I felt guilty.

No matter where I was or what I was doing. If I was feeding my baby the nutritious, organic, homemade meal (that I researched and carefully planned), I felt guilty I wasn’t answering work emails. If I was answering work emails I felt guilty I wasn’t engaging my child’s brain with age appropriate STEM activities. If I was loving on my partner I felt guilty that I wasn’t washing the pile of dishes or tackling the mound of laundry.

 

Sound exhausting?
 
Or Maybe it sounds all too familiar?

What if I told you that this constant feeling of guilt is carefully structured by our society to make you feel inadequate when you can’t always be the super mom? Yes! Mom guilt is a wonderful tool that keeps us striving for the ever unattainable, Pinterest mom status. The idea of working a demanding job, attending every PTA meeting, staging the showroom quality, catalog home, rocking that supermodel body, and being the resident master chef is an illusion – a toxic illusion.

Caitlyn Collins examined the societal role that “mom guilt” plays in America. She argues that our society pushes the message, “A guilty mom is a mom who really loves her children.” So we wear our guilt like a badge of honor because it means we do care, and we do try, and we do obsess over the perceived fact that we are constantly falling short. Because as long as society makes us feel guilty for all the perceived areas we fall short, it will keep us from questioning our lack of societal support (lack of maternity leave, lack of childcare help, lack of job security, etc.).

Mom Guilt: A societally constructed concept designed to leave women in a perpetual feeling of failure or inadequacy to coerce them to continue being productive with minimal support.

I drank all that Kool-aid. Hell, I asked for a second glass. I worked from home, because being a “stay-at-home mom” is best, and I exclusively breastfed, and I did a vaginal birth, and I made all my own homemade, organic baby food, and I did organic cloth diapers, and while none of these things are wrong (they were great for my little guy and I would do it all over again), the pressure to do it all (flawlessly) grew. And each time I “failed” or fell short the voice in my head grew louder, reminding me to push harder, to sacrifice more, to stop being “selfish.”

Until one day I looked in the mirror and I didn’t recognize the ghost who stared back. Greasy, limp hair, dark circle donned eyes, pinched mouth, and an aura that radiated stress and exhaustion.

And it clicked.

What am I doing?

And then I had to ask myself that again and again as I battled the perfectionism of mommyhood, reminding myself of this simple truth: it’s okay to put myself on the list of priorities. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of my children, my partner, my job, other moms.

Here’s a cold, hard truth: Society is not going to prioritize you. Our society is looking for production. Your choices demonstrate to your children what their priorities should be, what healthy boundaries look like. You are modeling for your children that it’s okay to sacrifice all of yourself for everyone else, a job, a family, etc. You are propagating the toxic message that your worth, your value is somehow rooted in your “to do” list and it isn’t right to have healthy boundaries to preserve your own sanity.

You might have heard this message before; you might have heard this message a million times. But I will tell you again. You need to silence that voice in your head, the mom guilt voice, the one who tells you prioritizing yourself is selfish.

I want to challenge you to embrace this truth by implementing three things:

  • Ask for help

    No really… Ask someone for help

  • Ignore the pile of ____ (dishes, laundry, toys)… they can wait

    You heard me. Your kitchen doesn’t need to be constantly spotless, the laundry always done, the meals always perfect. 

  • Be there… Wherever you are, just be there

    I was constantly in two, three, four places at once. Not physically, but I might as well be. I spent my tasks thinking about the next one. Playtime with my son was spent thinking about what to make for lunch, and work was spent thinking about household chores, and the rare date night was spent thinking about my son. I didn’t enjoy the moment, because I was always investing into the next one.

When was the last time you prioritized you? And I don’t mean haphazardly shaving your legs as you rushed through your morning shower. When was the last time you modeled for your children, for society, for other women that it’s okay to take time to be kind to yourself.

Furthermore, when was the last time you prioritized you, and didn’t feel guilty about it?