feeling bad isn’t always a bad thing
I’ve quoted Brené Brown before, and will again here.
Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is, “I am bad.” Guilt is, “I did something bad.” How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?” How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.
There is a purpose for guilt (and mom guilt).
It helps us know when we’ve screwed up. It’s part of our built-in guidance system for navigating life.
Unfortunately, guilt doesn’t feel all that great. It’s pretty uncomfortable, especially when we feel it in relation to something so important to us as being a mom.
While we shouldn’t feel overly guilty for making a wrong call as a mom, instead of just labeling all guilt we feel as “bad,” perhaps we should have a second look.
Today my daughter was really annoying me while I was trying to get some work done that I had totally forgotten about. I was behind on some important work for a client, and her incessant begging to paint rocks was just pushing me over the edge. So I snapped and yelled at her.
I then felt really freaking guilty. And the truth? I should! I was wrong, and I did something wrong.
But I didn’t just sit there and feel sorry for myself. I decided to rectify the situation. So I sat down with her and apologized for yelling at her. She told me she loved me and it was ok.
So the best thing I can do is view mom guilt as a tool that can point me in the direction of being a somewhat better mom. If I continually do that, then even if I’m not perfect, I’ll end being a pretty damn good mom.
I’m also teaching my daughter resilience and what to do when you screw up. Instead of pretending like I’m a perfect mom who is always right and she as the child is always wrong, I’m admitting that I make mistakes and am modeling to my daughter how you handle it when you mess up. You do your best to apologize and rectify the wrong.
Mom Guilt vs. Shame
Now, there is a toxic side to this, and that’s where the shame and mom-shaming come in. The best way to describe it (besides with Brené’s quote) is to think of guilt like constructive criticism you can use to improve, while shame and shaming are bullying either by someone else or yourself. The worst bully is usually ourselves.
Here’s how Brené compares shame and guilt:
“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change. “
“I’m just going to say it: I’m pro-guilt. Guilt is good. Guilt helps us stay on track because it’s about our behavior. It occurs when we compare something we’ve done – or failed to do – with our personal values. “
Shame keeps us as individual moms, and as a collective group, stuck. This is why there are still mommy wars and fights on Facebook mom groups.
It’s because all of us have some shame that we are hiding, and it gets poked sometimes. We aren’t able to change, adapt, and use it to grow yet, so we lash out.
But if we know what to look for, and are willing to be vulnerable, we can slowly start pulling back those layers of shame so that we can clearly see where the useful guilt is hiding. We can become happier and better people and moms.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it and it’s the way we shift the motherhood from a collection of cliques to a true community, sorority, safe haven, and a place we can all feel like we belong.
If we can start embracing the mom guilt and lean into that mom guidance we can start releasing some of the shame as well.
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