If you’re a working mother who struggles with “mommy guilt” this blog is for you. This blog will review the difference between mommy guilt and mommy shame and why it feels so heavy to experience it.
For those of you who have heard of the renowned Brene Brown, much of what I’m going to talk about regarding shame versus guilt comes from her. She’s a research professor who studies people and their connection to vulnerability, shame and empathy.
In short, guilt suggest “I’ve done something bad” while shame suggest “I am bad.” Guilt speaks to the action, while shame speaks to the person. Some might argue this is simply a matter of semantics, but if you look closer, you can see it.
Let’s take a look at internal mommy talk. When uncovering tough thoughts and feelings, internal self-talk could sound a little like this: “I forgot to pack my kids lunch and I need to call the school ASAP” (guilt) versus “I’m such a bad mom my kid doesn’t deserve me” (shame).
Before going on, you must first understand the strong connection between thoughts and feelings. For example, if you think “My child doesn’t deserve me, I’m an absent parent and sucky person” then you are likely to feel anxiety, worry, and shame. On the other hand, if you think “I was really busy all week at work so I need to carve out some quality time with my daughter this weekend” then you are more likely to feel motivated, focused, and organized. Can you see the difference? Each thought takes feelings into two completely different directions.
So what can you do with mommy guilt? First you have to identify your internal self talk. Is it more on the shame side or the guilt side? Put it on paper: what do the thoughts sound like in your head? No one can help you with this because you are the only one who hears your own thoughts. What are you feeling guilty about? Worried about? When you think about work and your role as a mom, what does it feel like? Is there a balance?
Once you start this list, you will quickly see a pattern or trend. You are likely feeling some kind of way about things like time or not doing special things with your kid. For you, the time you spend at work equals time away from your child. So let’s talk about the idea of time.
As adults, we understand the passing of time. Depending on the age of your child, many have little to no concept of time. For example, not until mid elementary age do children start understanding how to tell time. Into double digit years, they start understanding their favorite show is about 30 minutes long. They start understanding why she can’t go to bed 10 minutes later because her bedtime is 8 PM. Before this, he thinks you are 75 years old and his birthday just past last week. Because of this, you are at a slight advantage. Children (and humans in general) are more concerned with the quality of time spent in a relationship rather than the quantity of time spent in that relationship.
Quality time is a quality exchange, mutual interaction, an interaction involving peace and overall enjoyment of one another’s presence. Your child will always prefer to have 100% of you rather than the distracted you. For example, driving in the car while having a conversation with your passenger does not count as quality time. Why? You’re clearly distracted by the road and your role by default is split between driver and communicator. Your child needs 100%, interactive, non-distracted time with you. Even 15 minutes a day, can speak volumes especially as children grow and develop.
If you’ve been struggling with mommy shame, you are not alone. You can’t be expected to tackle these feelings and experiences on your own when you have never done so before. Find a support group, talk to other working parents, attends a seminar, or find someone to talk to openly about your feelings. We can help.