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Inside: The different types of mom guilt that we feel and how to turn this mom guilt into something useful!
This is a special guest post by Meg Faherty of The SAHM Life Coach
Mom guilt. We can’t escape it!
Perhaps you feel guilty for not having more one-on-one time with each child.
Maybe you feel guilty for going back to work after having a baby. Maybe you feel guilty for NOT going back to work! Maybe you feel mom guilt because you allowed your child to spend several hours in front of a screen.
The list is endless.
Much of the advice we are given is that mom guilt is something to tolerate, push aside, or even reject.
But what if mom guilt isn’t always bad? What if it could be useful? What if it’s trying to tell us something?
In this post, we will take a look at the different types of mom guilt and find ways to turn it into something positive.
Let’s take a closer look at guilt.
I like to categorize guilt in one of two groups:
Circumstantial guilt and alignment guilt.
Circumstantial Guilt: What Is It?
Circumstantial guilt is when we feel guilty for something that’s outside of our control.
- This type of guilt can happen when our child gets hurt or ill.
- It’s the type of guilt we feel when we can’t enroll our child in gymnastics because there’s no room in our budget.
- This type of guilt happens when we have an obligatory work event on the same day as our child’s soccer tournament.
The circumstances are not up to us and yet we feel guilty.
What to do about circumstantial mom guilt
Why should we listen to circumstantial guilt?
More importantly, why should we listen to circumstantial guilt when the cause of it is out of our control?
As a life coach, I challenge clients to listen to their negative emotions ESPECIALLY when the circumstances are out of our control.
If our loved ones are in pain, we are bound to be in pain, too.
It’s only natural, as moms, to feel empathy when our loved ones are suffering.
When you have to miss a soccer tournament because of a work trip, it’s okay to sit with the feelings of disappointment and guilt.
It’s also okay for your child to do the same! But eventually, we have to put it down. If we dwell on it too much, guilt can turn into shame, and then we will have made more work for ourselves.
Feel the guilt.
Hold space for the guilt.
Empathize with those who also feel it. And then try and let it go.
Can we take it a step further and turn the guilt into something useful?
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How can I make this mom guilt useful?
Okay so back to your feeling guilty about missing your kiddo’s soccer tournament for a work trip
Perhaps when you return from the trip, you could plan to set aside time to focus on a positive connection with your child.
By actively doing something (planning quality time with my child), you can send a signal to your brain about what you want it to focus on.
Focus on a benefit, not the guilt.
Not only are you setting a positive example of how to handle negative emotions, but you’re going the extra mile to make sure your connection with your child is strong.
Do you see how the guilt has turned into something more useful… even beautiful?
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Value-Based Guilt: What Is It?
Let’s move on to the second type of mom guilt.
This type of guilt happens as a result of our behavior.
In fact, something we’ve done (or didn’t do) is the direct cause of this type of guilt. This type of guilt is trying to signal us.
It’s trying to tell us that we can do better. But we can’t really identify this second type of guilt until we get clear on our values. Let me explain:
This type of guilt is called value-based guilt.
Get clear on your values
Our values are shaped by our upbringing, our culture, our religious background, and our family’s priorities.
YOUR family has unique values about how you behave within your home and how you show up outside of your home.
One commonly discussed virtue in parenting circles in our modern age is that of screen time.
Example of value based mom guilt
Some families have a very strict no-screen policy.
Some allow a certain number of minutes (or hours) per day or they allow certain screens after a certain age.
Other families allow screens as long as a checklist that includes reading and chores are accomplished first.
The rules about this modern-day question of how much screen time to allow is very individual. It also seems to be a universal experience that we feel guilty when we allow the screen time to go unchecked.
In order to get better at understanding WHY we feel guilty, we need to home in on what exactly we value.
Imagine a line or a spectrum. On one end is zero screen time. On the other is unlimited screen time. You get to pick a spot on the line that you think works for your family. This spot shows what type of screen time you think is appropriate. However, when your action starts to veer away from that spot, you might feel guilty.
I call this the ‘Guilt Gap.’
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The Guilt Gap
This gap is the space between where we THINK we should be on a spectrum with regard to this particular value (screen time) and where we ACTUALLY are.
We should listen to this type of guilt. We can view it as a guide.
This feeling of guilt is telling us that we’ve deviated from one of our values. If we want to feel less guilty and more aligned we can do one of two things: bring our behavior back toward the spot we deemed ideal or adjust the original position on the spectrum.
Perhaps you and your spouse are both working from home and you rely on screen time more throughout the day. Or perhaps you find yourself newly pregnant with some morning sickness that has knocked you off your feet.
Normally, you would put a cap on your child’s screen time. But because of unplanned work responsibilities or health issues, you DO have the option of moving that original spot on the spectrum.
You CAN adjust the amount of screen time your child gets each day, guilt-free in these hard seasons. After all, these values are meant to serve us.
How to Beat Mom Guilt:
- Set realistic expectations
- Set time aside for quality time with your kids
- Make time to take care of yourself
Final thoughts On Mom Guilt
Mom guilt is here to stay!
But hopefully, with a little practice, we can see it as a guide and as something we can use to our advantage.