Disclaimer: Even if you’re not a parent, these tips can be helpful in transforming any nagging, pesky feelings like anxiety, other kinds of guilt, or plain old stress.
8 and a half months into this amazing and wild journey of motherhood and I’m beginning to see how detrimental a thing called “mommy guilt” can be. If you’re a mom or know someone who is a mom really well, then you probably know what I’m talking about. All those parenting books, “helpful” tips and pediatric association recommendations have wonderful intentions, but for those of us trying to do our absolute best with little sleep (or in my case, interrupted night sleep every few hours to dream feed) and high expectations and hopes for our incredible little humans we’re raising, the pressure to get everything “right” can feel unbearable at times and downright paralyzing.
When I was pregnant, I got a few books to begin “preparing” for motherhood but all the facts and information overwhelmed me and I knew that wasn’t the way I was going to figure things out. Trusting in my natural ability to mother was my intention and challenge. My husband and I thankfully took an empowering childbirth ed class called Birthing From Within, which focused more on our emotional preparation than on facts and information overload. That was the style that resonated most with me. I didn’t feel as much pressure to do things perfectly and it was really good preparation for the days, weeks and months that would follow with our baby girl.
But the darker days of winter arrived a few months after my baby girl was born, lack of uninterrupted sleep compiled and post-inaugural angst mixed with postpartum hormones and I slowly found myself easily overwhelmed, highly anxious, and at times feeling underprepared and inadequate at being a mother. It’s a truly awful feeling to not know what to do next when you know time is flying by faster than ever and you don’t want to miss a precious second with your growing and changing little one.
I think I went through a clingy phase just like my daughter experiences now. I grew her inside me and she was attached to me nursing for practically three months straight so I can see how hard it is for our babies to accept the fact we are separate beings because I had a hard time getting used to it too.
And then you begin to get used to being separated for a little bit longer, perhaps to get some self-care time in while your partner gets bonding time with the baby or if you decide to go back to work. But that realization can feel a bit depressing because you miss being so connected to another human being, to who you grew inside you. And wanting time for yourself can trigger the pesky “mommy guilt” alarm in your head…”What if my baby purple cries while I’m away?” And maybe even harder yet, “What if she doesn’t miss me? What if she does just fine?”
And then my milk comes in and my baby instinctively knows it and that intuitive, almost spiritual connection is felt again.
So how to transform Mommy guilt, that is the question. I like to enlist 3 of my favorite remedies that work for a lot of what ails me.
Apply these everyday if you can (or at least at first as often as you remember):
- A dose of MINDFULNESS–staying in the present moment and relishing in what you’re doing right now, in this instance (rather than dwelling in what you should have done or could have done if you’d known more, been smarter, read more, had more money, etc. etc. etc.) helps ground you and with grounding, you regain your footing and don’t feel as wobbly. Feeling secure in what’s happening in this moment is so important in building back our intuition and confidence.
- Daily GRATITUDE–remembering regularly how truly grateful you are for this precious human being you’ve brought into the world–it’s a kind of gratitude that is almost beyond words, I’ve found, but it’s necessary to reflect on it each day and dwell in thankfulness each day. And if it’s a really hard day, focusing on the air you’re breathing, on the roof over your head, and the bed you sleep in also help us soak up feelings of gratefulness. Those feelings are what fill our hearts back up when we are tired and/or feeling depleted emotionally from “mommy guilt.”
- More CREATIVITY–unleashing your creative side by doing something you love to do helps bring you into the present by focusing on that one thing, helps build back your confidence in yourself because you’re doing something you enjoy and grows your intuitive nature in the process as you create something new and reconnect with your joy. Trust me, I know there’s not a lot of time between naps and early (or late) bedtimes, but finding a little bit of time to create something at least each week will help. And it can be as simple or complicated as trying a new recipe, ripping up paper and making a quick mosaic or mini collage/vision board, coloring (inside or outside the lines!), singing, taking pictures, knitting, dancing, writing, whatever it is that you enjoyed creating before you created a beautiful little human.
When we feel more grounded and our intuition and confidence are back up, we can better tackle nasty things like “mommy guilt.” We’ll recognize the nagging feelings more quickly and apply any and all of these remedies to them before they get the better of us.
If you need support, I became a certified transformational life coach to be able to help inspire people on their journeys to greater wellness, creativity and joy for life. I’m happy to help. Send me a note here, even if just to say hola! And sign up for my free Creative Stress Management newsletter here.
If you’re sleep deprived and just barely getting through this blog post, know at least this: you are IMPORTANT and it is necessary for us to praise all the AMAZING things we do and treat ourselves with the same KINDNESS we offer to our sweet babies or other people’s sweet babies.
With love and gratitude,