Throughout my pregnancy, I imagined the birth of my first child as being nothing short of a miracle. I would picture myself looking down at her for the first time, overcome with joy as the tears rolled down my cheeks. After all, that’s how it happens in the movies, right?
Well, after 26 hours of induced labor (and 32 hours without sleep) I was far too exhausted to keep my eyes open, let alone cry. If I’m being honest, I don’t remember feeling much of anything except relief. When I finally got some sleep and found time to reflect on her birth, I started feeling majorly guilty. Why didn’t I cry when I first saw my child’s face? Her dad cried. My mom cried. Was there something wrong with me?
This was my first taste of mom guilt.
Of course, at the time, I didn’t know there was a common phrase for what I was experiencing. In fact, I just learned about mom guilt a few weeks ago after posting a question on a Facebook mommy group.
I’d decided to start supplementing Lily with formula before bed in hopes that it would help her sleep throughout the night. I also wanted to have some formula on-hand in case I didn’t have enough pumped milk for her while I was at work. I put a lot of effort into researching the top brands of organic formula and felt confident with my choice.
After feeding Lily her first bottle, I was, unexpectedly, overcome with emotion. I cried. A lot. I felt like a failure because I had willingly chosen to feed my child formula when I didn’t necessarily have to. Was this really a good decision? So, like any good millennial mother, I took to the internet to see if my feelings were justified.
As it turns out, I wasn’t alone! Many women in my online group had similar experiences when switching to formula, either by choice or circumstance. What we feed our babies is such a hot topic in the parenting world. There’s a constant pressure to choose breastfeeding over formula, if at all possible, so it only makes sense that I would feel guilty about this. In the end, I decided this is what’s best for my child, and any negative thoughts that enter my mind now get left by the wayside.
Whether you’re faced with the breastmilk vs. formula decision, becoming a stay-at-home mom vs. going back to work, or are trying to figure out which sleep-training method is best, it’s OK to feel uncertain about your parenting choices. It’s not OK to beat yourself up over them.
From what I’ve read, most parents will experience mom (or dad) guilt in some way or another. I don’t think there’s any way to completely thwart these thoughts from entering our brains; after all, there are SO many things you have to think about as a parent. Instead of looking for ways to prevent these guilty thoughts, I’ve found a few things that help me end the guilt trip, and maybe they’ll help you, too.
- Decide if the guilt is rational or irrational.
Take a moment to set your feelings aside (I know, easier said than done) and think about the situation at hand. Is it really something that you should feel remorseful about? Or is it just your over-active brain playing tricks on you?
- Try to think of something positive.
For example, when I was having a meltdown about my decision to supplement with formula, I reminded myself that at least my baby would a) have a full tummy and b) get better sleep. And happy baby = happy mama.
- Don’t compare yourself to other parents.
This x 1,000! It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others, especially with the abundance of social media channels that have infiltrated our daily lives. Just because someone else’s life looks perfect, chances are they are dealing with their own struggles, too.
- Ask for help.
When in doubt, ask for help! Sometimes you just need an unbiased opinion or advice from someone else who has experienced what you’re going through to drive away those negative thoughts.
- Let it go.
I think it was the wise and wondrous Elsa who first said it, but LET IT GOOOOOOOOO! LET. IT. GO.
Unfortunately, there’s no official guide to parenting out there, so the choices we make as parents are up to us. Instead of beating yourself up over a tough decision or situation, take a deep breath and realize that it’s all a part of the journey.