Guilt is an unavoidable emotion that plagues the spirit of most conscientious mothers. There are so many demands. Moms feel guilty when they fall short of their own expectations and are quick to blame themselves whenever their kids have problems.
Raising children is stressful – not just the physical everyday stuff of laundry, cooking, and making sure homework gets done. As individuals, having children challenges a woman’s definition of herself, psychologically and emotionally.
In addition, moms can’t always be home with their kids, and they don’t always feel up to reading a story. Feeling immersed in babies and children, mothers often have trouble shifting their minds and bodies into the sexual realm, which makes husbands worry that their wife will never want to have sex again. With children in the picture, loyalties are less clear, and moms feel guilty about this too.
There are other dark emotions that go along with being a mother – feelings no one is prepared for and just about everyone is ashamed to talk about. This painful side of parenting tends to undermine confidence and self- esteem. I remember as a young mother thinking, why didn’t anybody tell me what this was really going to be like?
The feelings I’m talking about here are the sadness, disappointment, worry, anger and even hatred that, from time to time, are normal parental emotions. But moms feel guilty for having these types of feelings. Parents think that out there somewhere are mothers and fathers who always feel good about themselves and who always adore their children.
A common mistake mothers make when they’re feeling overwhelmed is to compare their life to others who, on the surface, seem calm and self-assured. They forget that appearing confident doesn’t mean never feeling insecure.
It’s not a good idea to compare your insides to other people’s outsides.
The truth is disturbing feelings are as much a part of family life as the more joyful times. Coping with the good and bad feelings within us and about our children are, in truth, what make parenting so profoundly difficult.
Feelings are not character flaws or signs weakness; they are signs of life.
Painful feelings are, without a doubt, debilitating. They make us tired, unhappy, and irritable. If these feelings are unavoidable, what’s a mother to do?
1. Try to accept your contradictory feelings without shaming yourself.
2. Search for the true source of any long-standing emotional pain.
3. Learn from your mistakes rather than beating yourself up about them.
4. Notice your feelings without pressuring yourself to feel differently.
5. Be kinder to yourself and others, when you make a mistake or they do.
Loren Buckner, LCSW is a psychotherapist in Tampa, Florida. She is also the author of
ParentWise: The Emotional Challenges of Family Life and How to Deal With Them
Photo credit © Ron Chapple
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