Most of my clients are women, and the majority of those women are mothers.
I don’t have any children of my own and yet still I have the responsibility of guiding these mothers through situations that I cannot personally relate to.
BUT, when it comes to their conversations about “Mom Guilt”, I totally get it.
I don’t identify with that term per se, but I have felt the same FEELINGS.
Enter, empathy. As a coach I am very well versed in empathizing with people going through all sorts of things, good bad and ugly.
(An animated short about empathy can be found HERE. Hint: it’s NOT the same as sympathy)
Below are some of the feelings that my mom clients/friends/family have expressed and that I can personally relate to:
guilt, unmet expectations, sadness, regret, shame, embarrassment, overwhelm, frustration, loneliness, panic, loss of control, wanting things you cannot have, longing for more: more time, money and connection, feeling judged, imposter syndrome, total exhaustion, anger, hopelessness, and never feeling good enough.
How can me, having never been a mother, relate to the vast array of feelings at the center of “mom guilt”??
Because they are the same feelings that often accompany being a woman, wife, friend, daughter, someone with chronic illness, and self-employed.
Because, even more profoundly, they are the same nasty feelings that diet culture thrives on.
As a former disordered eater/dieter/health obsessed woman I know those feelings well… every single one of them is what I felt during my years of white-knuckle restriction, punishing exercise, and hating/hiding/manipulating my body.
When we peel back the layers of the onion, the feelings of “mom guilt” AND the tragic appeal of the “diet/weight loss industry” both stem from one DEEPLY painful place:
A lack of control and a desperate longing for approval, acceptance, and unconditional love.
When someone stands in the truth of their imperfections, lives with vulnerability and humility, and gives up the tireless job of trying to “have it all” only then are they are truly free from guilt, diets, and body obsession.
Feeling badly for every missed soccer game or store bought costume or mac n cheese dinner or tear-filled bedtime routine is an endless exercise in self-torture. You are going to miss games, make mistakes, lose your temper, and forget the snacks. There is no way to be “the best mom”. Accepting that fact is the key to being “the best mom you can be at any given moment”.
Feeling badly for every sugary donut, fast food dinner, missed workout, gained pound, stretch mark, wrinkle, diet soda, night time couch feast, and failed “program” is a sure fire way to continue in the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting, restrict then binge, and “I feel fat” days. There is no way to control your body, lifespan, or health.
Accepting that you are a living, breathing, complex human being made up of a body with instincts, a soul with emotions, and a brain with thoughts is the key to living with attunement and in peaceful contentment.
Your body is the only one you will ever have.
Take care of her, respect her, and accept her just as she is today.
Tell her you know she is doing her best and that you love her unconditionally.
It’s all she has ever wanted. (Just like you, Mom)