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Only You Can Combat “Mommy Guilt”!

April 30, 2012

You’re expecting. You’ve been briefed on the joys of new motherhood, warned about the sleepless nights, and steered toward the best gadgets and cutest onesies. But it’s not often that other mothers will tell you about the guilt and pressure that is so prevalent amongst new moms. The good news is that this guilt can be combatted if you change your perspective and give yourself a break!

Guilt during Pregnancy. Thanks to unwanted advice and stern warnings from others, guilt can often creep into your life as early as your first trimester! Your doctor and nurses will give you sound advice as far as diet, fitness, and lifestyle changes you’ll need to make, but other people in your life might encroach with advice of their own. People may nitpick everything you do, from coloring your hair and getting a manicure to having a cup of black tea every so often. Remember that your friends and neighbors and even your mother are not experts! Rely on your doctor’s advice, consult her when you’re unsure of whether a choice is harmful or OK, and choose just one or two recommended pregnancy books to fall back on for tips. Chatting up everyone you know and visiting online message boards can only lead to judgments that might make you feel overwhelmed.

Formula-feeding. You’ve heard it said over and over again that “breast is best”. And it’s true that breastfeeding offers health benefits for your baby and you that formula feeding does not. But while breast-feeding is enjoying a resurgence in support and popularity right now, some mothers choose to formula feed for a variety of reasons. If you’ve made the decision to formula feed for personal reasons, you may be enduring lectures from other moms and reading scores of articles that villify formula-feeding mothers. But rest assured that you are not the only mom out there who is using formula, and many women before you have made this choice and raised happy, healthy children. While breastfeeding has its undeniable advantages, you are not harming your baby by feeding her a nutritionally complete formula. Sometimes, what works for you and your family is complicated and personal. You do not need to justify your choices to others.

Heading Back to Work. Dropping off your baby at daycare for the first time is an emotional experience. You know you’ll miss her and she’ll miss you, and during those first few weeks back at work, you may have a hard time shaking the feeling that you’re missing moments of her life. But remember that returning to work has real advantages. Not only are you providing for your family financially, but you’re setting a great example for your baby. There are lots of different kinds of moms in this world, and when children see their mothers and their friends’ mothers living out different types of situations, they’ll know that they have options when they grow up. Plus, daycare can be a great way to socialize your kids and get them ready for school.

Why Don’t I Love Every Minute of This? Motherhood is filled with exciting milestones and magical connections, but not every minute is worthy of celebration. Some evenings, while your child plays next to you on the floor, you may feel zoned out and exhausted, and not thrilled about the drool-covered array of plastic toys on what used to be your dining room floor. It’s OK to feel this way, and even to admit it! Having a bad day or feeling exhausted will happen from time to time, and these hiccups do not diminish the love you have for your child. Like anything in life, motherhood has its ups and downs, and it is OK to feel grouchy when a playdate goes badly or a trip to the grocery store ends in exhaustion.

And remember that the best way to combat guilt and pressure is to try your hardest not to inflict it on other moms! Women love their kids and motherhood brings out strong emotions and opinions. Remind yourself that you, and the women around you, are doing the best job possible, and keep the guilt at bay.

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