Motherhood is a life-altering journey filled with love, joy, and precious moments. It's an experience that brings so much fulfillment and purpose. We are also all familiar with chaos of parenthood, and the lovely mom guilt that follows. Mom guilt is a powerful and often overwhelming emotion that can and does happen to even the most confident moms. For new moms, this emotional rollercoaster can be particularly challenging as they navigate the newborn phase. Let's take a moment to dive into the world of mom guilt. Where does it come from, and strategies overcoming it to boost your self-esteem and embrace the role as a mom.
Understanding Mom Guilt
Defining Mom Guilt and Its Sources
Let's start with defining what mom guilt is. Mom guilt is the overwhelming sense of inadequacy or regret that many mothers, especially those in the early stages of motherhood, experience. This can pop up in any aspect of parenting no matter what your circumstances are. It often stems from the impossibly high standards and expectations placed on new moms, both by society and ourselves. The sources of mom guilt are as diverse as motherhood itself and can include concerns about work-life balance, choices related to child-rearing, and even caring for yourself. We often think that we can do it alone, and when we can't (because it is impossible to do) we have intense mom guilt.
The Impact on Self-Esteem
Mom guilt, when left unchecked, can have a significant impact on a new mom's self-esteem. This complex emotional struggle can manifest in various ways:
1. Increased Stress and Anxiety:
New moms who are dealing with mom guilt often find themselves trapped in a never ending cycle of stress and anxiety. The pressure to be the perfect parent, with the fear of making mistakes, can take a huge toll on your mental and emotional well-being. This constant state of heightened stress can lead to health issues, bonding with the baby, disruptions in sleep and even impact the ability to function effectively in daily life.
2. Feelings of Inadequacy:
One of the most hardest aspects of mom guilt is the feeling of inadequate. New moms are dealing with societies expectations and idealized images of motherhood. These are often fueled by social media and popular culture where we are not actually getting the full picture. Not only do we have to compare ourselves to the moms around us, but we now can compare ourselves to every mom on the planet. The result is the belief that we are not meeting these unrealistic standards, which can lead to feelings of deep inadequacy.
These feelings of inadequacy can be especially difficult for new moms, who may be adjusting to huge shifts in multiple areas of life. Instead of acknowledging the efforts and the love we provide to our child, we focus on perceived shortcomings. "Why am I not getting outside? Why am I bored at home with my baby? Why can't I get him to stop crying? Why can't I tell the difference in their cries?" Over time, this erodes self-esteem, making it difficult to see value in being a mother.
3. Negative Self-Talk:
Mom guilt often involves a relentless barrage of negative self-talk. New moms may find themselves engaging in harsh self-criticism, berating themselves for perceived parenting failures. This negative self-talk can manifest as a harsh inner voice that constantly reminds them of their perceived shortcomings.
4. Isolation and Loneliness:
Mom guilt can isolate new moms from their support networks. Either you don't have one yet, or your old supports don't feel safe anymore to talk about mom guilt. Moms withdraw from social activities or avoid seeking help, fearing judgment or criticism. This isolation can increase the feelings of inadequacy and sink self-esteem even further.
5. Impact on Partner Relationships:
The strain of mom guilt can also affect relationships with partners. The constant worry and self-criticism can create tension and misunderstandings. Communication may suffer, and affecting a new mom's self-esteem and sense of connection.
6. Influence on Parenting Choices:
Mom guilt can influence parenting choices, sometimes leading to decisions made out of fear rather than what is genuinely best for the child. This can create a cycle of guilt and self-doubt.
7. Physical Health Effects:
The emotional toll of mom guilt can spill over into physical health. Sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, and other physical symptoms may happen, further impacting self-esteem.
Strategies for Overcoming Mom Guilt
Fortunately, there are practical strategies that new moms can learn and use to manage and overcome mom guilt, ultimately boosting their self-esteem:
Set Realistic Expectations:
It's crucial to understand that no one, especially not a new mom, is a perfect parent. Because we are imperfect humans, we will also be imperfect parents. Set achievable expectations for yourself, and remember that making mistakes is an integral part of the parenting journey. Making mistakes means that you are learning and growing. Making mistakes teaches our children that they can be imperfect and skills be worthy. Embrace the idea that being a good mom is about doing your best, not achieving perfection.
Extend the same kindness and understanding to yourself that you would offer to a fellow mom. When mom guilt creeps in, remind yourself that you're giving your all, and that you deserve self-compassion. Ask yourself. "what would I tell a friend if they shared these thoughts with me?"
Reframe Negative Thoughts:
Challenge negative thoughts and beliefs around your parenting. When you notice you are stuck in a thought, pause and find evidence against the negative thought. Focus on the things you can change. Find statements that are true, but a little more neutral rather than negative. Example: My son fell on the playground and got a bloody nose... My initial thoughts were; "How did I let that happen?" "I should have seen him falling and got to him on time." "Other moms are going to think negatively about me." What I did in that moment was pause, take a deep breath and told myself a more neutral thought. "That was not good, and he got hurt. There was no way I could have predicted that."
Seek Professional Help:
If mom guilt becomes overwhelming and starts affecting your mental health and self-esteem, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Therapy can help with learning tools for managing guilt and improving self-esteem.
Practice Mindfulness and Self-Care:
Incorporate mindfulness and self-care practices into your day. Mindfulness can help you stay present in the moment and reduce the guilt that comes up when thinking about the past or future. Self-care is essential for recharging your mental and emotional batteries.
Create a Supportive Network:
Surround yourself with a supportive network of likeminded moms. Friends who understand the challenges of motherhood and that you can lean on for encouragement and can be real about shared struggles.
New moms often feel isolated on their journey through motherhood, especially when dealing with mom guilt. Seeking support can make a significant difference:
Lean on Friends and Family: Share your feelings of mom guilt with trusted friends and family members. Many of them have been through similar emotions and can offer empathy, advice, and reassurance.
Join Support Groups: Consider becoming part of a support group for new moms or moms dealing with mom guilt. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences, gain insights, and realize that you're not alone in your struggles.
If you are in Monterey, CA come join the support group that I run. Learn more about the group here!
Open Conversations About Mom Guilt: Encourage open and honest conversations about mom guilt within your social circle of trusted mom friends. By discussing this common experience, you can help reduce its power and create a more supportive community.
In conclusion, mom guilt is a prevalent and potent emotion, particularly among new moms. However, it's crucial to understand that mom guilt does not always that to win. There are practical strategies for overcoming it. By setting realistic expectations, practicing self-compassion, and seeking support, you can break free from the grip of mom guilt and boost your self-esteem. Remember, as a new mom, you deserve self-compassion and self-care. Embrace the beautiful imperfections of motherhood and the unique journey that lies ahead.
Remember momma, you are not alone on this journey called motherhood!
Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing specialized and compassionate mental health support for moms postpartum. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!