Guilt – more specifically, the dreaded Mom Guilt. It’s like that annoying cellulite that exists, we know it’s there, we see it, we feel it, we cover it up, we even joke about it. But it haunts us.
Ok, so that was a bit dramatic – but seriously – mom guilt sucks. In so many ways. For now, however, I want to specifically address how mom guilt is contributing to an unhealthy future for ourselves and our families.
Mom guilt causes us to put our children, our spouse or significant other, our families and even our friends over our own selves on the priority list. In fact, often, we don’t even make it onto the priority list at all. (Wait a minute, you’re thinking – WE are SUPPOSED to be on the priority list???).
YES – we should be on the priority list, but instead, we mom’s trudge ahead each day, each week ensuring that our kids have fulfilling lives with what we deem to be appropriate activities, carting them around to their friends’ & their events. We make sure our families eat during the week, that their clothes are clean, that everyone wakes up and makes it to their respective locations timely. We ensure the house isn’t a garbage dump, we help with school projects, we make Target runs at 8pm for items needed the next day at school – essentially, we ensure everyone else’s lives are taken care of and functioning appropriately. Oh yeah, and don’t forget if you’re a working mom there’s that whole other job/career thing (no time to go into that right now ….).
Some of us even wear the guilt as a badge of honor (I am guilty of this by the way) – “Ohh, look at me and all the work I put in, all the things I do for you – never mind me, I’m fine – my life is fulfilling and I live to serve….” Hello martyr anyone? What is the cost of our martyrdom? What is the cost to our selves and our families down the road?
Well, if we don’t stop and jump off the guilt train, unfortunately the future is pretty bleak. Consistently putting others needs, others wants, and others priorities ahead of your own because you feel like you should, will only lead to overwhelm, anxiety, chronic stress, anger, frustration, feeling unappreciated, fatigued, uninterested in family time, lower libido, low self-esteem – I could keep going but I think you get the gist.
Let’s face it – being a mom is a lot of responsibility and a lot of work. And yes, it requires certain sacrifices to ensure that your children are happy and healthy and turn out to be (we hope) somewhat normal humans who contribute to this world and find their own dreams and live their own happiness. But recall – we mom’s also have our own dreams, our own lives, our own health and happiness to consider. If we are burnt out shells of ourselves who constantly are running ourselves ragged and ignore the toll on our bodies and minds – we will not have done our jobs as mothers. We would have modeled extremely poor behaviors for our families. We would be too tired, too fat and too diseased as we grow older to enjoy our children and someday maybe our grandchildren. We would have lost our spark for living. How, I ask you, is that being a good mom?
I believe that part of being a good mom is showing your children the importance of taking care of yourself – body, mind and spirit. Modeling behaviors that you want to instill in your children is the best way to teach them. Taking time for your self-care, putting thought and practice into what goes into your body, making time for exercise and fun – all of these habits will:
- Keep you calm so that you don’t morph into the crazy, at your wits-end mom who freaks out on her kids (don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about)
- Help you stay physically fit to keep up with your children and participate in activities with them over the years
- Help you feel better about yourself, happy, fulfilled and alive
- Help you look younger and grow old gracefully (by showing wrinkles and fat who’s boss)
- Help you want to stay connected and close to your partner and have a fulfilling sex life (this also helps you not become the crazy, rampaging mom I spoke about above)
- Help you live a long, healthy life and decrease or eliminate the chances that your children will have the burden of caring for you in their adult years
- Show your children that mom is important too and she is an actual person outside of the dirty laundry and messes she cleans up
- Provide for a positive family experience full of love and laughter
So – it’s time to give up the excuses, put the guilt behind you and start saying yes to YOU. Mom guilt is destructive and counter-productive to what we really want for our families. No more “because I should” or “because I have to” or “I’ll take care of me when I have time”. There is no one more important than you in your family – if you aren’t around to ground and center your family what would happen? I know I don’t want to know. I am now dedicated to catching myself falling into the guilt trap, stopping and redirecting myself. I am working hard at this because I want my girls to see positive examples of how they should take care of themselves and their families when they are older.
It’s a constant and conscious effort on my part – one that I have already felt the positive affects of. Just ask my husband (who is not the subject of my crazy, tired, angry and irrational tirades any longer)!