Do you suffer from mom guilt and blame yourself for everything that goes wrong? Learn 7 reasons we shouldn’t blame ourselves for everything — and how to stop.
I knew I should’ve put a jacket on him, I thought. My son had caught a cold, leaving him miserable for a few days. But while the causes of his cold were many—from sick kids at school to not washing his hands well—I focused on how I could’ve been the one to blame.
We’ve all felt it, even as early as when we were still pregnant. We worried about all the things that could go wrong, then blame ourselves when they do.
Because even if the reason my son had caught a cold was not washing his hands well, you bet I still would’ve felt mom guilt. (I should’ve had him wash his hands for 15 seconds.)
In a way, we even feel “safe” under the mom guilt. If we can blame ourselves first, we buffer the potential backlash from others (whether said outright or imagined in our heads).
Mom guilt: Why we shouldn’t blame ourselves for everything
Over time, I learned to get a better handle on mom guilt. Not only have I lifted the burden from myself, but I actually became better attuned to my kids. I find I’m more pleasant and carefree, and set an example of how to handle obstacles (like not blaming myself).
I enjoy motherhood a whole lot more.
I started by reminding myself not to point the blame at me each time, especially as a first resort, and realized and accepted that I can’t do it all.
Here’s how to let go of mom guilt:
1. Ask yourself if it’s really that bad
We inflate things much bigger than they are when things go wrong. The cough that your child has is a hassle (especially when you need to take time off work), but in hindsight… it’s just a cough.
Here’s the funny thing about our problems: the world continues to move regardless of them. If you’re bogged down with blame, remind yourself that you’re doing all right, and will continue to move forward regardless of what happens.
One exercise I like to do is to ask myself whether my far flung predictions will actually come true. It reminds me that my imagination can be way off track and blown out of proportion. I also look at what has happened in the past and realized that things always work out somehow.
2. You did what you thought was best at that point
Rarely do we think, “I am going to leave my son’s jacket at home so that he gets sick.” We usually think, “It seems pretty warm,” or we just forgot to bring the darn thing.
We have our kids’ best intentions, but unfortunately we don’t always have the foresight (or the ability to know the future!) to see how our decisions affect them until later.
You did what you thought was best, normal or regular at that time with the best intentions in mind. Hindsight is always clearer, regardless of the result.
3. We all make mistakes
All the blame won’t erase one crucial fact: You’ve made mistakes and will continue to do so. No one is perfect, but we blame ourselves as if we should’ve been.
The best part about mistakes is that they build your resilience and become your best teachers. That day you yelled at your child was painful for both of you, but it was also when you learned to spot your triggers so these arguments don’t happen as often.
When things go wrong and you feel the pull to blame yourself, learn your lesson instead. Analyze the situation and think about ways you could prevent it next time, or what you would do differently.
4. You don’t give yourself enough credit
We’re so quick to point out all the ways we’re failing that we forget the many more ways we’re doing well. And not only well, but above and beyond our roles.
Look through the last few days and you’ll see all the good you’ve done, both big and small. Waking up early so your child has breakfast on the table, or holding him tight as he cries even though you have a million things to do.
These are your wins, the successes that don’t always get the credit they deserve. Don’t let blame—the one blame out of many wins—take that away from you.
5. Some things are out of your control
My four-year-old was riding the train when it lurched to a stop, flinging him forward, straight into the handle bar in front of him. His tooth bled, and later we learned would color a light shade of gray. Thankfully he feels no pain, but the tooth is now dead, all because of a split-second impact.
I could’ve blamed myself: What if I had held him on my lap, or made sure he sat all the way back?
But there are cases where, blame ourselves as much as we do, there wasn’t anything we could do about it. Worry becomes unhealthy when we can’t change the circumstances but continue to mull about it as if we can.
Let it go. Unfortunate events happen, and sometimes for no good reason other than they do. Don’t find blame where there isn’t any or replay “If only I had done this” or “I should’ve done that” in your mind.
6. Replace blame with action
As you’ve seen by now, blaming ourselves is hardly productive. We feel worse about ourselves and are paralyzed into inaction because we keep replaying the event over and over.
The better course of action? Do something proactive.
What can you do to change the circumstances (if at all)? Don’t mope or blame and instead make a list of what you can do and get started. If there’s nothing to do, or you can’t do it right away, move it aside and focus on something better.
7. Your child doesn’t love you any less
Much is said about a parent’s unconditional love, and I would say the same is true about a child’s love for his parents.
Kids can be some of the most forgiving people. We make mistakes and even blame ourselves, but kids continue to love us with no hesitation. Your child isn’t sitting in his room right now blaming you for everything. Even if he were upset, I guarantee he doesn’t love you any less.
Because at the end of the day, your child will hold you as tightly as he did before you allowed blame to take hold.
Mom guilt is real. Blaming ourselves prevents us from enjoying motherhood and sets unrealistic expectations of ourselves. It’s not exactly what you’d want to model, especially when dads don’t feel nearly as guilty as we do.
Thankfully there are ways to cope. Ask yourself if what you’re blaming yourself for is really that bad. Remember that you had acted in the way you thought was best at that point. And remind yourself that we all make mistakes and will continue to do so.
Then, give yourself more credit than you currently do, and focus on things you can control. Replace mom guilt with action, and remember that your child won’t love you any less.
I’ll still make mistakes, no doubt. But rather than blame myself, I’ll acknowledge what happened, take action, and learn my lesson.
Like bringing my son’s jacket even when I don’t think the weather will be cold.
Get more tips:
- Be Kind to Yourself
- One Guaranteed Way to Show You Respect Your Children
- Be Where You Need to Be
- The Working Mom Pep Talk: What Do You Tell Yourself to Keep Going?
- These Are the Things Your Kids Will Remember About You
Tell me in the comments: What is your biggest struggle with mom guilt?
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