I recently read an article on Women & Guilt, and I can’t stop thinking about it – so you know I had to talk about it here. This blog is suddenly a catch-all for my thoughts – thoughts I think all 20-somethings, new moms, or young women have probably felt at some point. I was actually going to wait until I had the *perfect* images to go along with this post, but wanted to get it published before the start of another week.
This particular article titled, “Why Women Need to Stop Feeling Guilty About Literally Everything” on Elite Daily, had a bit more substance than most of the articles I’ve read on the site. (Side note: I contribute for Elite Daily but usually have to simplify or make my posts more generic to get them picked up. They are sometimes a ‘dumbed down’ version of what I would post here and the titles are chosen by E.D.) This particular article begins to describe how most women feel guilt in their daily lives, whether you’ve had a child or not…but even more so after they’ve given birth as there is now another human in the picture.
The problem with the article is that it doesn’t actually talk about WHY we feel the guilt or HOW we can stop feeling this way. It just talks about the issue – yes awareness helps issues, but it doesn’t solve them.
I hadn’t labeled some of my newly found anxiety as “guilt” until I read this – I realized in the past 12 weeks I have felt guilt for some of, but not limited to, the following reasons:
Putting Calvin down for periods of time during the day (Should be holding him or interacting 24/7 instead of trying to get things done? I only have one maternity leave.)
Waking up Craig in the night to help with diapers or rocking back to sleep (I wouldn’t want both of us to feel tired tomorrow.)
Eating a piece of cheesecake at 10pm on a weekday (I’m supposed to be watching what I eat.)
Signing Calvin up for daycare (Will he forget me? Will he have a worse childhood for me not staying home? Which isn’t an option BTW.)
Taking 14.5 weeks of maternity leave instead of the 12 my company expects (Even though most Moms can, and do, take 18 full weeks in my state.)
Missing a company leadership retreat during this time (It was a 3-4 day trip to New Orleans.)
Not living near family (They can only see Calvin during designated and planned times this first year.)
Meeting friends in NYC for several hours on a Sat (Should I never do anything fun independently again?)
Writing this blog post while Calvin watches in his swing (Literally, feeling guilty while I’m writing a post about feeling guilty.)
Leaving a mess everywhere (Dishes in the sink, clothes covering the whole floor, stuff all over the bathroom sink, breast pump parts all over the kitchen counter.)
Being a jerk and making Craig get us coffee one Sunday (His spilled on the way home and he didn’t even get to have any.)
Only 12 weeks into motherhood and I literally feel bad about everything or am constantly apologizing – in other words, HELLO GUILT.
I think talking about this issue of guilt – how, why, and what we can do, can help some of us to find peace in everything we are trying to accomplish. Your priorities are different than mine and mine are different than yours, yet we still compare and feel a sense of failure when we can’t accomplish the same thing that Suzy Home-Maker, Business Betty, or Workout Barbie accomplished yesterday.
WHY do we feel guilt?
There’s this image that is portrayed in which women/mothers are supposed to have and do it all: contribute financially for the family, take care of both the children and husband, spend quality time with family and friends, cook healthy and well balanced meals daily, remember everyone’s birthdays, anniversaries, & special events, exercise and maintain a healthy body image, etc etc etc. The list seriously goes on and if we can’t give 100% in all of those areas (which we, as humans, physically cannot) a sense of failure or guilt beings to creep in. These are the biggest areas I can think of, but then we are hit daily with the small things that cause us to feel bad as well. We take on too much. So basically we are always feeling bad about something.
I believe this sense of guilt is heightened by the rise of social media – a topic I’ve discussed before but is becoming an increasing issue. Even the most popular social media ‘stars’ will tell you that it is not reality. Fitness guru and big name brand with 5 million followers, Kayla Itsines, recently posted on Instagram stating, “On my account, I’ll tell you now, you don’t see a lot of things. Not because I don’t want to show you, but because I cannot physically take a photo of them…the 5am wakeups, the late nights, the constant bullying, the lack of support from friends.” Basically, you can’t always show the tough moments in photos.
I post a ton of smiling, happy, feel good pictures with my family because these are the good moments, right? You don’t see the 4am feedings where I’m so tired I want to gouge my eyes out, the screaming fits he throws when he won’t nap, the afternoons when I pace around the apartment for up to an hour before going to the gym because I’m exhausted and procrastinating from making myself go, the weekend I had mastitis with a fever of 102 and was so sick I couldn’t even get out of bed, when I had such a bad cold on Mother’s Day, I could barely taste my lunch. The list goes on. So never look at social media and think that someone has it all – because they are just doing the best they can like the rest of us. I promise everyone has their own struggles/complicated story.
HOW can we eliminate some guilt?
I don’t have the magic answer for this but I am going to share with you all an idea on how we can begin to stop the comparison and feel great about what we have accomplished, opposed to feeling bad about what we didn’t.
Set nothing in stone. Our priorities will change daily, weekly, monthly, forever. But for the purpose of this, let’s talk weekly priorities. I’m also not going to say, “write this shit down” because then it’s just adding to the list of things you have to do. You’re a woman, you can likely keep 5 billion thoughts in your brain, effortlessly.
Each week, say Sundays, just think about what is most important to YOU for that week (outside of the given ‘go to work’ or ‘take care of children.’) IF you feel so inclined, or already write in a journal, or already make lists – feel free to jot them down. Maybe they are (1) cook a healthy family dinner 3 nights, (2) get to the gym twice, and (3) spend 30 minutes of quality time talking with my husband each night before bed. You’re going to do a million other things in this week as well, but these 3 are the most important to your well-being, this week. By mentally separating these things, or writing them down, you’ve now organized your priorities. Think about them often, or keep the list in front of you. Feel great when you accomplish these 3 things that you’ve deemed as most important, instead of feeling guilty about the 10 other somethings you may not have gotten to. You’re now focusing your mind on what’s important to you & what you accomplished. Life is a big mind game, anyways – the body will often follow what you focus on and think about consistently.
My 3 for this week, would probably be (1) Pick-up & clean the apartment in its entirety – it’s getting bad, (2) Make a dinner at home with the groceries I just bought, as opposed to going out and (3) tackle the tasks I already have planned relating to this blog. If I can do those 3 things I will feel accomplished.
You guys, this is not tried and true, it’s just an idea I have. Who wants to try this with me and feel badass about what we can accomplish this week?
Let us remember how awesome we are as individuals, give ourselves credit for just being us, and know how lucky we are to be surrounded by the loved ones in our lives.
Original referenced article here.