Mommy-Guilt!

There’s Daddy-Guilt as well, however since the majority of my subscribers are women, for the sake of simplicity I’ll stick to the feminine gender in this article:)

How often does Mommy-Guilt hit upon you? For some of us, it’s only a few times a month, when we realized that we parented our child in a less-than-model manner. For many of us mothers, Mommy-Guilt accompanies virtually every hour of the day.

Here are some common themes that echo the brain of one suffering from Mommy-Guilt:

“That’s so awful… he will grow up to be a violent person if he keeps hurting his sister like that!”

“I need quiet! I can’t take the noise anymore… why can’t my children play nicely?”

“Oh, no, she is in control, I let her get away with her heart’s desires… oh, why am I unable to control my own daughter?!”

While similar statements may flit through our minds, there is a key component to Mommy-Guilt that will open the door to resolving this delicate issue.

Picture this scene: You walk into the kitchen and your five-year-old is playing with Grandma’s porcelain salt and pepper shakers as though they are dominoes. “Oh, no!” you scream (aloud or in your mind). “Whoever heard of a five-year-old that plays with Grandma’s china decorations?! You are not going out of this room until you sweep up every chip and apologize to your grandmother!”

After the kitchen has been cleaned, and the air is somewhat clear, you recall the things you heard in a recent parenting seminar. You remember hearing about parenting in a calm tone of voice, and you wonder what kind of a mother you are after all. Mommy-Guilt sets into your heart strongly on this fine evening.

Later, in a moment of peacefulness, backtrack into the event above, and try to elaborate regarding your feelings- just before yelling at your son. If this is a new exercise for you, it may not be easy at first. Mentally put yourself back into the situation that caused your anger and try to identify the precise feelings that flitted through your mind just prior to your outburst. Very likely it was something like,

“This is terrible! Why can’t I leave my child alone for a two minutes without him destroying the house!”

or, “I feel trapped! I have to be on top of my child at all times to make sure he does not make any trouble, and I really need some quiet time for me!”

Alternatively, you may think, “What kind of a destructive child have I been raising; this is awful to feel so totally helpless in front of a kindergartener!”

What you need to realize right now is that it is not the actual even which caused your anger and frustration- rather it was the thoughts you had about the event that caused your emotions to escalate.

Factual and neutral observations would not result in heated anger. Thoughts such as, “I see it’s quite noisy here” or, “She has hit the baby,” or “He is teasing the dog” connote an acceptance of the situation- although doubtless the acceptance would not be accompanied by happiness.

Accepting a situation means that you are not fighting with the present; you are not railing against your fate. While you try to do whatever is within your power to improve the situation, you understand that life does not always meet our expectations.

It is helpful to write down your trigger thoughts for several weeks. You will begin to notice a pattern that sets you off.

Many people realize that they become enraged that life is not turning out how they imagined, “This is terrible! Things are not turning out how I want them to be!” Other people gravitate towards sadness, “It’s really sad that I cannot have the life I want.”

Once you have identified your trigger emotions, you can begin to accept and deal with them in a productive and healthy manner.

Many of our thoughts can be summed up like this, “This sort of stuff should not be happening to me! My life should not be this difficult! I can’t stand the frustration of reality being different from what I want!”

After identifying our innermost thoughts, the next step is to legitimately question that which we have asked for so long: “I need some quiet time!” or, “They must stop fighting, it’s driving me insane!”

Needs are those which are necessary for life, such as food, clothing, and shelter. You may feel that you NEED peace and quiet, however, when stripped to the bare bones, it is actually a preference. (And I’m the first mom to state that you definitely deserve some relaxation!)

Understanding that what you once considered needs are truly preferences for the way of life you desire will greatly enhance your ability to cope. You will be able to tell the little voice in your head that even though life is not the way you want it, it is okay. You will manage, make the best of what life has dealt you, and persevere to the best of your abilities.

When you are able to switch to a mode that DESIRES a life without troubles, rather than the unproductive mode which REQUIRES a life without difficulties, you will be able to handle situations without the old reflex of flying off the handle.

The next time you find your small souls engaged in rivalry, and the usual “They ought not fight so much!” thought surfaces- you will be able to quickly recognize the irrationality of your thought. After all, it is foolish to expect raising children to be two decades of trouble-free time. Because you have learned to be cognizant of your initial thoughts, you will be able to phrase your reaction to the tune of: “It’s too bad that the children are acting out like this, let me see what would be the best way to handle the situation at hand.”

Once you have mastered your internal thoughts and reactions, your behavior will follow suit, and the Mommy-Guilt will consistently shrink until it virtually disappears!

 

Comments

  1. My Mommy guilt is having to work full time. I HATE not being able to be with Zack during the day. I’m trying to find a job in the school system so I will be home when he’s home once he starts school.

  2. Zaidy Auerbach says:

    Dear Ellen;
    I am hapy to have read your well thought out and informative article teaching us how to start to cope with a most normal and probably most prevelant situation most mothers find themselves in so much of the time. When we interact with children, of all ages, these situations are probably prone to arise and learning how to deal with them, should and could be very helpful.
    This is one of the most useful websites I found, with sound, practical advice, which I am sure your participants will enjoy reading and absorbing.
    Keep up this treendous work and I am sure many people, young and old, will express their thanks and appreciation to you.
    Zaidy Auerbach
    posted Friday June 30 4:10 P.M.

  3. Mommy Guilt is spending every waking hour taking care of your middle child with developmental disabilities and not being able to play or talk or watch t.v. or go out in the community or anything with your typical children. And having your typical children resent you asking for their help when tensions escalate.

  4. Gordon Otto says:

    Daddy Guilt Is Indeed The Same
    Thank you for your article.
    It arrived at a “good” time to help.
    Kids out of school for the summer.
    Me with less patience each passing day.
    No fun for them.
    My frustration at “not getting anything done… ever” would be better for them if it turned to acceptance of “not as much stuff will get done… live with it”.
    And have some fun together, at every opportunity.

    Thanks.
    GLO

  5. I have only had the pleasure of this sight for a short period of time but it has been the most helpful advice I have had since my son (4 yrs) was born. My mommy guilt is with me 24/7 and now that I have a few ways to deal with all those times that I felt so out of control before. Thanks ellen

  6. Mommy guilt isn’t supposed to exist. LOL We shouldn’t beat ourselves up, when we are doing the best we can.

    We must remember that even God had children who chose to eat the fruit. LOL

    We all have kids who have their own independent thoughts and actions. At some point we need to step back, and let them live their lives to the best of their ability, and hope that we have taught them well.

    My mommy guilt comes in when I am worried about my kids knowledge. Because I homeschool them, I find it hard when they forget something, or are not interested in learning something. But, again, they have their own life missions, and they know what they need to get there.

    LadyPoet33

  7. ladypoet,
    I am intrigued by your response, I am seriously considering homeschooling my son and am worried about the lack of socialization. He is an only child and unless I adopt I can have no others. You sound as though you have put on eor two most of the way through, any suggestionsfor my upcoming decisions??

    janel

  8. It would help if we could email. I have a dummy email that is ladypoet6 ‘@’ yahoo . com if you’d like more info. We can exchange real emails from there. I hate to post it, because I get spammed so much.

    I would need to know your child’s age, and where exactly you are at with the idea to homeschool.

    I am writing a book on this, so I have found many resources (mostly online) that are really informative.

    Debbi

  9. afnan lukata says:

    dear Ellen :
    Thank u for all Your wonderful and useful articles. I read them all but haven’t reply on any of them (no enough time) till i read this article which i live every day…….I was realy worried because i thought it’s not normal to feel mommy’s guilt almost all the time. i thought that i’m begging to have a depprission or something.but now and thanks to your article i knew that this is normal and i will certinly try to follow the advice to deal with it.

  10. Susan N. Gallant says:

    I’d be interested in keeping in touch with the two moms wh are homeschooling as I am homeschooling our 3 and 6 year-olds. If they would like to email me my address is sdachurchofsaturdaysaints@yahoo.com which is long and I apologize, but once it’s in your computer you’ll never have to type it again.
    I deal with the girls fighting a lot and having grown up an only child i have had very little patience for it. WIth my 6 year-old being strong willed to the max it’s made things all the more difficult to deal with things. I don’t let her get away with something just because she has a crying fir or decides to argue with me about every topic under the sun, so I don’t worry about being too leniant. I just get tired of having to deal with it 24/7 nad wish she would just realize that when I say no about something or request her to help around the house or anything else that is a given topic that I don’t back down on my decision and Mom is consistant so after 6 years you would think she’d realize it by now and just listen instead of fighting with me about everything. I read the article and maybe that will help with the sibling rivalry part, but the constant disobedeince is just too much for me because while I wasn’t always perfect as a child I didn’t give my mom nearly as much grief. I remember being happy to help her around the house and didn’t sass her every time she said something or asked me for something. I had no siblings to fight with so I just have a very hard time relating to that. It isn’t normal to me. To me it’s pure selfishness and unecesary, especially when you are constantly having to police them and have a disaster for a house because you can’t turn your back on them for a second. I’ll try to keep in mind what I read in the article and see if it helps any.

  11. Geri Hagler says:

    Right now my youngest boy has decided he doesn’t like reading. This kills me. As a teacher I know how vital this is and I blame myself for not spending more time insisting that he read. For instance, yesterday I was painting the house, I picked up a couple of his friends and a friend of my oldest and we spent 2 hours at a lake. We came home a bit worn out so I read the newspaper while they played and then my oldest boy and I got ready for Civil Air Patrol. I’m the testing officer and my son is a cadet. After testing at 7:30 I went over to my classroom to continue packing up my things as I have been hired at a different school. At 9 I picked up my oldest and we got home about 9:30. My youngest boy had not read all day and I just didn’t have the energy to make him do it then. So therein lies the guilt. Today I’ll make sure he reads. He reads a chapter, then I read a chapter or sometimes we alternate pages. I wish I could get him interested enough in reading that he does it on his own. Until he does that I will feel that it is my fault that he doesn’t. Geri Hagler

  12. Pamela Tiger says:

    geri, i wouldn’t worry about pushing him. IME pushing only leads to more rebellion, lol. i’m sure he will read when he’s ready! don’t worry, you are a great mom!

    my son is homeschooled, too. socializing? we are so busy, i swear, that we have to schedule in “home time”! i have to sometimes make dates just to be alone with him. don’t worry about socializing. and it’s way better than what they come home from school with. lots less disrespect and ageism. oh– my son’s an only, too.

    that said, this is a very interesting article. it addresses what so many do not: the disease rather than the symptoms. thank you for your insight, and i will certainly work hard on remembering it when it counts: in the heat of the moment!

    pamela
    maiasaurawh at bellsouth.net

  13. I think you shouldn’t push the reading. I find it is the fastest way to kill that natural love of learning a child has. Read to him, and just let it come naturally.

    It helps a child to have some poetry, the preamble, and other things memorized. They start to realize they have a great mind, and then begin to look into other things.

    My 7yo took the last year to memorize the preamble to the Constitution, and recited it for our congregation before the 4th of July. He was so cute!

    I have 5 kids that range from 18-5, so I have a large age base. We’ve been homeschooling for 8 years, and I find that a child will learn to read if they see the parents reading (usually to them) and they will begin to ask questions.

    It works best, if you limit TV, and video games. Then the child has more time to really think about things, rather than just being entertained.

    Why were our forefathers so smart? LOL Because they didn’t have video games and TV. 😉 They had to read a book to be entertained.

    Enjoy your boy. They are only young once. Before you know it, your child will be 18, and you’ll be wishing they were young again. I know this! LOL

    LadyPoet

  14. Susan N. Gallant says:

    With our 2 girls who are 3 and 6 I have just let them learn as they become interested so they aren’t feling pressured. Our 3 year-old is already recognising some letters and out 6 year-old is recognising certain words and even practicing writing on her own. She’s ask us how to spell certain words and write it herself. I’ve read to both of them ever y night (except occasional nights when we’re all exhausted or get home late) since they were incognito(when i was pregnant) because our older daughter heard me reading tomy step-children and our 3 year-old daughter would hear us reading to our older daughter. They both love books and are usually pretty excited about picking out books every night. I htink that is the bigest encouragement for them to want to learn how to read, to read to them from infanthood and even earlier to the present. Once in a while our 6 year-old will say she doesn’t want a stroy and I’ll remind her abut it beinbg special quiet time together. I think she may feel that way sometimes because I suspect a lot of her friends aren’t read to by their parents who live i our apartment complex so she probably wonders if she’s getting too old for it. I assure her it’s fine to be read to at her age. I just don’t want her to grow up too fast. When my step-son comes over I read to all three of them. He didn’t like it that much at first but now he asks about it. He’s too stubborn to admit it but i think he’s actually come to enjoy that time and he’s 10. I read Bible stories that are at his age level and he asks questions which opens the door for me to really teach him what I know about given subjects. Reading as a family in the evening before bed can really be a family bonding time and then the learning to read tends to take care of itself. Sue in Lewiston, Maine

  15. Thank for this article on Mommy guilt. I tend to feel it a lot. I also homeschool my two boys, ages 9 and 10. I don’t think they have a problem with socialization at all. THey take TaeKwonDo Lessons and play Homeschool Flag Football. They also enjoy our church because they have a special service for the children.

    Both my boys love to read. Ever since they were born we have read to them and to this day continue to spend that special time together. Every night at bed time my husband takes one and I take the other and they get one on one time with each of us, every other night. They look forward to this ritual. We have read a lot of great classics. They will think nothing of picking up one of their magazines (Highlights, Ranger Rick, etc.) and sitting for an hour reading it and browsing through it.

    To the mom worried about her child reading, I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about it. Each child learns at their own pace and yours will too. How often do you see a kid in middle school who can’t read? They learn soon enough. I have a friend who worried about it all last year and I kept telling her the same thing. This year her son is doing very well with his reading.

    Thank you Ellen for all your encouraging articles. This one hit at a much needed time. God Bless You! Linda

  16. Reading issues are tough everywhere, I am a teacher in France. When you realize you’ve been reading a lot to your own kids who enjoyed the drama part of it, the fun, the laughters.. I’ve done that with my own kids who actually are 17 and 19 and of course are much busier doing whatever else but reading….
    I was the same…it came much later, but it came!!!!
    I do read a lot of books to my pre-school kids, can keep their attentioin for hours, and am surprized about how much they recall, it comes out suddenly unexpected, words or ideas or “moral” I am more and more amazed by this influence, so I keep reading.
    Don’t wait…if they don’t read, read to them even more, GIVE!dont’ expect anymore, I think on the long run it pays!

  17. While Mommy Guilt is a normal emotion of motherhood, depression is a medical condition. If you are concerned about whether something is depression or mommy guilt, a visit to your doctor is a really good idea. Don’t just put the pressure on yourself to “snap out of it”. Help is out there and if you know someone who needs it, offer to get them to the MD yourself. One of the signs of depression is knowing something is wrong, but not feeling well enough to do something about it! Be well!

  18. Thanks for this wonderful article. I was on the other side, and felt that Mommy guilt was not only normal it was compulsory! But the pressure gets to be too much, particularly, when on top of the Mommy guilt, there is actually blame coming from the outside in the form of well-meaning comments like “Maybe if you and your husband speak two languages at home, your son would be able to talk by now” or “He has colic because you are feeding him too much” or “It isn’t colic, you’re not making enough milk!” or people coming up with a million explanations and “advice” which is just sugar-coated BLAME!!!

    What a liberating article. I think I should read it every day until I am “brainwashed” by it!
    Thanks
    Miriam

  19. Susan N. Gallant says:

    It’s funny you mentioned being told you weren’t making enough milk. I have nursed both my girls and still nurse my younger one. I have always seen that as a major deposit for their emotional bank account because of the closeness and bonding that go along with that. As far as not enough milk, don’t fall for that. Our bodies work on supply and demand. As long as we continue to nurse our bodies continue to produce milk. As long as they are nursing they are getting milk. Other people who told you otherwise probably meant well but didn’t really understand ll the facts as i have found many people i our culture do not, with all due respect to them. With the formula industry prompting maternity wards and pediatritions with financial bribary to promote their products it’s hard to find doctors who really genuinely whooe heartedly support breastfeeding so many moms who don’t have an outside support system fall into the trap of thinking they can’t produce enough milk or some other excuse the doctors give them to not do so. It’s all about money and politics. It’s so demeaning because the formula industry is basically saying we are not woman enough to feed our own children. There are two books I can redommend to anyone here interested. One is MILK, MONEY AND MADNESS, the history and politics of breastfeeding and the other is NATURAL CURES “THEY” DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT by Kevin Trudeau, which also mentions nursing in a couple parts of the book. No one has the right to interfear with that bonding between a mother and her baby, yet it’s sad and infuriating how many people really do.
    Our older daughter was collicky even though i solely nursed her with no formula. I learned that if they have very intense personalities they will be that way anyways no matter how you feed them which she is VERY intense. I was also taking prenatal vitamins which I found out from reading Dr. Sears’ book THE FUSSY BABY that the iron in prenatal vitamins makes them contipated which gives them tummy aches so they will be more colicky. He also said taking birth control pills will make them colicky too because of the hormones getting into the milk which i was taking bith that and prenatal vitamins so she was getting all that in my milk. I was just going by what the doctors told me so I had no way of knowing until I read that book. For what it’s worth I hope my input helps. I still believe nursing is a wonderful emotional deposit that nothing else could ever replace. Sue

  20. Gerry Brown says:

    In response to Geri whose son won’t read; perhaps he is not reading the type of book he is interested in! We have 5 children and one always said he hated reading. I watched for years!! and eventually figured out that he can’t sit still for long. (neither can his father) Also, HE discovered he likes mystery books. I do not like that genre of book at all and would never have given him one. From having watched certain movies with his dad and having had to read some books for school I noticed and he discovered what his interests were. He is now 17. He still will not read as often as 3 of my other kids. But when he does he remembers everything and actually discusses it with me without me ever asking him to do that. He also loves sports and he will read magazines and newspapers on hisfavorite sport–football. One more thing. Not all people were meant to be as avid a reader as we are or would like our children to be! He is a great action and hands on person. He is also a good artist. He once said he would rather read people than books and he has a good talent for that. Our children will be who they are supposed to be if we do not project our fears and worries on them and educate them as best they choose to absorb in their own style. Don’t force. Do try.

  21. Mommy guilt is a HUGE factor for me! I try all sorts of techniques to keep the big “G” at bay: I sometimes just try to let the guilt phrases float away like passing clouds. Sometimes I figure the guilt thoughts are actually helpful and get me to make sure I’m parenting to the best of my abilities. Sometimes I think of words to a song that I like: “I will be gentle with myself”. Sometimes I try to lighten it up a bit & say, with my friends, “Oh, Well! Throw another dollar in the therapy fund for the kids.” I figure that, since I have such a big impact on my two daughter’s lives, it’s a bit understandable to feel pressure. Making decisions that guide little human beings, perhaps for their entire lifetime, is big stuff. I also liked information from James Hillman’s book, “The Soul’s Code.” He said that parents foibles can actually HELP a child grow stronger because they can learn so much from it. For example, I have a friend whose Mom was quite “yelly” most of the time and my friend learned how to be gentle as a sort of “not going to be my Mom” sort of way. Hopefully I won’t be teaching my girls in that sort of “not that!” way.

    A “side note” on the homeschooling discussion and fears of “socialization”. It’s pretty amazing to learn how our current school system developed and, after I learned that, even the term “socialization” is now suspect for me. My homeschooled daughters play easily with kids of all ages, are comfortable talking to adults…lots of positive things. And they do not have hordes of playdates and endless scheduled activities. Like somewhere along the way we are forgetting that the brain is amazingly powerful and creative and the wonder of the being inside doesn’t have to be shaped with endless activities and classes and play dates. And I hear a lot of homeschoolers talking about how busy their children are and they have to “pencil in” time for home. That is one approach. I’m trying a different one…a sort of “time for creativity and just being”. Think of Laura and Mary Ingalls Wilder not being inundated with “to dos” all the time. A place for the wonder of creativity to peek through some of the unfilled schedules. Lots of creative toys and books that allow room for imagination. Time to be. Being too busy is sometimes (stress the word sometimes)a choice that we don’t see we are making. Each child needs their own way…I figure mine are with me for a reason and yours are with you for a reason and there isn’t one right way. (sure hope my way is the best for mine, though! Guess that will be fodder for future Mommy guilt if it’s not:)

    As for “making sure kids read”…I think that cumpulsory education squishes the life out of it. My brother never like to read and I loved it. But the more he was “forced” to read the more he hated it. He is now in his mid-forties and he is just discovering the joy of reading. Perhaps it might be helpful to get a wide variety of books and just leave them laying around. (thrifting and library hunts work great for me) Maybe to say something like, “if you could have any story in the world right now, what would it be about?” And take a cue from that as to what he likes to read.

  22. Good article.
    I like the cognitive therapy approach where we change our “shoulds” to “prefers”. I read the book Three Minute Therapy by Michael Edelstein and this is exactly what he teaches. He says that if we change our distorted and irrational beliefs, then our behavior will also change. If I sit while my kids have tantrums, and think “I can’t take this” then I am bound to do something (whatever) that I will regret. If I can get myself to internalize that I CAN tolerate this then all kinds of compulsive behavior will be avoided.
    Dena

  23. Susan N. Gallant says:

    I have read to our girls ever since they were babies. Even when they were incognito(when I was pregnant) they heard me read to my step-children or the younger one would hear me reading to my older daughter. They pick up on the rythem in your voice when you read and sense it sounds different from just talking to someone. Every night I read to them before going to bed. I tell them to each pick what book they want to read and i pick one, so we end up reading three a night plus sometimes they ask me to read something to them during the day. If I’m not in the middle of something I’ll sit down with them or I’ll ask for a ferw minutes to finish what I’m doing first. Our 6 year-old, who will be 7 in December, is already reading simple words. That’s the age I started reading too so I guess that’s the standard age, but I found with her it has been easier letting her “figure it out” instead of using workbooks to do it. WHen you homeschool it’s amazing how you play around to figure out what works for your own child. Our three year-old is already trying to learn her letters. I think the more we read to them from the time they’re little the more they’ll want to do it on their own. They always sit in the livingroom looking at books. WHen our older daughter was 5 she was sitting on our doorstep with books I read to them on a regular basis “reading” the stories to her friends by looking at the pictures and going by memory. We have so many books in our house it’s like having our own library.(lol) Sue

  24. Susan N. Gallant says:

    I like the comment about the son who reads magazines and newspapers and can’t sit still. That reminded me of a field trip I went on with my girls in new Hampshire last month at a native American museum. One of the things our tour guide explained was how in the tribes they would observe the chldren to see which ones were the home helpers and which ones were the hunters. I realized that’s the equivalant to us figuring out if our kids are “left braines” or “right brained”. The “right brained” ones are the active ones and learn more from experience, so I guess they would be the “hunters”. I’d say the ones who don’t like to read as much are more the hunters, but our 6 year-old is extremely hyper and energitic and still loves books. That could also be because I’ve read to her and her sister since they were in my tummy every night, but for the most part it could be the ones who don’t read as much are more into hands on learning. As long as they read even once in a while then at least we know they’ll be able to get where they need to go in life.

  25. There is a saying…” If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way that you think about it.” In essence, attutide is everything in everything. I think that everyone feels guilty for some things sometimes…….. just do the best that you can and all the pieces will fall into place.
    Mother or 3