The Mother-Guilt Effect – Written as part of The Summer of Self-Care (Self) Challenge.
I feel tethered to guilt. It seems to follow me wherever I go. Creeping in and influencing my days, keeping me up at night. It twists and turns my stomach as I fret over the day, which inevitably grows to embody any wrong I’ve ever committed over the entire course of my life.
It feeds my anxiety.
The guilt that I feel is about letting people down, leaving people behind and not living up to their expectations.
The guilt that I experience is about feeling that I am not enough, whether that be: good enough, or smart enough, or talented enough, or deserving enough.
The very moment I became a mother, I instinctively knew where I was needed, what my role was and as my heart swelled with love and pride I knew that I had truly found home; my baby girl, my heart, my pure piece of the universe.
I don’t remember how long the exaltation lasted before my guilt persisted and insisted that my failings as a mother were born in my sloppy attempts to keep up with my obligations. I wasn’t doing this correctly or that effectively or achieving any of the in-between well enough.
Guilt as a way of life…
Guilt and I worked side by side. I accepted its constant presence as ordinary, universal, a means to an end; something that all mothers felt. In hindsight, I have come to understand that my struggle with guilt was suggesting that I wasn’t taking care of my mind, body and spirit. My acceptance of guilt’s presence was only feeding the wear and tear I was experiencing. I was doing, I was powering through, I was on the road to burnout city; running on empty.
I survived like this until I broke when my second was 18 months old. I had been managing, by the seat of my pants; struggling most every day, crying most every night. When I came forward to ask for help I immediately began with therapy and medication and for another two and half years I worked steadily on myself. I explored the way I had once felt, the way I was currently feeling and the way I wanted to one day feel. I took a deep dive and was able to shift my perspective and come out from under the rock I was shielding myself with. I become braver and more honest with myself and curious about the person I was hiding.
Finding the Work (Guilt) Life Balance…
When I re-entered the workforce I saw it as my opportunity to stretch my mind and claim something entirely for myself. I understood it that there was going to be a learning curve, a moment of transition to adjust but I was not expecting the demands and struggles working parents experience. This is tough and wearing and I became overwhelmed and this opened the door to the heaviness of the Mother-Guilt Effect to re-enter.
I felt guilty about placing a focus on myself and my pursuits. I felt guilt about the time I was giving my website; time that ordinarily would be my family’s. I felt guilty that the house wasn’t as orderly as usual. I felt guilty about having less time to cook gorgeous, healthy, homemade meals and even more guilty as I made a deal with the prepared foods freezer section. I felt guilty for the added salt and sugar in my family’s food. I felt guilty that I was feeling tired and exhausted, drained by all the activity my brain was keeping up with. I felt guilty about all the coffee I was drinking and poor diet choices I was making. I felt guilty for struggling to survive.
I was ashamed and felt guilty about not achieving the status of “Super Mum,” which my ego was convinced I would nail – even as I sit firm in my belief that “Super Mum” status is bogus and does not determine worth or ability or status –the perfectionist within me, the one who peaks in times of heighten anxiety, was affected by the presumed failure and my inability to perform at 100% in every aspect. This really affected the confidence I held as a mother.
I recognized that I needed an outlet and a schedule to develop time and love for myself. I noted the popularity of the various challenges I witnessed all over social media and I found a self-care book I used as inspiration to create my own individual practice. I took my love of dissecting and re-building “things” and decided that I needed to create a challenge suitable for developing my ritualistic habits of self-care and self-love.
Messages of self-care seem to exist everywhere now-a-days; some of it positive and, in my humble opinion, some of it misguided. You can catch yourself up on the conversation by visiting Blog No. 5 – We All Start Somewhere – A Mother’s Introduction to Self-Care.
Each and every person needs to identify what works for them and their budget. Self-Care is personal and needs to be tailored to you and your lifestyle.
Find your healthy approach to self-care and run with it! Strengthen your body, mind and spirit. Work on yourself for yourself. Feel better, feel so much better.
We all know that we cannot fill another bucket if our own well of inspiration and love is dry. We must take care of ourselves in order to take care of and support others. If our support to the world is a car then the self-care and self-love we show ourselves is the fuel. A car won’t run on empty tank and neither will you.
Mother-Guilt is a very common response when it comes to self-care. It seems that I share this feeling and experience with others that struggle to prioritize and put individual self-care to the top of the to do list.
When I am feeling any guilt about taking time for myself, I ask myself a series of questions. When I am accepting of my own words the answers I receive are empowering. Listen to your answers, do they plead the case for your time, self-care and self-love like mine did?
Where does the feeling that I owe an apology for self-care come from?
Why do I consider myself selfish to take time to replenish, rest and retreat?
Why do I put my self-care on hold until the work is done?
Why do I treat it as if it is a reward?
Why not thank ourselves for taking the time to rejuvenate?
✨Pay gratitude to ourselves for showing up, remaining committed and putting ourselves first.
Why not simply fuel ourselves each day for the journey ahead?
✨Lovingly prepare ourselves by nourishing our mind, body and spirit.
The reward will be found in the satisfaction of knowing that you put yourself first and committed to growing forward. The reward will be in how healthy you feel overall. The reward felt in the weight lifted from your shoulders. The reward observed in your outlook on life and the world that surrounds. The reward demonstrated through your undeniable joy and happiness.
Your reward evident in your best body, mind and spirit.
I’m a WIP – Onward and upward…
I am my life’s project; I get that now. I will always be discovering myself and my many facets and learning how to unconditionally love and support all of it. Both therapy and medication have made a positive influence in my life and have helped me to move forward and remain aligned/(ish, mostly). That ISH is why my self-care regime is so important. I needed to develop a self-care regime that would assist to fill the gaps that therapy and medication are not able to.
The worked involved in learning how to love myself is difficult and jarring and requires dedication. It is the hardest, yet, greatest work I have ever done. While my daughters are my greatest creations, I am my greatest piece of work.
Things I keep in mind…
My family is important and that makes me important. My family’s healthy growth is important and that makes my healthy growth important. My family’s future is important and that makes my future important. While I recognize that for many, I have always been important, I would not have always agreed with the statement.
It was only when my heart was framed in the faces of my daughters that I understood my importance to this life.
I am important and deserving of my patience, kindness and consideration. I am worthy of love, respect and esteem. I am grateful to receive loyalty, authenticity and honesty. I am humbled when supported, appreciated and included.
Growing forward and always listening for the messages the universe sends, I will strive to evolve and demonstrate healthy habits of self-care and self-love so that these actions are modeled for my biggest followers and fans; my daughters.
Thank you for reading. Really, it means so much. I would love to hear what motherhood is for you. Please feel free to drop a comment below and share, share, share.