Mama guilt is a topic that comes up frequently in conversations with my students and friends.
This guilt creeps up all the time and it seemingly starts early in pregnancy. How many of these have you said to yourself during pregnancy or early motherhood?
OMG, I ate sushi! Is that going to hurt my baby?
I drank a glass of wine, is my baby going to be sleepy?
I’m drinking too much coffee, is my baby going to be hyper?
I’m not working out enough. I feel like a lazy ass.
I feel like I’m too young to have a baby.
What if I'm too old to have a baby?
Oh shit, I skipped my birthing class. How am I going to know what to do?
Oh shit, I skipped my breastfeeding class. What if I don't do it right?
I got an epidural, I feel like a pussy.
I got a c-section, I feel like my body betrayed me.
Why can’t I calm my baby down, I’m failing at this mothering thing.
He won’t stop crying. Why won’t he stop crying? What am I doing wrong?
I ate onions, is that why she has gas?
I stay at home with my baby and I feel like I don’t spend enough time with my baby.
I have to go back to work and I feel like I don’t spend enough time with my baby.
I send my baby to daycare. Am I neglecting my baby?
I’m not pumping enough milk, why is my body failing me?
I put him to bed on his side and he rolled over onto his stomach. Is he going to suffocate?
I’ve said almost every single one! I’m very open about my own Mama guilt moments with my students. I work too much - guilt. I’m not spending enough time with my kids - guilt. I’m spending too much time with the baby - guilt. I’m spending too much time with the toddler - guilt. I’m not spending enough time with my husband - guilt. I didn’t practice yoga today - guilt. I checked emails at home and worked while my kids played nearby - guilt. I wish the baby would take longer naps - guilt.
The Mama guilt is REAL. WHY do we do this to ourselves?
As one of my favorite teachers and biggest influences, Janet Stone says, "Somehow, a heavy weight of guilt seems to show up for most mothers even before the child is born. We analyze how well we’re sleeping, what we put in our bodies, our genetic legacy, age, and so on and so forth. We’re told all of this will have a massive and life-altering effect on this new pristine life. As if we’re already ruining it by being human. It begins while we’re growing a life, and it only intensifies when that life is born into the world."
This guilt is heavy, it weighs us down and it prevents us from enjoying time with our children and from really loving and enjoying this season of our lives.
Truth Bomb: No matter how much Mama guilt you feel, you are the perfect mom for your child(ren) and you are mom enough for what they need! You do enough, you are enough and YOU ARE MOM ENOUGH!
Journal Exercise: I learned this journal exercise from Janet Stone. This is a fantastic technique to get your thoughts out of your mind and onto paper. Many times, the negative thoughts lose their power (and sometimes even seem ridiculous or untrue) once you get them out of your head.
Make a list of all the things that lead you to experience mama guilt
Look at the source of the guilt for each of the items on your list.
Is it because you’re taking a path other than the societal norm?
Does it not align with your cultural beliefs?
Does it not jive with your personal values or your deep intentions?
Are you comparing yourself to the images you see on social media of other women seemingly doing things “perfectly.”
If you have unrealistic expectations, you may need to release some of those expectations and truly “let go."
If you have false guilt, it’s important to acknowledge that the guilt isn’t real and practice releasing the guilt before it sets in.
If you truly are going against moral, cultural or personal beliefs that you strongly care about, maybe you do need to make a change to get back on track. As you make these corrections, treat yourself with kindness and forgiveness!
Mantra Exercise: Get out your pen and journal or sticky notes and write “I am Mom enough.” Post it on your mirror, your computer or desk where you’ll see it often. Read it, read it again, say it aloud. Repeat daily until you truly believe it!
- You can start with 5 minutes or even 2 minutes of sitting and build from there.
- Mama guilt often comes with a spinning "monkey mind", so it’s important that you ground your body and expand your breath first so you can connect to the present moment before turning your attention inward.
- Sit with your legs crossed at your shins or ankles on a bolster or meditation cushion, or sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- If you’re sitting on a bolster or cushion on the floor, you want your butt to be higher than your knees and your pelvis to be tilted forward slightly. You might need to sit closer to the front edge of the bolster for this alignment. Elevating the pelvis allows more stability and a more natural low back curve.
- Feel the contact of your bottom and legs on the cushion or chair and your feet on the floor.
- Know that you are safe and supported here and know that nothing will fall apart in the few minutes you sit here. Everything will be ok, and in fact, better than ok because you’re taking this time out for yourself.
- Gently close your eyes.
- Take a few deep breaths through your nose to settle into your body
- Feel your shoulders relax
- Feel your jaw relax
- Find length through your side waist as you grow taller
- Shift your ribs up and back
- Inhale, exhale
- Repeat several times
- Then silently say the affirmation “I am the perfect mother for my child today"
- Say it several times
- Let your words link to your breath
- Inhale I am the perfect mother for my child today"
- Exhale I am the perfect mother for my child today"
- As you repeat this affirmation, really feel it in your body
- Feel it in your breath
- Feel it in your mind
- Feel it in your bones
- Feel it in your heart
- To let the mantra go, take a deep smooth inhale through your nose, and an open mouth exhale, sigh it out, let it go
- Slowly bring your awareness back
- Gently open your eyes
- Bring your hands to your heart.
Know that you do enough, you are enough, you are mom enough. Namaste!
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