Definition: Guilt felt for not being the “perfect” mom. Usually accompanied by self-blame for everything that goes wrong.
You may be addicted to Mom Guilt if:
- you find yourself constantly thinking about the things you didn’t do instead of praising yourself for what you did right
- you compare yourself to other moms and think “Well, if she can do it, why can’t I?”
- you have five minutes of time to yourself and feel bad for enjoying it
- your husband changes the baby’s diaper once a day and your hands itch because you “should” be doing it
- you sneak a piece of candy from your child’s “potty treat” stash and feel bad for it
- you notice other moms color/paint/craft more with their children and regret putting on that second episode of Sesame Street
- you give your child chicken nuggets for dinner (from the bag, no less) and hate yourself for hours afterward
- you lose your patience and yell at your child and wonder if he/she will be scarred for life as a result
- you always feel that your house just isn’t clean enough
Mothers of children with special needs often suffer from Mom Guilt of a different kind. In addition to regular Mom Guilt, you also might have a tendency to feel guilty for the following:
- Your child doesn’t behave as well as the other kids in class (or on the playground, or at a play date)
- Your child doesn’t talk as well as other kids his/her age
- Your child doesn’t have any desire to do activities with you
- Your child, at the age of 3 (or later), isn’t potty-trained yet
- Your yelled at your child after a very hard day (guilt x 3 because he/she has special needs)
These lists are not meant to be all-inclusive, but merely examples of all the things we, as mothers, blame ourselves for.
Side effects of Mom Guilt include: anxiety, self-doubt, stress, fatigue, and irritability.
Mothers of all children suffer from Mom Guilt periodically. And if you don’t, please share your secret! Seriously!
The truth of the matter is that we are human beings and, unless you were born on Krypton, we do not have super powers. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive. But, really, I’d settle for just having endless patience. But like you, I do not. There are days that I yell at Squeakers and thinking, “Well that wasn’t productive at all.” And then, when he screams and bites himself because I yelled, I really beat myself up. Mom Guilt. We all feel it.
Unfortunately, there is no 12-step program for Mom Guilt Addiction. That is, unless you count the 12 (giant) steps from the couch to the kitchen for a glass of wine. However, I must caution you, if you suffer from Mom Guilt Addiction, that glass of wine will probably just exacerbate the problem.
Here’s the thing, though. Feeling guilty doesn’t make anyone feel better. You can beat yourself up all day long, but who does that help? Answer: NO ONE!
So what CAN you do?
- If you feel guilty about something that you can change, change it. Figure out what steps you can take to fix it. You may not be able to fix it in one day, but look for the ways in which you’ve made things better. If you see yourself backtracking instead of heading in the direction you wanted to go in, think of what you can do differently.
- If you feel guilty because you’re comparing yourself to other moms, stop it! We are all individuals. We all do things differently. Just because Suzy next door cooks everything from scratch, mops her floors twice a day, and still has time to make pottery with her kids doesn’t mean that you should. Suzy is probably crazy, anyway. And if she isn’t, she will be soon. No one can keep up that pace forever!
- If you feel guilty for things that, in the long run, don’t really matter, it’s time to let it go! If the results of what you did (or didn’t do) don’t seriously negatively impact others, what does it matter? Okay, so you didn’t clean the toilets today. Or maybe you didn’t make it to that birthday party. Things happen during the day that you cannot control sometimes.
For those of us with kids who have special needs, it can be easy to wonder if there is something you could’ve done differently. The truth of the matter is, in most cases, what you did or didn’t do doesn’t matter. Your child doesn’t have a speech delay because you didn’t talk to him/her enough. Your child’s refusal to use the potty isn’t because you didn’t try hard enough. Your child doesn’t have autism because you did something wrong. If you are already doing what you can to help your child, you should give yourself a pat on the back.
Also remember this: Every parent loses their patience at some point. If you have a child with special needs, you may lose your patience a bit more often. As long as you know that your child feels loved and you aren’t yelling at him/her all day long, chances are, you losing your patience once or twice a day isn’t going to damage your child.
It can be hard to have a child who cannot express him/herself well verbally, who has difficulty socializing, who has extreme sensitivity to noises/smells/etc, who isn’t able to do much for him/herself, and/or who has behavior issues. If you feel like you aren’t handling things as well as you should or your child’s needs are too much for you, there is nothing wrong with seeking help for yourself. You have to be healthy and happy if you want your children to be healthy and happy.
Do you suffer from Mom Guilt Addiction?
PS: I am currently in recovery from Mom Guilt Addiction. I just got my 30 Second Token.