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Mother Guilt. Is It Killing You Slowly?

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

There is almost no mom out there that hasn’t felt guilt around parenting. How often do you allow guilt to eat at you over the choices you make? Guilt is where you judge yourself for not being enough, not doing enough and not fitting in other people’s standards of what is good, right, correct and appropriate. There are plenty of “hot” issues that moms can judge themselves about: breastfeeding vs. the bottle, staying at home or returning to work, being a single parent or co-parent, “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” food and diet, being a “cool and calm” mom vs. a helicopter mom—just to name a few!

If we don’t consciously choose beyond guilt, we can risk spending our parenting days destroying ourselves by feeling bad and wrong rather than actually embracing us and our kids. How do you want to spend your life with your children? Stuck in judgment and guilt, or enjoying everything possible? This is the question I asked myself when I finally decided to stop the parenting guilt that was killing my happiness.

I had always desired to be a mom, and yet over the years I became more and more unhappy, raising the kids at home in a small town, having almost no time for myself and feeling very isolated. I felt guilty for all the negative feelings and thoughts against my kids, while at the same time loving them so much. I couldn’t imagine talking to anyone about what was going on—I was sure no one would understand. So, I said nothing. All the while my nerves increased, and my patience lessened. I became annoyed and upset so easily and found myself shouting and screaming often. Then I’d feel guilty about that! I was trapped in a circle of guilt and nobody else could make it right for me.

I knew this way of being didn’t work for me, and it didn’t work for my kids. Most of all, I knew that if I was unhappy and feeling a lot of guilt, I would be teaching my children by example to create the same in their lives. I wanted all of us to have a different possibility, so I demanded of myself to choose a radically different perspective: to stop judging me.

Rather than feeling guilty for what I desired as a parent, I stepped away from seeing myself through other people’s ideals and standards and asked, “What parent do I want to be?”

I began eliminating my parenting guilt by choosing to see the contribution I am as a parent, and using some simple yet dynamic perspective-changing tools:

  1. Every day be grateful for you. Ask, “What am I grateful for about me?” Think of at least 3 things each day that you are grateful for with being a mom and having kids.

  2. Stop judging you. Re-train yourself: every time you catch yourself in a judgment or criticism, see a big red stop sign! Replace the judgment with acknowledgment. Ask yourself, “What gift am I in my life and my kids’ lives that I have never acknowledged before?”

  3. Is the guilt really yours? Guilt is something we learn to do, it isn’t natural. Mostly all of the points of views we are trying to live up to are taught to us by others. We often take them on automatically without question. But when we try to live by other’s ideals, it doesn’t “feel” right. When something is right for you, it has a sense of lightness and spaciousness. When we aren’t living true to ourselves, it feels heavy, and gets heavier. If you are having a feeling of guilt and it doesn’t feel light or expansive to you, ask, “Is this mine or someone else’s?” In fact, anytime you feel wrong—is it yours? Or is it someone else’s judgment you were taught to take on? What if you never had to live up to any judgment, opinion or standard – what would you choose that works for you and your kids?

  4. Trust yourself and what you know. What is your way of parenting that you are good at? What works for you? What can you do and be for your kids that no one else can, because they aren’t you? What if you trusted that you have everything you need to be a great mom, and embraced what is different and unique about you?

  5. Start every day new. Don’t live from yesterday. If you keep looking back, you invite guilt back in. Start fresh every day and open up to new possibility, fun and adventure. Start each day wondering what is possible now and what adventures can you and your kids have today?

  6. Having more fun as a parent. To discover what I desired as a parent, and what my children truly required from me, I began asking questions of myself and my children:

  • What do my children require from me?

  • What do I require from me?

  • Kids, what would work for you today?

  • What would work for us today?

  • What would work for me today?

Asking these questions regularly has allowed me to acknowledge that my kids really don’t have any points of view about me parenting them! In truth, the only thing children really don’t want is being told they are wrong. All the considerations I had judged myself for (am I right and wrong, do I spend enough time with them or do the right activities with them, do others do better with them than me?) were not even a concern for them! For example, I am not the best entertainer for kids, I don’t play Lego or sit on the floor with my kids for hours, but what is really fun and easy for me is just being with them, going for walks, sitting and watching nature with them, and giving them cuddles.

When you are no longer fitting into parenting standards, you give yourself and your kids much more space and freedom. When I wake up in the morning and ask myself: “What parent to I want to be today?” I can take the things what work for me into my life, and not worry about the rest.

Parenting is not always easy and often quite challenging. Living from the place of guilt doesn’t make it easier. What if you would trust you and invite ease and joy into your parenting? What if your style of parenting doesn’t need to fit in other people’s worlds? What if you looked at what works for you and your kids, and most importantly: how much fun can you and your kids have together, just by being yourselves?

After completing her social work studies in Vienna, Doris Schachenhofer worked with children, homeless people, delinquent teenagers and prisoners transitioning back into the real world. As an Access Consciousness® facilitator, she now travels the world supporting people to be more of themselves. The classes she delivers both live and in online settings includes Right Voice for You, Being You, Conscious Parents and Conscious Kids, all specialty programs of Access Consciousness. Follow Doris here.


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