Quentin Hafner

4 Ways to Tackle New-Mom Guilt

New Mom’s Mother Day Gift To Herself – Getting Rid of Guilt

Moms have the hardest job in the world.  Caring for babies is an incredibly tasking experience both physically and emotionally.  To make matters even more difficult, many Moms struggle with feelings of inappropriate guilt, which adds a 1,000 lb. weight to the hardships of being a Mom.  I wanted to share with you some thoughts on guilt and what you can do do to shed some of these debilitating feelings that keep you from feeling the joys your deserve.  

My wife Hillery, and son, Levi. ❤️

 

Appropriate vs. Inappropriate Guilt

Guilt is a powerful emotion, and sometimes, guilt can be a very useful emotion to help guide and steer our decision-making processes when things are going astray in our lives.  But sometimes (maybe even most-times), a certain type of guilt that many new Mom’s experience is what we can call “inappropriate” guilt.  When working with couples with new babies, many new Moms experience a hefty dose of this inappropriate guilt when taking care of their own needs collides with taking care of the baby’s needs or other’s needs.  Examples of inappropriate guilt look like: 

  • Feeling guilty for wanting to leave the house to do something alone
  • Feeling guilty for not wanting to be with the baby
  • Feeling guilty for not wanting to have sex
  • Feeling guilty for not being “good enough”
  • Feeling guilty for not conforming to the latest parenting trends
  • Feeling guilty for going back to work
  • And the list goes on, and on…..

Self-Care Can Cause Guilt

When working with couples with new babies, I often remind them that it’s crucial for the success of their marriage that they learn how to care for themselves, not just the baby.  It’s along the lines of the oxygen mask metaphor – put your mask on first then help the person next to you.  This is when inappropriate guilt often creeps up and gets in the way of Moms doing things that are good for them.   The inappropriate guilt starts warring with self-care needs. 

Why Is This Happening?

Most inappropriate guilt that Mom’s experience is the residual left-overs from early childhood experiences.  Most people who experience inappropriate guilt grew up in families with one or more parents that placed unreasonable expectations on them as children.  Inappropriate guilt is that internalized parent or authority figure in your life that often told you that you weren’t good enough, or that you needed to do more, or that caring for others is paramount to taking care of yourself.   That harsh inner critic is often very perfectionist and punishing if you don’t live up to the highest standards possible.  The inappropriate guilt is a manifestation from early experiences of people in your life that told you, “but, you’re selfish!”  Anything short of perfectionism is total failure for this inner critic.  The loud guilty voices that antagonize you for wanting to take care of yourself have no room for shortcomings or humanness.  These internalized early relationships have a significant role in your life today, but the good news is you have the power to take back control over them.  

How to Eliminate Inappropriate Guilt

Inappropriate guilt is simply a horrible burden that adds unnecessarily to Mom’s challenges.  The good news is that there are some things we can do to remove it’s power and influence in your life.   Below are 4 things to think about in order to affect change in removing the inappropriate guilt in your life.  

Looking In The Rear View Mirror

The first step in reducing the inappropriate guilt is to reflect on where this may be coming from.  Think back on your own early experiences and determine who this critical voice really belongs to.  Is it your Mom?  Your Dad?  An older sibling?  Or a mixture of different people.  Know, the antagonistic voice that keeps you from feeling good about yourself isn’t truly you, it’s someone else that expected too much of you a long time ago. 

Talk To Others

Talking to other Mom’s about the guilt you feel can be a very powerful, and freeing experience.  Realizing that you’re not the only one experiencing these feelings reminds you that you’re not alone in them, and that you’re certainly not “crazy” for feeling this way.  As soon as you begin talking to other people about your inappropriate guilt, it removes the powerful grip it holds over you and you’ll begin to feel a sense of freedom.  

What About Your Spouse

Sometimes, we marry partners that unconsciously remind us of our parents.  If this is the case, your partner may have traits that, like your parents, contribute to your sense of inappropriate guilt.  Is your partner supportive of you taking care of yourself?  Do they empower you, or do they help you feel bad about yourself?  If you believe that your inappropriate guilt is not helped, but made worse by your partner, consider finding a trusted therapist to help you work this out in your marriage.  

Fight the Power

Whenever you begin to notice feeling guilty about wanting or needing something just for you, ask yourself if feeling guilty is an appropriate feeling.  Most times, you’ll be able to consciously acknowledge that it’s not, but will feel guilty anyway.  In these moments, as difficult as they may be, work to fight against these feelings of guilt and take care of yourself anyway.  You may feel guilty about doing this, but in the end, and with a little more practice, it will get easier and easier to take a stand against the inappropriate guilt. 

Fighting against inappropriate guilt is not very easy.  These are old feelings that have been alive inside you for decades, so, naturally, they don’t go away very quickly.  But what’s important to know is that they can go away with some work.  Your baby needs you to take care of yourself first, and then them.  Not taking care of yourself and feeling inappropriate guilt will lead to you feeling resentful about being a Mom and resentful toward your baby, and you don’t want that.  If working through the above 4 suggestions don’t seem to make an impact, consider reaching out to a trusted therapist to help rid you of these feelings.  Happy Mother’s Day New Mom’s and keep up the amazing work!

Quentin Hafner

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