This is going to sound bonkers, but I don't fully understand mom guilt. I don't feel guilty about doing a basic, good enough job for these kids. Maybe it's because we have plenty (a roof over their head, running water, schools, food), but also, I don't feel badly about leaving them with other people, or about having my own interests, or about taking time to prioritize all people in the family.

I think so many women get steamrolled, and I watch them put their health, sanity, work, and careers behind doing an above-and-beyond job for their children. Much of this is societally induced and awful, and some of it is a mindset trap. Women are taught and trained to be "good moms" and that a good mom should always take care of her children first (at the expense of herself). To me, that seems like such a toxic attitude. My kids will be fine if they eat string cheese for dinner and if I don't cook much. They will be fine if they watch a bunch of TV. The will learn, adapt, and grow, and we will do a good enough job (which psychologists say can be doing a 'good enough' job only 30-40% of the time).

This isn't a complete answer, but I don't feel guilty for leaving my children, I don't feel guilty for working (and loving my work), and I think that my children need way more adults to lean on, love, and trust than just me. We're devoid of a network of alloparents, and that's the heartbreak, for me. Not me trying to twist myself into some perfect person meant to fulfill my children's wishes and dreams, which isn't really possible.

But I am curious, since I don't seem to feel much guilt, where it comes up and where it shows up for people?

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Feb 24, 2021Liked by Sarah K Peck

I've spent the last 12 years since becoming a mother trying to let go of some very heavy mom guilt. I think based on the culture I grew up in, the fact that my own mother did not set a good example of having a life outside of parenting, and my experience of divorce and single parenting... there have been a lot of layers of guilt to work through. I am happy to say that now that I have worked through so much of it, when I feel it coming on, I can recognize it, label it, and make sure that it does not dictate my choices.

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Aug 24, 2022Liked by Sarah K Peck

My mom guilt was brought on by wanting to live up my mother's approach to parenting because I thoroughly enjoyed it as a child. Aside from that, a few key comments made by various other mothers I'm close to (aunts or family friends) cemented my comparison.

While very strong in the beginning of my motherhood journey, the guilt has waned significantly over the years, as I've realized how much kids benefit from spending time with other adults and the value in giving them opportunities to practice emotional resilience. I've also learned to hire the village I don't have, when possible.

I still have some bouts of mom guilt from time to time, but they don't last long. I've realized I love my kids fiercely, but I love myself that much, too. To love myself, I need alone time. Every human is different, and this is me and what I need.

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Aug 16, 2022Liked by Sarah K Peck

so my guilt is when I caught up with work and i didn't ask my daughter for a food and she slept.

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I felt a lot of anger about how little space is given for being human and a parent, how few resources there were and how much our country de-prioritizes good enough childcare which means a lot of parents (especially single-parents with few or very overstretched resources) are scrambling to try to DO IT ALL ALL THE TIME just to survive. I didn't even have energy to think about whether I was doing a good job, just getting through it for the first few years. Pissed that so many places could provide childcare, but they don't because it seems we do not culturally value a good enough life or the lives of womxn or care workers. I was BLOWN AWAY that some preschools were literally talking about preparing a 3 year old for college. Having all the unnecessary, cost prohibitive, and damaging bells and whistles for childcare is more of the same problem and prevents more support. I just want him to play and have fun in a safe environment with other kids outside the house, that's it. Literally, my bar is set at not wanting him to die or be seriously injured while in care and otherwise it would be great if he could also have fun and meet friends. I used to feel guilt for not having mom guilt, ha! Like I SHOULD feel guilty for caring for myself and treating myself as a whole person and my kid as a whole person. But the more I see how this whole parenting thing goes, the more faith I have in myself and my kid's ability to notice what we each need and talk about it if we are missing something. I do not feel guilty for trusting us to be who we are. If I was putting pressure on myself to be "perfect" (totally made up) rather than actual, then I would also require my kid to be "perfect" so that I get to feel ok...so instead I can just cut out the middle and do what helps me feel my best within a challenging situation (parenting) to start with. There have been moments when my kid realizes he watched too much on the screen, and that's useful feedback. Then he watches less. That's it. If I just controlled what he did then he would never know that and he would operate out of fear of my approval or upsetting me rather than his own knowing. I think we often feel scared that we will not know, that our bodies won't show up in the moment and so of course we can't trust younger bodies at all to know anything if we don't know that our body knows things for us. But all information actually only exists right now. I think it is cultural and psychological. It seems much easier to create an idea than to live in an unknown state and respond from your body. The idea of perfection feels safe, even though it does a lot of damage to try and live out. It's fun to fantasize, and to know you're fantasizing is what allows it to be fun rather than comparing your fantasy to your actual lived experience and blaming yourself for not living in a fantasy. Just because you can imagine it does not mean you can immediately do it. And if you can immediately do it, a lot of times that comes at a great cost. Harm reduction models are so useful. Realizing that all we are ever doing is responding to what shows up and moving toward a refinement of what is less harmful and what is a little better...one little teeny step at a time. Whatever we are doing that we might be judging is meeting a need, its not arbitrary. And sometimes what is less harmful and a teeny bit better is having string cheese for dinner and watching a lot of shows. I wish we could apply a harm reduction model to childcare in general, not just for parenting. There are so many kids who are not getting the care they need not because its not perfect but BECAUSE of this idea that it has to be perfect or not at all. And parents are struggling, kids are struggling, without this resource because they have way too much to manage. We need more accessible and accountable resources, not more guilt and perfection. And I say all of this as a therapist who specializes in sensitivity and systems and studied human development, as well as as a human, and a parent.

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I can speak from the perspective of having had a lot more mom guilt when I first became a mom and actively working on diminishing it over time. When I had my first baby I felt guilty about everything I did or didn't do. Even the way I birthed him. Whether I got bored spending time with him. All kinds of things.

I started to notice that I was grinding myself down and no one was going to save me from grinding down into nothing. I thought about a lot of the women in my life growing up who believed that that was what they should do, then grew incredibly resentful and bitter when their kids grew up. I didn't want to transfer that burden to my own kids.

One of the "mind tricks" I play on myself whenever I feel guilty about something I've done is actually something I've heard Janet Lansbury model a lot on her podcast. (It's funny because sometimes her podcast makes me feel guilty, but!) She also this way of looking at things that has been so helpful. So, here's an example: Let's I yell at my kids, a lot, like many times in a day or many days in a row. I start to feel guilty about it. But I think to myself, "Well, the kids are getting experience dealing with someone who is not doing a good job at regulating her emotions." I.e., ME!

Like, a bigger picture suddenly comes into focus: it's important that they can practice dealing with difficult people in what is ultimately a safe space (their own home). Safe because I apologize or acknowledge that I handled things wrong and I don't make them feel like my yelling was their fault.

So, it's not about never yelling and then feeling guilty when I do.

I think mom guilt is imposed by society and there is a lot that the individual woman can do to get out from under it, but it would be nice if the society didn't impose it in the first place, rather than each of us having to problem-solve for it all the time. Definitely capitalism benefits from all the obligation mothers feel.

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