Inside: Most moms feel it: Mom Guilt. But how do we get rid of it? These strategies banished all my Mom Guilt and they will help you too.
Last month, I had cancer.
This month, I don’t.
I can write those two overwhelming sentences for one and only one reason: I took the time to take care of myself as a mom.
A series of fortuitous events finally got me into a dermatologist office even when I wasn’t going to go.
It was easy to postpone the appointment again and the excuses to not go to the doctor were long and predictably common:
I’m busy (we’re all busy). I’m taking care of my children (we’re all taking care of our children). I’m running a household (we’re all running a household). I’m making sure my kids are healthy and well first…they’re my first priority (our kids’ safety and health always takes precedence over our own, but that doesn’t mean mine is less important), and my family will fall apart if I leave (no, they probably won’t).
And this is the way it is with most of us mothers.
We are so busy taking care of our families and building a strong family identity, and doing another load of laundry, we put ourselves last.
But I know this to be truth: if I had waited too long to take care of myself this time, if I had put my family first before my health this time, my cancer would have been deadly.
Melanoma is the number one cause of death in America because it often goes undetected and then spreads quickly.
So my story could have been devastating. I could have left my kids without a mother.
But instead, I took the time for me. I made the appointment. I was scared, but I went anyway.
And because I took care of myself, I was taking care of my family.
The two and a half inch jagged, ugly scar across my arm is my daily reminder: when I take care of me, I’ll be a better mom for them.
My scar is a testament to the fact that as moms, we have to take care of ourselves. If I had waited, the melanoma might have won and we all would have lost.
Why We Shouldn’t Have Mom Guilt for Self Care
Listen, we’re all good and ready to banish Mom Guilt once and for all.
But that’s easier said than done, so let’s start with taking time for self-care with no guilt.
As moms, we often put ourselves last.
We eat the leftovers off our kids’ plates or we don’t eat at all.
We stay up too late to clean or get up too early to make homemade lunches and wash the soccer jerseys.
We push ourselves too hard for too long and then have nothing left to give and we “snap.”
But recently I have been paying attention to my “angry mom triggers.”
I’m not my best self, and therefore not the best mom, when I’m angry, when I have no patience, and when I yell.
Related: How to be a kind adult to our kids
And you know when I’m most angry and have the least amount of patience and yell the most?
When my basic needs haven’t been met.
When I’m hungry. Or too tired. Or mentally drained.
I’m a better mom when I’m well-fed, well-rested, and feel strong mentally.
When I take care of myself, I can deescalate situations with my kids rather than escalate them.
I listen more and deliver less angry-mom lectures.
And the yelling…it’s almost non-existent.
But only when I’ve had a good night’s sleep. And when I’ve chatted on the phone with a girlfriend. Or after I went on a date night with my hubby.
I’m a better mom when I take care of me. So for the sake of my children, I often put me first.
I leave the dishes and go to bed. With no guilt.
I take an extra long shower and let them watch another TV show. With no guilt.
I make their doctor appointments and then I make all of mine. Along with a manicure appointment. With no guilt.
And then I come back to my family and I can be a better mom.
Want to be a better mom too? Take care of yourself.
But How Do We Get Rid of the Mom Guilt?
I know some moms feel more Mom Guilt than others. The pattern tends to be working outside the home moms usually feel the most guilt because they’re physically not as present as stay at home or work from home moms.
But Mom Guilt doesn’t discriminate.
Most moms feel it at some point.
So how do we get rid of it?
It’s the age-old question since women are socially conditioned to believe we’re supposed to do all the things all the time for all the people.
But we can change that narrative.
1. Give yourself permission to not do all the things all the time
We’re “supposed” to have an immaculate house and well-behaved kids.
We’re “supposed” to be a loving, doting spouse and have incredible one 0n one relationships with all of our kids.
We’re “supposed” to work long hours and be successful, but also be there for our kids at a moment’s notice when the school calls.
It’s unrealistic and more damaging, it sets all of us moms up for failure.
I’ve discovered I can only do two of these things well at once.
I used to joke about it, but it’s really not funny.
So, I pick two. Which two am I going to focus on for the day? And then the next day, I pick another two.
Today, I did a proof of love activity with each of my kids in between my conference calls to build up and strengthen my relationship with them, but the house looks like a tornado hit it.
I can clean tomorrow when I have less work to tackle.
I have given myself permission to not do all the things every day.
And in case you need it, I give you permission too.
2. Remind yourself you’re doing “enough”
A very common sword moms often fall on is comparing ourselves to other moms and then scrambling to do more because we feel like we’re not doing “enough.”
We feel our birthday party planning skills aren’t Pinteresty-enough.
We worry we haven’t done enough volunteering at the school and wonder what other moms must think of us.
We lay in bed wondering how we can squeeze in one more chore, one more errand, one more project tomorrow.
Trying to “do enough” and “be enough “is a heavy burden to carry. And our load is already heavy enough.
So I use this one trick to help me when the negative self-doubt creeps in that I’m not doing enough as a mom.
Oh, and stop comparing yourself to other moms. You’re doing great. They’re doing great. It’s not a competition.
3. Get help
Jami Ingledue nailed it when she penned the HuffPost article about The Mental Workload of Mothers.
What is the mental workload of moms?
Jami defines it beautifully: “One of the most difficult things about the work of parenting is that so much of it is invisible.
So one parent—let’s be honest, usually the dad—can think they are doing the same amount of work as the other. But sometimes they can just be completely unaware of all of the many things that the other parent—usually the mom—is completely taking care of.
Often the most tiring aspect of this work is being the “Knower of All the Things.” So often the mom is the one who holds all of the behind-the-scenes knowledge about all of the many things involved in raising a kid. The one who plans, who notices, who anticipates, who researches, who worries. This is often referred to as ‘the mental load’.”
And after she published it, millions of moms around the world nodded their heads in agreement.
We are the knower of all the things.
But I found an “accidental” one-minute fix for this that revolutionized the weight of my mental load. Seriously, this is a game-changer for families.
With less of a mental workload, I don’t have as much to feel guilty about.
4. Self-care is not optional, folks
Sleeping is not optional.
Taking deep, controlled breaths is not optional.
Other things that are not optional? Eating healthy, eating your favorite dessert, spending time with your girlfriends, spending time with your spouse, taking time to work out, and taking time to sit and do absolutely “nothing.”
Also not optional? Scheduling (and then not canceling) doctor’s appointments for your physical and mental health.
Your kids deserve a mom who is physically and mentally healthy.
Trust me on this one: a scar, even an ugly jagged one, is better than cancer.
Getting help when you feel depressed or lonely is necessary.
Seeing a therapist when you need support is necessary.
Going to a dermatologist when you see a weird mark on your arm is necessary.
You guys: We can’t be great moms if we’re not here.
So whatever your self-care looks like, do it. With no guilt. Because then you’ll know you’ll be able to be a better mom for your kids when you do.
Your kids are worth it.
And then go make yourself the doctor’s appointment you’ve been meaning to make for yourself.
You’re worth it.
P.S. In case no one tells you today, you’re doing a great job.