Create a Meaningful Support System to Counter the Weight of Mommy Guilt

mom guilt

One of the most surprising aspects of new motherhood is loneliness.  While family or friends may have prepared you for sleepless nights and diaper blowouts, few mention how lonely you may feel in the middle of the night when most of the world is asleep or when trapped at home during the afternoon naps.  It is often during these lonely moments that we question ourselves as mothers and feel the weight of mommy guilt settle in.

As the months and years pass, many moms gradually connect with a network of other moms through toddler classes, PTAs, neighborhood walks, church events, etc.  We begin by chatting at the playground and meeting up for playdates or coffee.  We have to remember how to make new friends as grownups, finding common ground and taking risks to reach out to someone new.  It often feels like dating in the beginning: asking for a number, sending a text, waiting for a response, not wanting to overwhelm someone with too much too soon.  This stress and fear of rejection can be enough to give up on the process of creating a social support network altogether.

For those who persevere to make mom friends, this network can become a source of great support, validation, and a forum for venting.  But it can also become a tricky social world of comparisons and competitions.  Many moms assume everyone else is able to handle parenting challenges with ease, feeling like failures by comparison. They watch a neighbor manage a toddler tantrum without hollering and feel great shame and guilt about yelling at their own children earlier that morning.  They may be surrounded by other moms but feel alone and isolated in their own feelings of low self-worth.

An important step in overcoming mommy guilt requires extending yourself to others so you can create and maximize a meaningful support system.

Make the Most of Your Social Support:

  1. Allow yourself to be real about parenting struggles.  When you take the risk to let down your defenses, your social mask that everything is “just fine,” you open up opportunities to deepen your friendships.  As you take the risk to be honest and vulnerable, others will feel safe enough to be genuine too.
  2. Talk about mommy guilt as it arises.  When you share your feelings of guilt with others, you have the chance to hear how high your expectations may be.  And you avoid the isolating state of shame.  Let other moms join you and comfort you. You may even discover some humor in the process.
  3. Release yourself from toxic relationships.  If you find yourself in a dynamic with someone who always leaves you feeling worse about yourself, it is time to reexamine this relationship.  Some people drain your energy and bring out your worst side.  If you’re not able to end this relationship completely, you can still establish boundaries that protect yourself.
  4. Connect with your partner.  Fathers experience parenting guilt in their own ways.  They often feel pressure to constantly measure up to everyone’s needs and fix all the problems that arise.  Sharing your feelings of guilt within the marital relationship gives each person an opportunity to understand and support the other.  You’re not in this alone.  You can feel like a team working together to set realistic expectations and encourage each other during tough moments.

The benefits of nurturing a compassionate network of supportive people cannot be overstated.  It feels like a risk in the beginning to reach out and deepen these relationships, but it’s well worth the temporary discomfort.

When reaching out for the support of others is too daunting or simply not enough to counter the negative talk in your head, it may be time to seek professional help.  Make sure to take care of yourself by getting the mental health care you need.

Please note, this is the third blog in a three part series.

Written by Suzanne Smith, Ph.D. for the Linden Blog. If you are interested in receiving Linden Blog updates with original articles about parenting, families, mental health, and wellness, subscribe using the field below. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Dr. Smith at Linden BP call 440/250-9880.