When my first baby was born, I expected to come home with a bundle of joy and an additional bundle of worries. I was prepared to be carrying a little person with me all the time. What I wasn’t prepared for was the guilt I seemed to carry with me all the time as well.
We’ve all heard of “Mom Guilt,” and I would venture to say “Dad Guilt” is a thing too. It's just one that isn’t talked about as much. I’ll continue to use Mom Guilt here, but, Dads, know that we see your feelings, too. We so often chalk our feelings up to Mom Guilt and call them normal.
Most of the time, the things we feel Mom Guilt about are not things that were actually wrong. Did I hurt someone on purpose? Of course not! If I did, my guilt would be justified. In reality, my Mom Guilt comes at times like when I take an extra couple of minutes in the shower, while I know my spouse is watching the kids. I did nothing wrong, so why do I feel guilty?
This year let’s make a promise to ourselves to only feel guilty about the things that actually warrant guilt. Here are three things to stop feeling guilty about right now:
Trust Your Gut
We so often feel like we need to be able to explain our decisions. I, however, believe so strongly in what I call the “Mom Gut”. Which is not, for the record, something you can work off in the gym. The Mom Gut is what sparks those little nudges you feel as a mom that something is a bad idea. Or, sometimes, a good idea. Sure, other people might think it’s stupid or silly. But I don’t need to feel guilty, or even judged, for that.
Just this morning, my Mom Gut reminded me that my little guy should not wear his puffy coat in his car seat. Concerned that someone at school drop-off might see and judge me as not putting my kid in a coat. I ended up intentionally going with my Mom Gut and listening to what the nudge (and safety recommendations) was telling me was safe.
Setting and Holding Boundaries
My kids do not like it when I set boundaries. Of course, when the boundary is that they can’t have ice cream every day. I don’t feel bad about setting it. But, when the boundary is something that benefits me, like going for a walk alone after Dad gets home from work and not allowing my kids to come along. Mom Guilt shows up.
Guilt has no place here, because, in the long run, my whole family is better for my setting that boundary. When I drop my boundary and let the kids come even though what I really need is some quiet and space to myself. I end up coming home from the walk just as agitated, if not more, than when I left. When I hold the boundary, I can come home refreshed and better able to be present and joyful with my family.
Taking Time for Yourself
This winter, I decided to gift myself a class that I have been wanting to take. When it was time to go to my office and log on to Zoom, my daughter said, “But, Mommy, aren’t you going to put me to bed?” Cue sad puppy eyes.
And, cue the Mom Guilt.
I stepped through the guilt, kissed my littles good night a bit early, and shut my office door. After that class, and even now, the morning after, I feel noticeably lighter. Again, the choice I made and action I took allowed me to be more patient and joyful with my kids even a day later.
So often, these choices that make us feel guilty in the moment are things that help us show up as better parents after the fact. When we step past the discomfort of the guilt and stay true to ourselves, we make everyone around us a little better. That’s something to be proud of, not guilty about.