When Guilt Hits Like a Sledgehammer

[With the caveat that dads are fully capable of a complete range of emotions and have many complicated feelings upon becoming parents, including guilt, we’re going to focus on mom guilt today.]

After going through some method of adding a child to your life (none of them easy), you find yourself home rocking a screaming baby, and you find yourself squarely facing a series of other moms who are eyeing you with disappointment. The Mom You Thought You’d Be, the Mom Society Expects You to Be, and The Perfect Mom from Social Media.

Guilt hits like a sledgehammer when you’re at your most vulnerable — maybe still recovering from surgery, not getting a lot of sleep, struggling to recover your identity after a major life shift. If you return to work, coworkers’ comments (“Don’t you miss your baby?”) add to your own guilty fears of what you’re missing while at work. If you decide to leave your job, your partner’s money worries and your working mom friends’ discussions of their latest professional accomplishments might be adding to your own feelings of inadequacy. Breastfeeding, food, education, screen time, potty training — they’re all opportunities for guilt to rear its ugly head.

So how do we push past the guilt? Here are a few steps to take:

  • Accept your feelings. It’s impossible to have zero guilt. Greet it, acknowledge it, move on.
  • Find a safe space to vent. That might be a supportive online forum, a parent, a friend, a partner, a therapist, or just a journal.
  • Spin your negative feelings into positive. Instead of focusing on what you’re missing at work, remind yourself the great example of hard work and dedication you’re showing your child. Instead of beating yourself up because breastfeeding didn’t work out, think about how fortunate we are in our country to have safe formula and clean water.
  • Reject the “perfect mom” trope. Remind yourself that most of us only post the most positive pictures on social media and it’s not an accurate portrayal. If Facebook or Instagram is making your guilt spike, stop scrolling for awhile!

Sometimes having the judgement-free support of a postpartum doula who can just sit and listen is a game changer! But if the mom-guilt is too much and you’ve tried everything, you may need to seek out professional resources to help move past it. Let us know if you need assistance locating a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist. We’re connected to Postpartum Support International and can help!



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