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We’ve all had it. Felt awful about something we’ve done, said or not done. Guilt is a feeling we all experience in general life and mum guilt certainly pops up in parenting. But why? And what can we do about it?

Why do we get mum guilt?

When we feel guilty it’s because we’ve had a values conflict. Simple put we’ve acted in a way that goes against what we believe in. If we don’t believe something is wrong, then we don’t feel guilty about it. 

Why is such a strong part of motherhood?

We feel guilty when we act, or don’t act in way that we think a mother should be.

This can be because of our own value system and what we believe about parenting and raising children, or because of how we think others think we should act. When we feel guilty we have placed a judgement upon ourselves.

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Being overly judgemental of ourselves is not good in any situation, but it is worst when we judge ourselves by what others want us to do. Living our life and our parenting journey through others expectations is only going to result in heartache. 

“When we try to live up to other’s expectations, we will never feel good enough.”

It’s important to note that expectations are not all bad.

Realistic expectations are those that are practical for us to achieve. They are true to the type of mum we are and want to be. The do not play undue stress upon us. 

On the opposite, unrealistic expectations are those that are not practical and they’re stressful. Often, but not always, they aren’t reflective of the type of mum we want to be. And quite often they’re placed upon us by others. 

I’ve written before on how we can get clear on being the type of mum we want to be. If you haven’t checked out my post on it, then you can have a read of it here… What type of mum do you want to be.

Back to guilt… When does mum guilt happen?

A while back I surveyed mums in the Blissed Out Mums tribe about what they commonly feel guilty about. Do any of these ring true to you?

  • Going to work and loving my job
  • Not enjoying being at home with my kids (as I really love them and love spending time with them but all day everyday nearly sent me insane).
  • Letting my children have McDonald’s’ for dinner because it was easier after a late daycare pick-up after I’d been at work all day.
  • Having a messy house.  I just do not have enough hours in the day and I have elected to spend my cleaner money on an overseas holiday every year (which we take the kids with us).
  • For fighting with their dad in front of them.  My husband and I have a great relationship but we are both busy and tired and sometimes that means we argue.
  • For using the iPad and the TV as distractions do I can have down time
  • Making boring school lunches
  • Making up answers for questions I don’t know – I don’t know how clouds form!
  • For bribing my son to do his chores rather than just insisting that he do them
  • For the time I am not with them even though I know they are safe and happy and being with them all the time not what I want.

So what do we do? What do we do when we feel guilty? How can we get out of the spiral, lift ourselves out and have it be less of a negative impact on this journey of being a mum?

Overcoming Mum Guilt

1. Forgive ourselves

We have to forgive ourselves. If we’ve acted in a way, or said something that we don’t want to in order to move on we have to forgive. Our kids aren’t often old enough to say that they forgive us, so we must do it for them. 

How? Mirror work!

Simply go to a mirror, look yourself in the eyes and say 

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6 words and incredibly powerful. If you don’t have access to a mirror then you can simply say it in your head but it can often have not as powerful impact. If you’re up for it, put your phone on selfie mode and speak directly into the camera. 

When we forgive we can let go. Realise that a moment of not living up to expectations is just that, a moment and doesn’t last forever and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mum either. 

2. Do something pleasurable

Mum guilt is a negative emotion because it makes us feel bad about ourselves and our situation. Self-hatred doesn’t help anyone including our children. When we can’t feel good about ourselves, we can’t help our children feel good about themselves. 

Doing something pleasurable to lift us out of a negative emotion reduces our stress, helps us feel better and gain some perspective. Self-care is an essential foundation to motherhood.

A pleasurable activity could be something simple as having a cup of tea, or take some time out (even behind a locked bathroom door) to flick through social media. Or maybe something a bit more in depth, time away from the kids with a friend or out for some exercise in the fresh air. Self care is very personal, what refreshes one doesn’t refresh another. 

If you’d like some help working out specifically refreshes your cup, and how to implement it into your daily routine then I have this self-care for busy mums resource you can download.

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3. Talk it out

When we keep guilt inside and dwell on it, there’s no solution. It continues to make us feel bad about ourselves with no resolution. We can feel hopeless, as if we’re a bad mum or that we’ve ruined our children and our relationship with them. Although this is not the truth. 

To gain some perspective on it we need to get it out of our head. Talk to a non-judgemental friend or family member. Not just anyone, make sure it’s someone who can acknowledge your feelings, not just dismiss them and how you’re feeling. Connect with someone who can help you move forward and not wallow. A good support network is worth their weight in gold

4. Journal it out

If we can’t talk to someone, it can be very beneficial to journal out (you can even do both!). Journalling helps reduce our stress levels, improves emotional distress and helps us overcome guilt. 

How do we do it? It’s not simply about writing “Dear Diary, today…” There are four things to write about:

  • What happened – explore the situation in detail from your point of view and what may have been going on for your children.
  • How you acted – what did you do or say that you wished you didn’t do. Be objective, take the emotion out of it.
  • What do you wish you could have done. Here’s when you look at what other possibilities could have existed, in what way would you could have acted where you wouldn’t have felt as guilty. 
  • What can you change next time? The beautiful (and challenge) of parenting is that our kids will give us multiple chances to change our behaviour! Heres when you can plan what you can do differently. Think about the future and the positive possibilities. 

If you’re journalling and you start feeling negative, remember step one. Self-forgiveness! If you start to feel bad, say to yourself “I love you. I forgive you.”

We all will feel mum guilt at times through this parenting journey. It is a normal human emotion, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming negative experience.

If we use it as something that can motivate us to change, then it’s no longer destructive and just another part of being a mum what can help us move towards being the type of person, and mum that we want to be.

If guilt is becoming overwhelming for you and impacting the relationship you have with your child then maybe it’s time to ask for help. Motherhood can be hard. Please get in contact with me and we can chat. You can email me or I’d love you to jump over to Facebook and join my other awesome mums in the Blissed Out Mums Tribe. This is always a 100% judgement free zone!

Here’s to a guilt free motherhood!

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