With a few key strokes and click of the mouse, a mom can be instantly connected to hundreds — if not thousands — of articles giving their two cents on good parenting habits. Articles titled 10 Signs Your Baby Likes You— though probably written with the best intentions — can make a new mom question the bond with her brand new baby, instead of simply enjoying those fleeting first months. Dear Mom on the iPhone was written to encourage moms to turn off the tech and tune into their children's lives. Instead, many feelthey will be painted as a neglectful parent if they dare engage in a game of Words With Friends while their kids play at the park.
As if cyber world wasn’t enough to fuel a mom’s anxiety, we are expected to weed through the unsolicited advice and opinions of those around us: a stranger rolling their eyes in the checkout line during your toddler’s meltdown, your mom’s unsolicited advice on your son’s eating habits and an acquaintance shocked your daughter is not yet potty trained. The opinions are strong, the perspectives vary and the pressure and guilt can be emotionally debilitating.
Is it any wonder we as moms feel overwhelmed and struggle daily? We not only wonder what’s best for our children but if our mom skills are lacking. Some anxiety and worry in hopes our children become well-adjusted and happy individuals is absolutely normal — healthy even. A deep concern for your child's well-being is probably a good sign you are a good mom.
Too often I’ve seen good intentioned, hard working mothers become overly preoccupied with their mistakes. They dwell on their shortcomings and moments of weakness and, ever so gradually, are consumed with clouded thoughts of failure and self-loathing. How do I know this? I am one of them.
In fact, like most mom’s out there, I’m usually battling the mom guilt daily. For some reason, when bedtime rolls around, my mind replays the day's events in a cruel, biased manner. I don't remember the moments of cuddling and comfort given, the time when I chose to bite my tongue or when I managed to smile at my kids even though my body was aching for a nap. No. Instead my little mental movie reel shows me losing my temper before I take my son to school, allowing too much TV time and my hypocrisy when I cut up an apple for my kids and then eat a candy bar in the closet. Thankfully, I recently had a moment of clarity. I thought to myself, "How are these negative thoughts truly helping? What does the constant criticism accomplish? If I had a good friend punishing herself over a rough day with the kids, what would I say to her?" It would probably be something like this:
You make mistakes. In fact, you will make them over and over again. And before you berate yourself for that blowup at dinner, ask yourself was I sleep deprived, hormonal or just having an off day? Moms don’t get sick days and getaways usually means going grocery shopping sans the kiddos. Cut yourself some slack and remember you have a clean slate the next day.
Nip the comparing game in the bud
So what if your neighbor just tweeted that her 18-month-old is potty trained and already reciting his ABC’s? Comparing yourself to what seems to be a picture perfect life of another mom is a recipe for misery and resentment. Be especially careful with social network sites. It is far too easy to compare your very bad day with the cute pictures and adorable status updates of another mom. But, behind the computer screens, most of us — while facing a variety of challenges — are feeling the same insecurities and also struggling to learn the ropes of motherhood. We're really more alike than different.
Celebrate your successes — no matter how small
You made your son's favorite cookies, you kissed an "owie," you said “I love you.” Chances are, these are the moments your children are holding onto and remembering, so why don’t you?
This parenting thing is a tough gig. If you find yourself struggling at times to enjoy the journey, try to remember the good you do and kick the mom guilt to the curb. We’re all a work in progress. Chances are, you’re doing better than you think you are.