How to overcome mom guilt

Rachel Flanagan Uncategorized

When I became a parent (or actually when I started showing when I was pregnant with James), I started getting a ton of advice about parenting, both solicited and unsolicited. Breastfeeding was a popular topic, but there were SO MANY others.

When to give solid food.
Bedtime routines.
How to fix a picky eater.
Sleep training.
Preschool screening.
Time outs.
Car seats.
And on and on and on.

But there was one piece of advice that has always stayed with me:

“On any given day, you can be a great parent, a great employee, a great wife, a great daughter, or a great friend. But if you try to be great at all of these roles simultaneously, and all of the time, you will lose your mind.”

BOOM. This made my perfectionist’s heart start to pound. I didn’t realize at the time just how true this statement would be. Time and time again, the same scenario played out: if I was doing well in one area of my life, I’d inevitably feel guilty about something else being seemingly neglected, at least to my standards.

For example, if I’d done a killer job on an event at work and had gotten good feedback, I’d feel guilty about the other things that went on the back burner while I put in long hours at the office, like fitness or time with my family. Or if I’d blown off a workout to have coffee with a friend, I’d feel guilty about missing the workout.

The guilt list was always there in the back of my mind:

I haven’t visited my mom this week.
I haven’t organized a date night with PJ in a while.
I haven’t spent any one-on-one time with James in a while.
I haven’t organized a playdate for Paige in a while.
I haven’t called my friend Ellen this week.
I haven’t gone for a run in weeks.
I haven’t blogged in a while. 

As moms, why do things that have the potential to make us feel better/more energetic/happy/more relaxed feel like luxuries in terms of time? Things like taking an Epsom salt bath, getting a massage, or even getting in a workout, often fall low on the priority list when our worlds get crazy. The feeling that everything else needs to be done before you can take time for yourself–even 30 minutes–can take over your mind.

But here’s the thing: self care, like exercise and movement, is NOT selfish, or unimportant. In fact, it’s critical. YOU, as an individual, are important. Your health is important, both mental and physical. Investing in yourself is always worthwhile. Taking the time to exercise will pay dividends, both in the short and long term.

For me, exercise is both a mental and physical stress release. Lifting in the gym is empowering and confidence building. Running is cathartic. Both are equally important to me, so the guilt must be tamed.

Here’s how I do it: I hold my head up, take a deep breath, and ask for help.

Here’s what you can do:

Ask your spouse to take over on early morning kid duties a couple of times a week so you can go to the gym.

Tell your boss you’re training for a marathon and that you need to use your lunch hours for runs. Tell him how you’ll be available at other times, if needed.

Invite your friends to a class at the gym or a studio so you can see them and get in a workout at the same time.

Hire a sitter once a week so you can go to that yoga class you’ve always wanted to try.

It’s okay to take time for yourself–really and truly. I hearby give you permission to release the reins of Supermom control a little bit so you can make a little time for yourself.

If you’re feeling guilty about taking time away from the kids to workout, for example, look at it this way: when you show them you’re making your health a priority by taking time to workout, you’re being a great role model. And when you come back from the gym, come back from the run, or come out of the guest room where you keep your workout stuff in a better mood, your kids will notice. I don’t know about you guys, but if I haven’t worked out or gone for a run in a couple of days, I am short tempered and irritable. And that’s bad for everyone.

So let’s make a pact: no more guilt. Or maybe just less guilt. Because perfection is overrated.

And hey, if you’re struggling to get to the gym, workout at home! I put together a FREE workout kit with 10 workouts that can be done in the privacy of your own home, even with kids buzzing around you. All you need is 30 minutes and a small bit of space. Even in the kitchen.

Photos by the talented Ashley Freuler of Maud Photography

10 workouts you can do in the comfort of your own home--even in your kids' playroom!
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