Mommy Guilt: here to stay?

You’re a smart mommy.

You know how important it is for your children to eat real, nourishing foods, for them to get the sleep and exercise they need, to get out and get some fresh air.

You know how important it is to love them unconditionally, never yell or snap at them, empathize with them, listen to them, play with them and spend 1-1 time with them.

You’ve read up and spoken to professionals; you’ve spent time, money and energy on their education – and on yours.

You’re working hard to get 100% on this Being a Mommy test.

But some days (well, most days, if we’re all being honest), things aren’t perfect.

You spend more time on the phone when your kids are home than you should, you snap or even yell at them, the food you’ve prepared goes uneaten, or it gets eaten but it wasn’t the kind of food you want them to be eating, or … or … or …

Bottom line is: you flubbed.

And boy do you feel guilty about it.

Sometimes, we feel  justified in our feelings of guilt (I should feel that way!), and sometimes we kind of have this niggling feeling that maybe we shouldn’t feel guilty… but HOW?

How can you make a major flub and NOT feel guilty?

Who says?

[Before you dive in, grab a paper and pen — the questions here are prompts for you, and it can be super helpful to write this all out!]

The first thing that is helpful to notice is: who says you should feel guilty?

Where is that feeling of guilt coming from?

All of our feelings come from thoughts that Hashem sends to our heads. Our thoughts create our feelings, and, by extension, our reality: the way we perceive life.

So when you feel that guilt coming, ask yourself: where is this coming from? What’s the thought that’s bringing on that feeling?

And: who’s saying that thought? Maybe it’s you; maybe it’s someone else in your life; maybe it’s a younger version of you, or maybe it’s someone you don’t even recognize.

Where is this thought coming from?

And then ask yourself: is this thought helpful for myself and my life right now?

What was, was

Guilt is always about the past: If only, I should have, etc.

So remember: what was, was.

No one can change the past; what happened happened.

Feeling guilt can often make us feel “better” in some way — as though we’re atoning for, and therefore somehow rectifying, that mistake.

But all guilt does is keep you mired in the past. Guilt doesn’t let you move forward, make change do better next time.

(And now don’t feel guilty about feeling guilty!)

Oftentimes, guilt comes from unrealistic expectations of ourselves, or of our children. What are you really in control of, and what is the best you could have really done in that situation?

Be kind to yourself, honest with yourself, and allow yourself to lower your expectations if they really aren’t so reasonable, given the current circumstances.

Build a better way

Maybe it will be helpful to give yourself some space to mourn, in some small way, the choice that you didn’t make. 

Maybe it will be helpful to allow yourself to feel something uncomfortable for a little bit. 

Let yourself feel those, and then let yourself move on, and build a better way.

What can you do differently now that you have that information?

How can you make next time go easier, more smoothly?

What tools, resources, support can you utilize to make next time different?

How can you set things up better for tactical success?

And remember….

Motherhood is not a test. There is no such thing as getting 100% or an A in Motherhood. Motherhood is a journey, it’s a path of growing and learning – about ourselves, about our children, about life. 

And real life will never be perfect, never conform to a textbook. 

Real life is messy.

It’s a roller coaster.

It’s ups and downs, easier times and harder times, times that we may, externally, seem super-geshickt and capable, and times that we may not look capable at all — but we know, inside, how much we’re actually doing.

Remember to try your best.

And then to let go and daven.

Because, in reality, you’re not actually in control of how things turn out.

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