Find a mother who swears she's never felt mommy guilt and we'll name her "Mom of the Year". For those of us who are still trying to perfect the art of juggling family, work and free time, guilt is an all too familiar part of parenthood during the first year of baby's life.
Between worrying about sleep training, diaper changing, feeding, possibly working outside the home, and, oh yeah, taking care of your own health, it's only natural to feel like you're spinning out of control. When the stress affects your relationship with your baby and other members of the family, it's easy for guilt to start sneaking up.
We've rounded up five simple ways to deal with guilt so you can focus on spending good times with your little one.
- Stop comparing. Banish those thoughts of inadequacy, and you'll have more energy to spend on your baby. So what if Susie's mom breastfed her kids until they were two? That doesn't mean you have to follow suit. Remember that parenting choices are deeply personal, and there really is no right or wrong way to raise a child. What works for Susie might not work for your happy, healthy baby. Instead of focusing on her family, refer to your friends who have more similar parenting styles to your own, so you can feel more secure and supported.
- "Thanks, but no thanks" to nosy advice. What new mom hasn't received an obnoxious but well-meaning piece of advice from a relative or friend? "When I had children, they slept in their own beds," your Great Aunt Lillian might say. While it might seem like everyone's jumping at the chance to critique your parenting choices, don't let it get to you. The last time Aunt Lillian was a new parent may have been several decades ago.
- Let it slide. Look, you can't be everything to everyone. Make sure that you're the type of parent that you want to be by not stressing over the little things. You don't need to make a homemade Halloween costume when you're short on time and patience. Store bought cookies are just as cute, and you'll be able to spend that extra time and energy on your baby instead. Rachel Starck, a parenting expert and family therapist, suggests letting things slide when they're good enough. "I encourage you to identify the areas in your busy life where 'good enough' will suffice, and will in fact make room for more laughter and joy."
- Compartmentalize. When your work bleeds into your family life and vice versa, you're bound to feel guilty about one or the other. Take the time to arrange your schedule so that when you're at home, you focus on your family and when you're at work, you can give one hundred percent to the job. It might mean some hardcore planning, but dedicating entire blocks of time to a specific area of your life can remove the guilt.
- Remember your reasons. While it's difficult to ignore the advice of others, remember why you've made certain choices. Perhaps you bottle feed because you need to go to work or you allow your child to cosleep because you all rest better that way. It's ultimately your call, so be firm when you explain your choices to dissenters. Perhaps they give their opinions only because they don't understand your reasoning, but just a bit of communication can set someone straight.
The only people that matter in the end are you, your baby, and other members of your immediate family. As long as your baby is safe, happy and healthy, you're practicing successful parenting. Remember, all good moms feel guilty from time to time, but that doesn't mean it's something you need more of!