Mom guilt is messed up. It’s useless, it’s detrimental to our happiness and well-being and unfortunately, it’s something most of us struggle with. Ask any woman with kids and she’s likely to agree: motherhood comes with a pressure to be ‘perfect’ and a sense that if we’re anything less than that, we’re failing. This pressure comes from society, through social media, from our own friends and family and even from ourselves (because whether we mean to or not, we let that mom guilt in and give it a home).
Eight years into motherhood, I haven’t successfully banished mom guilt. I still agonize over what ‘balance’ truly means and beat myself up for having a life of my own, but I’m trying. I’ve made progress, at least, and I’m here to offer some tips and reminders in hopes that your journey will be faster than mine. Here goes - how to be an amazing mom, perfection not included.
Show emotion - the good, the bad and the ugly
There are moms who refuse to cry in front of their kids, and then there’s me - I’m all about being open with my feelings, and that includes when I’m with my children. (After all, I expect the same openness from them.) Sometimes I’m all laughter and smiles and other times, I’m tired, frustrated or a crying mess. I even yell at my kids sometimes (gasp). But you know what? I’m never mean to them and I’m always loving (even when grumpy). I’ve created a safe place for them to express their emotions and I’ve demonstrated that I can do the same. People have good days and bad, so remember this: when your kids see your struggles or weaknesses, they’re seeing that their mom is human. That’s more than ok.
Be there when it counts (but let yourself have a life)
Sometimes, all our kids want is for us to show up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a soccer game, a piano recital, after school pick-up or bedtime at home - they just want us to be there and be present. When this happens, it creates a simple yet incredible connection and is a clear demonstration of a parent’s love. But remember: you don’t need to be there all day, every day. Being a good mom doesn’t mean turning off every other aspect of your life or putting your own needs at the bottom of the list. It’s not realistic to show up to EVERYTHING - some of us have jobs, school, recreational and social commitments or complications like shared custody. You’re going to miss bedtime some nights or have a meeting at the same time as an assembly - that’s life. Furthermore, you’re not a bad person if you skip a soccer game in favour of your monthly book club meeting. Balance means choosing your kids’ events sometimes and letting your own calendar take precedence other times. A mom who attends *most* of her kids’ hockey games is not a bad parent; she’s a well-balanced one. Be kind to yourself.
Make mistakes - and learn from them
Like all people, I occasionally screw up. I make us late for school because I wasn’t organized in the morning or I forget to dress my kids in blue on Blue Day (what is Blue Day? No one knows). Being a good mom isn’t about getting it right all the time - it’s about being real, and that means making mistakes. The secret is to own them, learn from them and demonstrate how to handle your fails like a boss. It’s also about knowing what’s truly a fail and what’s just a normal part of life - for example, not being able to volunteer on every field trip or bake cookies for every fundraiser. Doing the best you can is often better than doing EVERYTHING out of guilt or obligation.
One more thing about screwing up: I’m a pretty big proponent of apologizing for a mistake rather than making excuses for it. If you mess up, say sorry and move on - just don’t dwell in shame or let it ruin your week. (I’m also a big proponent of getting kids to remember things like Blue Day themselves because honestly, I don’t have space in my brain for that.)
Do what’s right for YOUR family
If your friend Jen creates an amazing weekly meal plan but you can’t seem to make it work, maybe it’s better suited to Jen’s family than to yours. Perhaps your kids are in all sorts of enriching extracurricular activities or maybe they watch movies in their pajamas all weekend. It doesn’t really matter, and there is power in recognizing this. Live your best life and own it, no matter what means to your family.
Love your kids no matter what
You do this already, of course, but remember: love counts for a lot. Keep at it. They love you, too.
Give yourself a damn break
Are you still beating yourself up because you missed that soccer game? STOP IT. Identify what makes you feel guilty or question yourself and then tell it goodbye, because there’s no room for that nonsense in your life. If your mother-in-law makes comments that hurt you, tell her to stop. If Instagram makes you feel bad, delete it from your phone. Treat yourself the way you’d treat a friend - if you’d insist that they’re a great mom even when they lose their patience or get McDonalds for dinner (again), offer yourself the same courtesy. You of all people need to be nice to yourself - it’s where it all begins. Create and cultivate what brings you joy. A happy mom is a good mom, and then everyone wins.