No matter how happy you are to meet your sweet baby, becoming a mom is a huge transition. While you learn how to care for your little one and tackle sleep routines, you still have to juggle your many responsibilities. At the same time, you’ll probably question every decision you make. Know that this is normal. It even has a name: Mom guilt.
The stress of not being able to do it all or not doing enough can affect anyone–from the busy entrepreneur to the experienced stay-at-home parent. Instead of letting mommy guilt worry you and get you down, however, you can do something constructive about it. Explore our favorite ways to nurture yourself and boost your self-confidence. By addressing your challenging thoughts, committing to self-care and enlisting others, you can thrive in the first year of your baby’s life—and beyond!
1. Examine Your Guilty Thoughts
The average person has tens of thousands of thoughts per day. Of those 12,000-60,000 thoughts, many of them are subconscious, negative or repetitive. The busier and more distracted you are, the less likely you are to realize what you’re actually thinking. This phenomenon can cause you to feel guilty, worried or even depressed without realizing it. Mental health professionals use techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy to help their clients examine their thoughts on a deeper level. By learning to recognize and challenge thoughts and then replace them with more positive ones, nearly any person can work to improve their mood and outlook.
If you believe you’re thinking negatively, grab a pencil and paper. Write down what it is you’re thinking about, such as your frustration with yourself over forgetting diapers at the store or your anxiety about going back to work after your maternity leave runs out. Explore the emotions it stirs up for you, whether it’s sadness, fear or anger. Then, write down a positive thought you can think next time instead, like “everyone forgets something from the store from time to time. I’ll ask hubs to pick some up and everything will be fine,” or “in going back to work, I am supporting my family and making sure my child is fed and clothed.” Eventually, thinking positively will become easier.
2. Take Advice in Stride
Remember all the advice you got when you were pregnant? It doesn’t end there! Your parents, in-laws and even complete strangers are bound to have something controversial to say about your mommy skills. When someone criticizes you, it’s normal to become anxious or defensive, especially when the suggestions are unwanted and the topic is your child. Instead of letting the mommy guilt run free, however, it’s important to remember that there’s no one way to parent—and when it comes to your baby, you are the only one in charge.
Try to pull out nuggets of wisdom that come from recommendations or guidance. If it’s not possible, let it go. If you’re unsure whether to take advice, ask for a second opinion. Your pediatrician, OB-GYN or breastfeeding consultant are always willing to help.
3. Do Something Nice for Yourself
As moms, we’re hardwired to be there for our babies as much as possible. Caring for your little one 24/7 is a noble effort, but it’s not sustainable. Eventually, you’ll need a break—and mama, it’s okay to get one. Even if you love being with your son or daughter, strive to spend at least 30 minutes by yourself each day, with a 60-minute self-care session once per week. You’ll be amazed at how much more energy and patience you have.
Some of the best ways to recharge include scheduling a mani-pedi, getting a massage or having coffee with a friend. Other fun and nurturing ideas include yoga, taking a walk in nature and shopping. If you only have a few minutes, that’s okay. Try a warm bubble bath, meditation or listen to a few of your favorite songs. The more you return back to yourself, the better mom you’ll be for baby.
4. Talk to a Professional
Sometimes, mom guilt can be overwhelming. If you’re having a tough time transitioning back to work, getting along with your partner or handling your daily responsibilities, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional. Start by having a conversation with your OB-GYN or midwife. They can help you determine if you’re overly stressed, dealing with postpartum depression or just need someone to listen to how you’re feeling.
In addition to your doctor, a therapist or counselor who is experienced in handling the challenges of parenting can make a big difference for new moms. A weekly, 60-minute counseling session will help you examine your thoughts, learn new coping skills and discover practical solutions. Get started by asking for a referral from your practitioner or calling your health insurance company.
5. Put a Pause on Social Media
Networking with moms on social media can be inspiring, fun and uplifting. It may also cause you to needlessly compare yourself to others. Remember, social media posts are never what they seem. Real life is not a short video or photo. It’s raw and challenging, no matter how great filtered pictures look on Facebook or Instagram.
If you find yourself scrolling through images and wishing your life was different, put your phone down. Vow to take at least an hour or day away from your social profiles. When you get the urge to open an app, play with your baby, get some fresh air or take a ride in the car. Express gratitude by reminding yourself how lucky you are to have a happy, healthy family, regardless of how messy your living room is or how behind you are on chores.
6. Tackle Your To-Do List
While every mom needs to build self-care into her schedule, an overwhelming to-do list can also contribute to excessive guilt. When your responsibilities begin to pile up, take a second look at your priorities. Decide what you must do today and then put it first on your list—or mark it in a bright color such as red. Next, determine what you’d like to do, but don’t necessarily have to complete. Place these items second on the list or color them in orange. Finally, be clear about what is a want vs. what is a need. Non-mandatory activities can be marked in green.
Once you begin knocking off the important items, you’ll feel more confident and carefree. You may not get to your desired tasks in the first few months—or even the entire first year—and that’s okay. Life will feel more manageable eventually. Give yourself plenty of time to adjust to your new responsibilities, schedule and identity.
7. Take Advantage of Family Support
Everyone loves babies—especially your close friends and family members. When they offer help and support, take it! Let grandma watch your precious baby boy while you have lunch with your girlfriends. Allow your sister to buy those outfit sets for your baby girl while you work. While the assistance will begin to make you feel more positive and energized, your little one will begin to build relationships with their extended network.
The time your family spends with baby now will come in handy when it’s time for a long weekend with your partner or a multi-day business trip. Since they’ll feel safe with their loved ones, they’ll adjust easier to you being away. It’s a great way to manage your time now—and a wonderful way to experience less mommy guilt in the future!
Enjoying a Healthy, Guilt-Free Life as Mom
Mom guilt is not only unhelpful—it’s unhealthy. Instead of letting unpleasant or anxious thoughts ruin your day, turn them into positive action. Every mother needs to be kinder to herself and lean on the support of others, so get into the habit of doing both activities now. After all, being a happy, healthy and guilt-free mom is essential to your baby’s well-being!