Super Mom is a myth: Dealing with Mommy Guilt is real
Posted on October 06 2017
“Trying to be Super Mom is as futile as trying to be Perfect Mom. Not going to happen”
- Arianna Huffington
“Do what you can, with what you have where you are”
- Theodore Roosevelt
“There will be so many times you feel like you’ve failed. But in the eyes, heart, and mind of your child you are a super mom”
- Stephanie Precourt
These above three quotes are different but related. There’s a string of emotion that ties them together very closely. If you’re a parent, especially a new mother, “Mommy Guilt” is something you’d be oh so familiar with. Unfortunately, society may chide you by saying “it’s all in your head!” But mother’s guilt is real, experienced by a majority of new mothers. All moms, at some point in their new role, think they are not good enough. No matter what we do right as parents, we tend to more often focus on our failings.
Let’s take a simple example: Ayesha had a baby last year. When her daughter Lisa was just born in the hospital, the nurses urged her to send the new-born to the hospital nursery so the mother could get some rest and recovery time. Even though this was professional advice and it was for Ayesha’s benefit, she felt very guilty “abandoning her new daughter.” She felt it was not “mother-like behaviour.”
How many of you Moms have experienced this guilt or feeling of underperforming? Whether you’re a recent mother or have an older child, Mommy guilt stays for a while.
WHY MOMS FEEL GUILTY
“Moms today believe that they should be focused on their babies like a laser beam, so when they take a moment for themselves, they feel like they're being neglectful," expresses Susan Douglas, coauthor of The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women.
Here are some common reasons for Mommy guilt:
Feeding your baby formula
It’s going to be very normal for you to get looks from mothers or women around you, when you pull out that bottle to feed your crying toddler. But your reasons to feed formula are your reasons only. And there’s absolutely no need to share these reasons as to why you have replaced or supplemented breastfeeding with the bottle. Lastly, remember: you are not the only formula-feeding mom in the universe!
Using TV/YouTube as a babysitter
Let’s face the facts. No matter how hard we try as mothers or caregivers, some form of entertainment is required to give us a break. The key to this is moderation and control of content. If your child is below 2 years old, keep the viewing time to a minimum, and break it into 15-minute chunks. Make sure you or your spouse watch the programs with your child, and ensure the programs are age appropriate.
Feeding your child “other” foods
Your family decides to go to McDonald’s or order in some fast food. And your child inevitably reaches out for some fries or a piece of cake. Do not embark on that guilt trip. Just as we said it with the television, the key here is moderation and smart choices. The universe knows you’re taking painstaking efforts to cook/make healthier options on the other days, and once in a while you may not have the time or energy to repeat this routine. Or you could be at a social event where all the food is “adult” food. It’s okay for your child to nibble on other food, as long as it is supervised and your child is not allergic to anything specific.
Disciplining your child
Every parent needs to discipline their child, especially during the formative years of conditioning. It’s necessary the children know what behaviour is right and acceptable and what is not. Sometimes, just sometimes, you are overcome by stress or irritability and you lash out at your child unintentionally. It’s okay. Take a deep breath and then take another. Remember, you’re not the first Mom to do something you perhaps could have avoided. Stress triggers are constantly around mothers. And it takes a lot of maturity and conscious thinking to cope with these triggers. If you feel you have frequent outbursts that are irrational, then take a step back and discuss this with your spouse. Try to see what are the common factors in these situations that are causing you to “react” in this manner. Look for the solution; don’t focus on the problem.
Leaving your child with a caregiver
Whether it’s your parents or your in-laws or the creche at office or a new playschool, it’s OK to keep your child in another’s care. Asking for help is one of the biggest signs of courage and sensibility. There’s no need to be a martyr and feel like you need to be able to manage everything because this is your child and hence your responsibility. Make sure you whet the background of the caregiver (if not a family member) and take all the precautions your instinct tells you to, and you will be just fine. Ignore the people (and there will many) who are always standing by to give you plenty of advice and lip sympathy.
Giving your child more than you can
Affordability and financial comfort are important things that few discuss when they decide to start a family. It’s a huge toll on the family’s finances once the baby is born. And no matter how well you’re doing otherwise, there’s always situations where you feel like you could not give your kid as much as you’d want or as per his/her demand. Whether they’re toys or clothes or holidays or activities, it’s okay to say NO. Sometimes, we feel overcome by guilt of neglecting or not giving enough time to our child, and we compensate by buying them expensive gifts or indulging them in activities that would otherwise need some proper thinking. Your kids will love you no matter what, so next time you feel you’re not doing/giving enough, smile and let go.
As a new mother, acknowledge that your guilt is “real.” There is no benefit in pretending that it’s imagined or in your head. It is also probably not the last time you will see “mommy guilt”. Embrace it, validate it and respect the difficulty and significance of being a mother. You are not just a mother but you are also a living, breathing human being first.
Five points to remember (and repeat to yourself when in doubt!):
- A messy house does not make me a bad mom
- Letting others help me take care of my child does not make me a bad mom
- Expecting my spouse or partner to chip in more than before does not make me a bad mom
- Not knowing or having answers to everything does not make me a bad mom
- Random waves of sadness or grief hitting me during the day does not make me a bad mom
There’s always been a belief that women can do anything. From having a successful career to becoming a mother to raising kids and looking after the household, there’s nothing a woman should grumble about.
But let’s be clear about something: none of this is true or realistic! It’s a great premise for movies and books and all things fiction. But for real mothers, it’s time to hang up that cape and, along with it, all the expectations that you or society placed on yourself. It’s okay, let go and enjoy the present.
Author: Sneha Bhat
About: Sneha is an independent writer and book editor who loves good food, good design and a fantastic cup of tea. When she's not telling stories, she enjoys yoga and reading.