I’ve learned many lessons in my first three months of motherhood, but this has to be one of the biggest. I realize now that when I cradled my sweet baby girl for the first time, I also began to carry the weight of a mother’s guilt and worry.
What does that mean?
I definitely experienced the normal “baby blues” associated with postpartum hormone changes. I cried because I was worried she wasn’t eating enough. I cried because I was happy. I cried because I was sad birth was over. I cried because I was guilty for not changing her diaper soon enough. I cried because I feared losing Jeff in a car accident and becoming a single mom.
My emotions balanced out after a couple of weeks, but the guilt and worry remains – and will likely remain for the remainder of my life. I am, and will always be a mom.
I have many days where I don’t feel the weight of a mother’s guilt and worry. Most of the time, I feel competent and capable – I feel like a good mom. But then there are those moments when guilt and worry come crashing in.
For instance, Eleanor has battled thrush for 3 weeks and my mind has looked somewhat like this…
And so on and so on… But between the tears and the crushing weight of guilt and worry I stop, look down and see Eleanor smiling back at me, and know that I have not been given more than I can handle.
In my short time as a mom, I have found 3 ways of managing the guilt and worry of parenting:
1. Surround yourself with honest, affirming people
Jeff has been amazing, but beyond him, both of my parents have been invaluable as I’ve maneuvered decisions as a parent. When I ask for their advice, I can be certain that they will tell me the truth. They aren’t there to take sides, and sometimes they simply don’t have an answer – and that’s ok! They are also quick to let me know that they support me and believe I’m doing a good job.
2. Get to know your baby
And I mean, get to know, know your baby. Jeff and I have been extremely hands-on parents. To others we may look like the ultimate helicopter parents, but our reasoning is simple. First, we want Eleanor to form a secure attachment to us, her parents. In her first few weeks and months, we believe it is important to consistently be there when she is in need. I think it’s vital for an infant to know that there is someone they can rely on no matter what.
Second, we want to know Eleanor. We want to know the difference between a hungry cry, a diaper cry, and a cry of pain. We want to know if she’s sleeping more or less than normal. We want to know her patterns and her likes and dislikes. Most importantly, we want to know when something is different. Even dealing with a minor (although annoying) medical issue like thrush has reinforced the value of really knowing my daughter. I feel confident answering the doctor’s questions, and I’m quick to notice changes in her behavior.
3. Validate your feelings
Your feelings (as unrealistic as they may seem) deserve to be validated. Tell your partner. Cry a little. Keep a journal. Do what you have to do to let those feelings of guilt and worry out. For me, recognizing these feelings helps me stop dwelling, move on, and regain a sense of calm and control.
I am a good mom. I’m not a perfect mom, but I certainly try my best. The feelings of guilt and worry will undoubtedly remain, but keeping these tips in mind will help me maintain confidence in my parenting.
Can you relate to the guilt and worry of parenthood?
What would you add to a list of tips?