By Wendy Colson RN, IBCLC, RLC
With the launch of our new RelaxMom Gummies it feels like now is the perfect time to dive into something we all have experienced in motherhood. No matter what stage of motherhood you might be in, you’re no stranger to the presence of “mom guilt.” We have "guilt" as moms for C-sections vs. Vaginal birth, stay at home vs working, eating prepared/fast food vs home-cooked, and of course, breastfeeding vs bottle feeding. As a working mom of 3, registered nurse, lactation consultant, and CEO, I’m definitely no stranger to the ways guilt can show up in motherhood.
When working with moms on their breastfeeding goals, we often say that working with breastfeeding is not about sacrificing our mental/physical health or relationships to make it work. It’s about making an informed decision that is best for your baby and your family. I think this sentiment can extend to almost any other area of motherhood. Your decisions in motherhood are about what feels best for your journey (not your opinionated mother-in-laws).
Here are my 3 tips for keeping that mom guilt in check:
Manage Those Expectations, Mama
This will take a lot of “unlearning” since you’ve likely been setting expectations of what type of mother you “should” be from the day you found out you were pregnant or even before! Now, more than ever we are inundated with the “shoulds” of motherhood with so many images and voices around motherhood via social media. Managing your expectations in motherhood means approaching aspects of your mothering with flexibility, not a rigid “right or wrong” mindset which can lead to guilt, shame, and indecisiveness. Instead of beating yourself up for (insert guilt trip here!) notice the thought and decide if it’s an expectation you’d like to continue to hold or shift in some way.
Some days you will feel you nailed this motherhood gig and on other days you will feel like you are losing your mind. Do not get caught up in the perfect Insta-Moms you see, they have their bad days too and are not doing motherhood any better than you. Remember, motherhood is learned, there is no manual, and a lot of us had no example of what parenting should look like when growing up. When in doubt, just show your kids you love them by being present and showering them with affection.
Build Up Your Village
The wisdom of “it takes a village to raise a child” resonates with every generation of mothers and for a good reason! We need support, not just from our partners but from our community, from other women, our schools, and workplaces. The idea of “doing it all'' further pushes us towards guilt when we inevitably cannot succeed at all of the tasks we are asked to take on as mothers.
Ask for help when you need it! Whether it’s about how to increase your milk supply, finding childcare, or asking for a recommendation from a mom group- the more you practice this, the easier it gets to break the idea that we have to do it all. Finding support and connecting to other moms is a saving grace for many, this is why we love breastfeeding support and mommy groups. We need to hear from other moms who are in the trenches of motherhood to get perspective and support.
Recognize There is No One “Right” Way
Just like there is no such thing as one size fits all clothing, there is not just one way to mother a child. In fact, if you are like me and have more than one, you will learn you have to parent differently for each of your children's unique personalities. Anyone who has ever raised tiny humans knows that there is no perfect manual for birth, breastfeeding, or parenting. In a world where we desire so much certainty we can seek out experts, read all of the books, and still not know if we are doing it “right.” The only right way is the way that works for you- no matter what that looks like compared to other families. Once you’ve accessed the information you need to help make a decision check in with your gut and see how it feels in your body. We are primed to be able to birth, breastfeed and raise our babies, and the value of tapping into our intuition can’t be undervalued.
So forge ahead with these tips, SuperMoms and remind yourself the next time you're feeling mommy guilt that this is your motherhood journey. Plus, if we f*ck up, we can make it up to our kids when we become grandparents LOL.