According to evolutionary psychologists, we are programmed to experience guilt. It is a mechanism that allows us to sustain our relationships and prevents us from causing hurt to others. In case of moms, guilt occurs every time they feel that their actions are lacking in relation to their responses and responsibilities towards their child. Some of the guilt could be genuine and may require moms to change their approach and behaviour towards their child. However, most of such guilt is often an overreaction and it arises from the immense love that moms develop for their child. Moms share a deep emotional connection with their child and the thought of causing the slightest discomfort to their child gives rise to feelings of guilt.
What factors cause moms to experience guilt?
Moms can experience guilt due to various reasons. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Inability to properly breastfeed your child due to time constraints or medical reasons
- Not being able to spend adequate time with your child
- Things at the office taking precedence over the needs of your child
- Leaving your child in a daycare centre or with grandparents or other relatives
- Inability to attend your child’s sports or extra-curricular activities at their school
- Not being there to listen to your child’s thoughts and ideas and to resolve any queries that they may have
- Thinking that your love towards your child is somehow lacking, as compared to what other moms share with their child
- Losing your temper and shouting at your child
- Not being able to fulfil all the needs and requirements of your child
How to get over the guilt?
Considering that your guilt is just an overreaction, it’s important to shake it off your mind. Such guilt can become a habit, so you will have to be mindful to not let it overwhelm you. Here are some of the things that can help you avoid the ‘mommy guilt’.
#1 Stop doubting your love for your child:
All relationships need some breathing space to grow in a healthy manner and mother-child relationships are no different. At times, it may be okay to focus on other things such as your own hobbies and interests or spending time with your significant other. At these times, you should not doubt your love for your child. You know it’s there. It’s a part of you and there’s no need to prove its existence. You should also avoid the thought that your child will feel abandoned if you leave them for a couple of hours. On the contrary, they might be having a great time with the babysitter or their grandparents or any other caregiver. Your child also needs some space and you should be glad to provide it to them.
#2 You are actually teaching your child to become independent:
Rather than feeling guilty about not being there for your child, you should think that your actions are actually helping your child to become independent. This would be quite beneficial to them when they start school or face other challenges, as they progress through college and reach adulthood. Children who start learning to be independent at an early age tend to have a firm belief in their abilities. They are emotionally strong and can withstand the pulls and pressures of life. If you are feeling that you are spending less time with your child or are using the babysitter too often, just shake it off and focus on the benefits that your child will have in the future.
#3 The times are changing:
Family life has undergone major transformations over the years. Moms are increasingly seeking job opportunities or thinking about other income opportunities to support the household. This is even truer for single moms living alone with their kids. In such cases, moms may have to stay away from their child for extended periods. This often results in guilt. However, you need to realize that financial freedom is equally important. It would eventually benefit your child, as they will have a better lifestyle and access to quality education in top schools and colleges. Moreover, the quality of time spent with your child matters and not the quantity. So, make the best use of the time you have, even if it’s just a few hours every day.
#4 Ignore the critics:
Sometimes, the guilt may be due to the negative things that people may have said about your actions or behaviour in relation to your child. Such criticism can occur anywhere and it can come from your own family members, relatives, your friends, neighbours, or even complete strangers. Some people have very narrow ideas about how life should be lived and they may try to impose their thoughts on you. For example, if you are unable to deal with your child’s tantrum in a shopping mall, someone with an idealistic viewpoint may come and reprimand you about how things should be. Some criticism may be helpful, but you should ignore the ones that do not fully account for your specific situation. You know you are trying everything you can to be a good parent and that should be sufficient.
#5 Talk to your child:
Rather than feeling guilty, just talk to your child and see what they feel. Chances are that they may not be feeling deprived or angry at all, as you may have thought. Even if they have negative feelings, you can always try to explain your limitations and your other commitments in life. You can also promise some rewards in exchange for their cooperation. For example, you can promise to take them to their favourite restaurant or to the amusement park during the weekend.
Overall, you need to realize that no one is perfect. Even with your best intentions, sometimes things may not work out as you may have wanted. Learn to forgive yourself and keep your focus on the present and the future. When your kids grow up, they will realize the challenges you faced as a parent. They are likely to be thankful to you for everything that you have done for them.Since all’s well that ends well, its recommended that you stop feeling guilty and start enjoying your time with your kids.