A quote recently appeared on my Pinterest wall. It read “You only have 936 Saturdays with your children. Make them count.” My palms started to sweat. My stomach sank. Instantly my mind raced with a million questions. Have I been using my Saturdays wisely with my kids? Do I try to accomplish too many tasks on Saturday? Do I have enough fun with my kids? Am I a fun mom? As you can probably guess the barrage of questions only lead me to feel an intense amount of “mommy guilt” over my lack of fun Saturday activities with my kids.
Too often we get caught up in a cycle of feeling guilty about the things we are or are not doing. Whether it be over children, work, spouse, or just everyday tasks we can bring ourselves down to a very negative place that is hard to get out of. Daniel Nayeri wisely said, “Guilt is a useless feeling. It’s never enough to make you change your direction-only enough to make you feel useless.” How true! Guilt is a feeling that can take our day from bright and shining to dark and dreary. If you find yourself on a constant track of guilt here are a few steps to help you get out of that cycle.
1) Be Mindful: What is mindfulness you ask? Mindfulness is the art of being present in your situation and calmly being aware of how you feel. When feeling guilt I find that the first basic step is to be mindful of what you are feeling, and why you are feeling it. Recognizing why you are feeling a certain way gives you the power to change your thoughts and feelings over the situation. Take a few deeps breaths. Focus on what you are feeling. Think about what happened during your day that made you feel guilty. Once you have identified what lead you to the guilt you can deal with it better.
2) Give Yourself the Credit you Deserve. Its noon and you have not done flashcards with your children, made homemade play dough, created a fun trinket out of popsicle sticks and pom poms, and participated in a fun new kids yoga program that will get your children excited about exercise. Then you must be a horrible parent. WRONG! Instead of looking at all of the things you are NOT doing with your children, look at what you ARE doing with them. At the end of the day did your children have food to eat? Did they have clothes to wear? Did you talk to them? When they came to you did you listen? Did they feel loved? These are the things that matter most to children. Our children will look back and remember some of the fun things we did with them. However it is more important that they look back and remember feeling taken care of, and loved. If you are doing that for your children you are doing enough.
3) Stop Comparing Yourself to Others: One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Theodore Roosevelt. He stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparing ourselves to others ends in one of two ways. The first is that you feel inferior to whomever you are comparing yourself with. The second is to feel superior to that person. In the end you are putting yourself down for not doing as well as another person, or you are someone who has to put yourself above another person to feel self worth. Either way does not end well. Comparison will make you feel bad about yourself and your situation. As Roosevelt aptly stated it will take away your joy. When looking for ways to make yourself feel happy and content comparing yourself to others will never get you where you want.
4) Unplug from Social Media for awhile. The women I work with report that a large majority of their guilt comes from social media. The different outlets we have to stay connected can be a major source of good in our lives. It can also be a big stick to beat ourselves up with. If you find yourself feeling bad after checking your Facebook wall, feel guilty after seeing what fun your friends are having on Instagram, or beating yourself up over all of the things you are not doing via pinterest, then maybe its time to check out. Take a break from the media outlets. Come back when you feel better and can keep the guilty thoughts and feelings at bay.
5) Let it go: Elsa was not just talking to young girls. Often we hold on to our emotions because we think they fuel us to get things done, or justify our behavior. Once you have identified the origin of the guilt, let it go. Follow these steps to feel better about yourself and your situation and then let the feelings of guilt, and inadequacy go.
If these steps are not useful, or you have recurring thoughts and feelings about guilt that will not go away it may be a symptom of a bigger problem. Track the thoughts and feelings that you are unable to deal with. If there is a consistent pattern think about going to see a counselor. They can help you properly deal with and overcome these feelings.
Last week another quote popped up on my Pinterest account. It read “No amount of guilt can solve the past and no amount of anxiety can change the future.” (Umar In Al-Khattaab) Guilt is an unnecessary emotion. If dealt with properly it will not have the power to steal our joy and we can feel truly content.