Mommy Guilt Tripping?
By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW
Lately I’ve noticed that many people in my life have been feeling enormous guilt. It’s become an epidemic, really. These people all have something in common. It’s not that they’ve all cheated on their spouses, stolen, or committed murder. It’s that they are mothers.
“Mom guilt” is a term that has been circulating. It’s understandable in a way, because with motherhood comes an unmatched sense of responsibility that really begins with pregnancy. It may feel like there are so many choices to make, and what if you make the “wrong” choice? Epidural or natural birth? Breastfeeding or formula? Co-sleeping or let the baby cry? Stay-at-home mom or daycare or nanny? Every day there seems to be a multitude of decisions to make, and These. Will. Shape. Your. Child. Eeeek!
The associated sense of guilt that comes along with all of these tough decisions typically comes from two sources. The first, shockingly, is other moms! In the daily struggle of trying to decide what is best for you and your child, chances are you consult with other mom-friends to see what they are doing. And, likely, they will tell you. If this differs from your gut instinct of what to do, you may be made to feel guilty. This may seem surprising, but with online mom “support” groups growing, people feel the need to not only offer their experiences and opinions, but also, it seems, pass judgement and belittle the choices of others. I’ve been witness to full-out hatred and bullying that stemmed from a simple request for bottle recommendations. “Bottles?! Why aren’t you breastfeeding? That’s the best source of nutrition, you know. Don’t you care about your baby?” How harsh! What may be best for one mother and baby is not always best for another. One mother’s experience on any given matter does not dictate what is best for everyone in a group forum. My advice is to take any opinions you receive with a grain of salt. People become very “brave” online and say things on a computer screen that they wouldn’t dream of saying in person. If you’re feeling more bullied than supported in your group forum, perhaps it’s worth rethinking your participation. Find a few people you trust, whether it’s your own parent/parent-in-law, friend, sister, doctor (always the best choice for health-related matters!) and hear out their opinions. And then, chances are, you should listen to your gut. Everyone in the world may like reusable cloth diapers, but if it doesn’t work for your lifestyle, then disposable may be the best thing since sliced bread. If that is what is best for your family, you have made a great decision. Way to go, Mom!
The second source of guilt is, drumroll please, yourself. Sound familiar? Human beings are hard on themselves by nature, but self-inflicted motherhood guilt seems to be another animal entirely. How do you feel about the decisions you make? Do you lie awake at night wondering if you’re a horrible parent for letting your one-year-old try a taste of pizza or cupcake at her birthday party? There is, however, good news. If you are experiencing guilt or concern about your decisions, the probable reason why is simple: it is because you care. Chances are you want the best for your baby, which is why you grapple with the little decisions that, by the time your child is a teen, will probably be long forgotten. So try not to sweat the small stuff. Remember that by being such a caring mom, you are inherently making good decisions. If you experience that guilty twinge, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that if it’s what you think is right, it probably is.
Parenting is the hardest job in the world! Cut yourself some slack. Congrats on getting through every day, and enjoy being rewarded by you baby’s beautiful smile.
Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW.