This past month, I reached a breaking point and nearly had a mommy meltdown.
I recently contracted Covid and suffered side effects for two weeks. Soon after I recovered from Covid-19, my mother had a major health scare with her heart that landed her in the hospital. My daughter also ended up ill with a terrible cold (and a lingering cough that has plagued her for nearly 3 weeks).
While still maintaining work full time, battling illness, planning community events, taking care of family, taking care of myself, and operating this blog, my life felt like sheer chaos. I found myself depressed, stressed, and outright exhausted. I became burdened by my workload, and I was completely overwhelmed by the simple, ever-pressing demands of daily existence.
As I tried to find balance, catch up, and get back to a manageable pace of living, I experienced so much anguish from my failed expectations of what I felt like I should be doing as a mother, that I almost exploded. This feeling of guilt and shame in motherhood is commonly referred to as mom guilt.
Mom guilt is something that nearly every mother has encountered or will experience during her journey of motherhood. There are often many competing demands that pull on us every day, and there is a constant reminder that there is a different way we should be feeling, or more that we can be doing for our children. With the nagging pressure of societal expectations, it can be refreshing to hear from other moms who know first-hand what it’s like to experience these common feelings.
Recently, I connected with Amy Johnson, owner of the blog Amy Baby. Amy wears many hats in her personal life and has lived through experiencing and overcoming the pressures of mom-guilt.
Amy was bold enough to be transparent and write a detailed account of her story for you all. After I read it, I felt so much lighter and was motivated to surround myself with mercy and release the weight of remorse. As you read about Amy’s journey, I hope you also find encouragement, gain renewed strength, and remember the importance of being kind to yourself today
The Genesis of Guilt:
In the picturesque world of parenting painted by social media, it’s easy to envision motherhood as a seamless journey of joy and fulfillment. But let’s face it, the reality of motherhood is a tad less serene and a lot more chaotic. Motherhood is often speckled with moments of self-doubt, remorse, and a relentless pursuit of that elusive ‘Perfect Mom’ badge.
When I became a mother, I found myself caught in this whirlpool of mom-guilt- which often left me drained and detached. There were times when I felt completely overwhelmed. However, the journey towards self-compassion nudged me into a realm of acceptance and happiness (not only as a mother, but as a woman with dreams and desires all her own).
My journey with mom-guilt commenced the moment I held my firstborn. The enormous love and new sense of purpose was also accompanied by an equally powerful sense of responsibility. I can do this – I thought to myself. I WILL become a supermom!
That newborn phase, sometimes referred to as the fourth trimester, was the most challenging stage for me. As days morphed into nights in a seemingly endless loop of diaper changes and feeding schedules, I started feeling the coils of guilt wrapping around my heart.
I found myself navigating through a sea of baby gear that promised to make motherhood a breeze, but never seemed to live up to expectations. What is a bassinet? How do you swaddle a baby the right way? Who do I know that can lend me a baby car seat? How do you even properly put a newborn in a car seat?
The desire to provide the absolute best for my child was a natural instinct, but the guilt crept in when my actions didn’t align with the lofty standards set by society, or worse, by myself. Every time I prioritized work, or yearned for a sliver of ‘me-time’, the guilt hit hard.
The Self-imposed Verdict:
The verdict was clear in my mind; I was failing as a mother. Every skipped bath or the reliance on microwaved meals was a reflection of my inadequacy.
The comparisons with other moms who seemingly had it all together didn’t help either… Is she pureeing her own baby food? How does she have time for that? Can I afford a baby food blender?
All throughout my social feeds, there were flawless, happy moms posting beautiful pictures… Moms washing and reusing cloth diapers. Super Moms freezing their unused breastmilk for use at a later date…
I began to wonder if something was wrong with me — was I doing this whole mom thing right? My self-compassion was buried under layers of self-judgment.
The turning point arrived on a serene Saturday morning. My daughter, with her innocent yet profound wisdom, remarked, “Mommy, why are you always sad?”
Ouch. Her words hit home. It was a wake-up call to say the least.
I recognized that my children were echoing the emotions I was giving off. It wasn’t just mommy moping around and feeling inadequate — my lack of cheer was starting to affect the entire family.
I began to realize that my children did not need the perfect mom (who was waking up early to cook breakfast and come up with Montessori playtime ideas). It wasn’t supermom that was required here; what they needed was a happy mom — a joyful and present mother.
The Path to Self-Compassion:
I decided it was time to shed the shackles of guilt and embrace self-compassion. I started this process by acknowledging that I am human, prone to flaws and imperfections. I discovered that there will be ups and downs on the rollercoaster ride of mommy hood. Being a mother is anything but smooth sailing, so I accepted the fact that I’m allowed to get burnout from time to time.
My first step was to begin setting realistic expectations instead of drowning myself under the weight of lengthy to-do lists. I had to remove the standards set by the impossible-to-replicate social media moms.
Another crucial move was seeking assistance. Please remember — it’s okay to ask for help. I started delegating chores to my husband, and I begged grandma to come babysit once a week. I accepted that some days will be far from perfect, and that’s okay.
Being a mother became something different to me. It became about being present, about loving unconditionally, and about forgiving myself for any of these perceived shortcomings.
Celebrating Small Wins:
I started celebrating small victories, whether it was a peaceful night’s sleep, managing to cook a healthy meal, or putting down my phone for a night to spend quality time with the kids. These small celebrations fueled a positive change, gradually diminishing the guilt that once clouded my motherhood journey. With a boost in self-esteem, I was starting to build more confidence, and with each passing day I became motivated to achieve more mommy success!
The Support System:
Building a supportive network played a pivotal role in my journey towards self-compassion. Connecting with other moms, sharing our struggles, and celebrating our triumphs together fostered a sense of community and understanding- reminding me that I wasn’t alone in this voyage. I could ask them about what baby products they liked, and which ones were a waste. I even found comfort in swapping horror stories, because I finally realized everyone has them.
My circle reassured me that it was okay to have tough days and that seeking support was not a testament to my inadequacy, but rather a step towards creating a nurturing environment for my family.
There are times as mothers when we all need to vent. As you begin to share, you grow and improve. Pretty soon, you may even find yourself with enough experience to save someone else during the middle of their own mommy storm.
Looking back, the journey towards self-compassion has not only made me a happier mom, but also a better person. It’s opened up a space for joy, learning, and acceptance, and has reminded me that perfection is a myth. The essence of self-compassion has trickled down to my children, teaching them the importance of self-love and acceptance.
As moms, the expectations we set for ourselves can often put us on a path of endless guilt. Due to a variety of reasons (including lack of time and/or money), a recent study found that roughly 78% of moms experience mom-guilt. However, shifting the lens towards self-compassion can unveil a world where mistakes are seen as steppingstones, and every day holds the promise of growth, love, and laughter.
The narrative of self-compassion is not just a personal narrative; it’s a collective call to all mothers to shed the burden of mom guilt and embrace the essence of motherhood with all its imperfections. And as we tread this path, we create a nurturing, loving, and guilt-free environment- not just for ourselves, but for our children too.
Amy Johnson is a bilingual mommy with an MBA, currently working in the finance field. She juggles her career with raising two babies and operating her own website AmyBabys.com. Amy is particularly passionate about helping mothers choose the best products for their family. Baby gear is her bag….baby! She wants readers to know that she did end up freezing her own breastmilk, so please don’t take offense at any of the supermom jabs in this piece- we’re all in this together!