Before becoming a mom I had no idea what I was in for!
- The EXTREME sleep deprivation
- Complete emotional exhaustion every single day
- AND, there’s no way I could have anticipated the sheer amount of laundry with even just ONE kid! WOW!
Even with all those surprises, the most profound aspect of motherhood that I did not expect is the mom guilt.
Feeling like I’m failing, like no matter what I do I can’t keep up, and sometimes wondering who I thought I was taking on the job of raising children. That heart-wrenching weight of feeling that I’m failing at the one job I care most about, it comes on unexpectedly and threatens to crush me and all my efforts if I’m not careful.
I’ll admit, there was a time I thought the mom guilt would win. That’s when I made a slight shift, one that released the weight I felt most days, and would help me work my way out from under it on other days. I’m still not perfect or above mom guilt, but I can say I know it won’t ever threaten to crush me again.
While I’m not a “dooms dayer” or one who says “we live in a dark time,” I do truly believe we live in a time where it is difficult to rise above social pressure.
When I was growing up, the ideas my mom had of parenting were ones she saw in real life, or on TV. The TV shows were all so fake they didn’t really mold any realistic picture of parenting, so my parents relied on their parents and the people around them as examples of what parenting should look like
A Definite Shift
Since then, there has been a very real and definite shift happen for parents that skews the vision of what parenting should look like, enhances mom guilt, and distracts moms from doing anything to rise above it.
Of course, social media.
Every day a newsfeed is flooded with pictures of friends, acquaintances, and contacts who live real lives, have real kids, and are not just some character in a TV show. The pictures portray immaculately clean homes, well dressed kids, laughter every day, fun times had by all. All of those combine to create a general picture of what motherhood “should” look like. And when my home doesn’t measure up (which it never does), the mom guilt comes on strong and I wonder what’s wrong with me.
I can’t keep my house clean, or I’d have to ignore my kids.
Ignoring my kids makes me feel guilty because I know I should be doing cute activities with them.
Doing cute activities is messy and takes time, which I don’t have if I want a clean home.
But to have happy kids, I think I might need to do the cute activities, so I clean off a portion of a room just big enough to snap a picture of our happy moment, and briefly feel like I’ve joined the ranks of social-media-perfect moms, and feel mom guilt the rest of the day as I deal with my own reality.
And the cycle continues every single day, or at least it did until I realized something.
The Problem With Expectation
While social media is made up of REAL friends with REAL kids and REAL houses, it doesn’t usually portray REAL life at all. Most pictures taken are just like mine, a staged snapshot in time of one tiny aspect of one person’s life.
Which means, the expectation of living that kind of parenting life is not REAL at all.
While real kids might be in the picture, most of the time they are posing, which makes the moment fake.
While real homes might be in the picture, we don’t get a full snapshot of what isn’t in the picture, which makes the moment only partially true.
While real moms are taking these pictures, the one snapshot in time doesn’t reflect their entire day as a mom or define them in any way.
In short, the picture I generate in my head from social media moms is just as fake as a TV show, but was the one thing causing me mom guilt for so many years.
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The year I stepped back and allowed myself to think outside the social media perfect box, I became more content with REALITY.
Real mom life is;
- a great mix of laughter, tears, frustration, heartache, and tough lessons learned for everyone
- navigating all of those feelings together as a team, and sometimes coming out on the losing end
- messing up and saying sorry
- huge hugs and sweet kisses when the time is right
- tender moments of connection
- frustrating moments of anger
- and everything in between
It’s not perfectly scripted, it likely wouldn’t make a great social media post, but it is real, and in that reality, there is beauty and NO mom guilt!
When I realized that, it was the year my mom guilt started slowly fading away. I was more forgiving of myself as a parent. The times I lost my temper, made mistakes, or lost my mind, I was able to use those as opportunities to truly demonstrate to my kids that NOBODY is perfect, NOTHING is perfect, and EVERYTHING in life is a hot mess at times. The important thing is knowing how to come back from that.
With social media pictures of perfect snapshots of a perfectly clean house with perfectly dressed kids who are looking perfectly calm and cute in that moment, it is easy to feel the mom guilt creep in. Real life is so much more beautiful when things aren’t fake or scripted.
The messes are made because my kids don’t sit around all day. They play. They are creative, they make HUGE messes. I don’t love the mess but I love the reason behind it.
The tears that happen on a regular basis. I’m grateful for those because they are reminders that we aren’t perfect, we all have feelings, and encourage me to work harder every day to understand each and every one of them. I’m grateful my home is a place where feelings can be expressed without blame or shame. I don’t always love it, but I love the reason behind it.
My life is far from a perfect social media post, for that I’m grateful, and most days I hold true to that, which helps me rid my heart of the extreme pressure of mom guilt that so easily could have destroyed me.