Have you noticed that balance (well, lack of it) and guilt seem to go hand-in-hand for moms?
It seems that when we’re not in balance, maybe because we’re spending too much time working, and then the house is a mess because of it, not only are things feeling off, but we’re also feeling bad about it.
What’s that about?
As if it’s not enough that time- and energy-wise we’re not spending that time and energy where we’d like, but then we start to feel bad about it. When you’re unbalanced, do you have thoughts like these?
- I can’t believe I let the house get so messy…
- The kids are acting out because of me…
- Things are so chaotic- why can’t I keep up?
The truth is, we may be the cause of things being slightly chaotic. But, so what?? Why does it need to become a big thing that turns into guilt? When I have a lot of work, I spend time working. So, taking care of the house takes a back-burner. Yep- that’s because of me.
But guess what? I’ve decided not to feel bad about that.
Instead, I choose to look at the chaos as temporary. And that while it’s happening because of choices I’m making, I also focus on the fact that I am making choices that are important right now for me and my family.
Now- here’s the thing…we might be feeling guilt because things are out of balance and we need to actually do something about that. This might be our subconscious’ way of letting us know we need to make a change.
So, I’m not saying we ignore the guilt, but I think for most of us, it comes up too quickly and too prominently when it’s not really needed.
Back to me working. I probably work about 30 hours a week, but a lot of time it feels like it’s more.
I end up neglecting certain things for a little while. But eventually, I catch back up.
But, if I start feeling bad about the fact that there are dishes in the sink, or that there are piles of laundry, that’s a clue to me that things are probably too unbalanced and for too long.
Guilt does have a place- it should be a warning sign that we need to work on correcting, but I then we need to move on.
Guilt doesn’t help you when you’re trying to get through your daily tasks, and it can slow you down to a stop when you’re already overwhelmed and things aren’t as balanced as you would like.
How can moms handle guilt?
So listen- It’s hard. Guilt seems to be something that most of us are hard-wired to feel. We are typically the care-takers of everything in our houses, plus work, social lives for the family members, doctors’ appointments, and more.
There is a pressure moms tend to innately feel, but that also is put on us by others around us (sometimes it’s our perception, and sometimes people are actually telling us we “should do better.” I think you should kick those people out of your life, but I get that’s not always an option).
Guilt is hard to let go of, but think back to your pre-kid life. How often did you feel guilty? If you said no to an invite to a night out because you had to work, you probably didn’t feel guilt. You might have been bummed, but not guilty. Pre-kids, if you made a sub-par appetizer for a get together with friends, you might have all joked about cooking not being your strength and laughed it off. Now? If you’re like the moms I know, you apologize profusely and feel guilty (not to mention you also compare yourself to others and possibly judge yourself for not being as good as the other moms who brought amazing food).
We really need to stop.
How can you stop feeling guilty?
Decide to stop. Seriously.
Decide that you deserve better than that. Remember that there was a time in your life you’d let yourself off the hook for much more, and that now, you deserve that too. You don’t need to make yourself feel bad, especially if life is chaotic and off-balance. That will happen. Again and again. Balance is hard to maintain.
Understand that you will still feel guilt. If stopping guilt was as easy as step 1, we’d all be showing up with veggie trays from Costco with a big smile and calling it a day.
When the guilt shows up, especially due to spending more time on something to the detriment of something else, you need to be logical with yourself.
Talk to yourself about why it’s okay that you’re not in balance right now.
For example, instead of feeling bad about my piles of dishes (yes, piles), I tell myself “I’m excited I have a lot of work right now. I’ll get this handled soon.”
If I start thinking “Ugh, my kids have been watching so much TV-I’m a bad mom.” I remind myself that my kids actually think I’m awesome for letting them watch so much TV, and this is just for a couple of days until I can get caught up.
Repeat. It takes time and energy to create new habits. So, it’s important that when that guilt creeps in, that you continue to talk to yourself logically.
Remember that guilt can be a sign that things are too off-balance and you need to correct things, stat. So, when that happens, still talk logically to yourself, but take the time to see where you can make changes.
For example, I’m a bit of a work-a-holic. If I start feeling bad, it might not be that I’m working too much overall, but I’m spending too much time focusing on work for a period of time. I might need to force myself to stop and hang with the kids, or clean up a room (though let’s face it, it’s just going to be a mess again soon).
Remember that balance is an ongoing act, and that we can go from feeling balanced to not very quickly, but we can also correct that lack of balance too. Guilt doesn’t need to add to the experience when we’re unbalanced as moms, so take the time to address the guilt that you feel and then take steps as needed to create more balance for your family.
Ultimately, don’t feel bad about being out of your ideal balance (and also, don’t feel bad if the guilt is hard to kick!).