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How to Reduce Mom Guilt: Studio 5

Moms have a lot to do, and we often take pride in accomplishing tasks and checking items off of our to-do lists. But when we don’t achieve what we set out to, unfortunately we can beat ourselves up (this happens particularly during changes and chapter endings, such as summer winding down and kids heading back to school). It seem to be human nature to focus on what we didn’t get done, but focusing on our shortcomings (perceived or real) can lead to great unhappiness and emotional distress. Here are 5 ways to resolve mom guilt:

1) Stop the Cycle of Comparison 

Theodore Roosevelt wrote that “comparison is the thief of joy.” I recently found myself comparing my family’s summer plans with those of some of my friends and wishing that we had done more. Thankfully, I was able to catch myself and simple say, “Stop It!” Social media makes it all too easy to compare our lives with others, but every person and every family is different, and there is something empowering about owning your own life and experience for what it is (click here for a past Studio 5 segment on avoiding comparison).

5 Ways to Reduce Guilt

2) Learn to Value the Process (as well as the End Result/ Product) 

Our society seems to highly value being efficient and making actionable accomplishments, but the process of how we achieve (or don’t achieve) can be just as important, if not more so, than the actual product or task. For example, I recently had a friend tell me she looked forward to having a clean house again after her kids went back to school (she claimed it has been a mess all summer). But when I asked, she admitted they’d had a great summer. In my view, the “process” of a fun time with family is worth the end result of a temporarily messy house!

3) Recognize the Value of Being Unproductive 

We often tout the benefits of “being productive,” but there is something special about unscheduled time to allow for a flow of stream of consciousness. There is a stage of the creative process called “incubation” in which an idea or concept is developing even though the creator is not actively focused on it. We cannot just work all the time; we need breaks, time to rest, and an opportunity to allow our creative subconscious to flow (check out this article from Psych Central about how to not feel guilty when you’re unproductive).

4) Challenge Negative or Self-Defeating Beliefs

Sometimes women seem to tie their self-worth or judge how good of a mom they are on how busy or productive they are. I challenge you to confront and examine these types of notions. For example, if you sincerely believe that the more productive you are, the more valuable of a human being you are, does that mean that individuals with physical disabilities or limitations are worth less? Analyzing these types of underlying beliefs can help us see when we have errors in our thinking. Remember that worth is inherent and not dependent on behavior; you do not need to feel guilty when you have a day where you’re less productive than you would have liked to have been.

5) Reevaluate Your Expectations

One of the culprits of “mom guilt” is unreasonable expectations. Do you expect your house to always be spotless, your kids to do perfectly in school, and you to make it to the gym 5 days a week? By realizing that life isn’t perfect, there will be bad days, and best laid plans sometimes go awry, you can be more forgiving of yourself and reduce stress and guilt you may otherwise feel. Try instead to set reasonable goals and expectations for yourself and your family.

What are your strategies for reducing guilt? I can’t wait to hear!

About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.

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