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How to Free Yourself from Mom Guilt

Mom guilt is real and it can become all-encompassing if left unchecked. But what exactly is mom guilt? An article from the Harvard Business Review sums it up this way: "Working moms are chasing the balance of working a job that they want and being the mom that they envisioned. They feel bad about letting their kids, team, or boss down, and also feel guilt about practicing self-care, remorse for not helping aging parents enough, or embarrassment about admitting their stress. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has left working parents — and in particular mothers, who still disproportionately take care of the housework and children — having to find solutions for education and childcare."

I have personally struggled with feelings of guilt from letting my son play on his tablet while I try to get some work done. My sister has told me she feels guilty when she doesn't have time to cook fresh food and gives her son something frozen. As working moms, we HAVE TO free ourselves from this guilt. Thankfully, HBR has these five tips to help us stop beating ourselves up.

  1. Forgive yourself. Letting go of guilt has to start with a commitment to stop beating yourself up over your choices and circumstances. Guilt gone awry turns into shame, and it is emotionally painful to constantly feel like you are a bad mom, a bad employee, or a bad friend. Instead, remember the reasons behind your choices. Every time you think to yourself, “I feel bad about __” replace that with, “I made that decision because ___” and then move forward.

  2. Revisit your values. One of the most grounding exercises people can engage in is getting clear about what their values and priorities are in life and then living life in accordance to them. So often people say one thing matters to them most, but they don’t live into those values.

  3. Ask for help. One of the hardest things for many women to do is to ask for help. Instead of asking for help, a working mom may just be fueling her stress by trying to do it all herself — then realizing that it is just impossible. Asking for help takes practice, but once you take a vulnerable step in doing so, others around you will start doing the same. Reach out to neighbors, personal friends, parents of your kids’ friends, your own parents, your in-laws, the aftercare program at school, or carpool parents. Before you know it, no one has to feel bad for asking, and it becomes a reciprocal relationship in which everyone benefits.

  4. Be "good enough" at home. We need to lower the bar from the perfect mom who can do it all, who does everything she “should” be doing, and is praised for her selflessness to the mother who reclaims her own life and takes care of herself. Rather than putting additional pressure on yourself, remember the basics. Realize the connection you can still have with your children by simply being “good enough.”

  5. Unfollow those that bring you down. Watching other people vacation, share their family photos, or publicize their latest promotion on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram is enough to drive a working mom to tears. The time you take to scroll on social media for connection is a time that needs to lift you up. If you find that a person or group’s posts consistently bring you down, unfollow them.

For more on letting go of mom guilt, read the full HBR article here.

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