Expectations & Perfectionism: The Catalyst to Mom Guilt 

Expectations & Perfectionism: The Catalyst to Mom Guilt  April 17, 2024

Woman of color holding her middle school daughter.
Photo courtesy of Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

Today was a day to celebrate a huge accomplishment and I fully expected to be raising a glass over a succulent steak dinner, baked potatoes and perfectly grilled onions.  Instead, I was sitting on the living room floor cleaning up dog pee while my boys ran right by the load of laundry that sat unfolded on the hearth. My youngest yelled from the bedroom that he couldn’t find any pajamas to wear.  ‘Maybe they’re in that clean laundry basket you keep ignoring,’ I thought to myself sarcastically.  I kept scrubbing, my throat working hard to swallow down the tears. I tucked my chin and willed my eyes to not turn red for my husband to see.  My expectation of the evening and the perfectionism with which I planned it were rapidly fraying as I gave in to Mom Guilt.

Expectations are the Enemy

Expectations.  They are the number one plan killer! Expectations are often left unmet and usually true life falls so very short of them.  We hear the term Mom Guilt thrown around and some of us wear it like a badge.  But lets face it – sometimes we wear that guilt like an excuse.  I’m guilted into doing this, so I’ll just be the martyr and do what is expected of me. Even though it saps me and wipes me out and dries me up to the marrow of my bones.  Yet somehow we convince ourselves that the business of ‘doing’ is what will eradicate Mom Guilt for good. Oh how I’ve longed to escape this stigma that being a mom is secondary to being a successful person.  That motherhood needs to take backstage to “real” work.  Or that being a mom is somehow less than the beautiful calling that it is.

I am raising the next generation of humans that will handle the planet.  That will influence the government.  That will rise up and raise their own humans and run businesses and be loving spouses and have a heart to seek after God.  How can this be a secondary job, a lesser ministry, something to handle after your career expectations have been met?  So I’m flipping the lid, turning the tables, and changing the game.  Mom Guilt is no longer a term that I will entertain, clip on my blazer as a badge to fall back on, or let control my decisions. And it has no place in how I raise my children. 

What is Mom Guilt?

Dr Melissa Young from the Cleveland Clinic describes it as 

“A name given to the feelings of guilt and shame some people feel when they don’t live up to their own or others’ expectations in their role as a parent. It’s like an internal dialogue that tells you you’re failing as a caregiver.  “There are so many subtle — and not-so-subtle — triggers in our society,” she continues, “that pressure us into thinking we should be able to ‘do it all,’” Dr. Young explains. “Mom guilt is a very natural experience when you consider all the competing responsibilities and expectations in our lives. But there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you think you should be doing. The math doesn’t compute.”

Where do the seeds of our Mom Guilt sprout from?  Other moms! You shouldn’t vaccinate. Red dye will kill you. Gluten free is the way to go. Stay away from fast food. And on goes the advice that is thrown at us all day long, normally from well meaning moms. But it means that the one day I stop for McDonalds for my kids and let them sip on a Hawaiian Punch will send me spiraling.

Stop Spreading the Guilt!

As you scroll through social media, be careful of what you post. Something you might share that is best for your family needs to be framed as such. Otherwise, you may be partnering in the efforts to suffocate moms under guilt and shame. The guilt stems from worries about every ‘should’ we need to be doing as mothers. When you reach the end of your full-time season of motherhood, you may find that you’ve missed out on so many moments to savor. Even more, listening to what other moms do that’s not even on your radar, could have you missing out on how amazing your kids actually are.

Healing from Mom Guilt

Mind control and self care is what you need to begin fighting back against the guilt! 

  • Be kind to yourself when the guilt creeps in.
  • Take your thoughts captive just like we read in II Corinthians 10:5 ‘and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’.
  • Define what successful parenting means to you, then work toward that.
  • Keep expectations of your parenting and your children’s abilities in check.
  • Recognize the importance of modeling to your children. Perfectionism, the other enemy of Mom Guilt, is debilitating for children.
  • Prioritize self care.

Savoring Mamas, lets reach down and snap off that Mom Guilt badge. Forge ahead to change the world as strong moms, graceful moms, grateful moms, and watch your kids grow up under the umbrella of a new G word.  Guilt is out the window.  We’re moving forward in Grace.

Signature of author with social media handles and picture of Lois J Rodriguez

About Lois J Rodriguez
As a foster parent & adoptive mom to 4 young boys, Lois went from newlywed to a family of 6 seemingly overnight. Her deep dive experience with at-risk youth and trauma parenting has been a sink or swim adventure. Parenting neurodivergent children has sent Lois on a quest to understand the critical phases of child development and the challenges for at-risk youth. Her research focuses on hemispheric brain balancing, secure attachment, oppositional defiance and neurodevelopmental disorders, early childhood development, hardwired temperaments and brain remodeling. Expanding her research to early and middle adolescent development, Lois is authoring a book on middle school parenting. Dissecting this critical area of development into easy to understand language, she aims to reorient the apprehension many families feel during this rewarding parenting season. Join the conversation at LoisJRodriguez.com. You can read more about the author here.

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