Michelle Obama on motherhood guilt
Guilt, feelings of letdown, enoughness, and thinking were inadequate often creeps in when we’re raising our children. These feelings are not limited to first time moms, moms struggling with PPA or PPD, moms with no help, or some specific economic group. These feelings cast a wide net over caregivers and do not differentiate.
Michelle Obama opens up about her own struggles raising two daughters and trying to “live up” to deep seeded images of what perfection is. With her exclusive interview with The Guardian, she shares
One tiny thing would go wrong, and my mother-guilt would kick in. I’d start second-guessing every choice Barack and I had ever made. Self-scrutiny is something women are programmed to excel at, having been thrust into systems of inequality and fed fully unrealistic images of female “perfection” from the time we were kids ourselves. None of us – truly none – ever live up.
Her reflection on how women are raised to over examine and internalize subliminal messaging shows up far into adulthood, often with our own children. When we are conditioned to look outward at others and put that image side by side with our own, our bar gets raised little by little. It becomes a negative cycle, often with little reprieve.
When we become mothers, we not only compare our parenting to our own bar and standards, but also continue the cycle of looking outward for how we “should be” doing it. We read articles, see social media families, watch other families interact, and examine how we aren’t getting it right. We self-blame and allow the waves of defeat wash over us daily.
Rinse and repeat.
For mothers, the feelings of not-enoughness can be especially acute. The images of maternal perfection we encounter in advertisements and across social media are often no less fake than what we see on the enhanced and Photoshopped female bodies that are so often upheld as the societal gold standard for beauty. But still, we are conditioned to buy into it, questing after not just the perfect body, but also perfect children, perfect work-life balances, perfect family experiences, and perfect levels of patience. It’s hard not to look around as a mother and think, Is everyone doing this perfectly but me?
How often have you done this? How many times have you ended the day, hands over face, and asked the same question? When our natural reaction is to compare and land in defeat, we will always be stuck in that cycle. Our triumphs will be hidden behind our own insecurities as a parent and overshadowed by our perceived success of others.
The thing is, however, you are not alone. You are not the only one over examining your skills and reflecting on how your family is functioning. Remember, this pattern is no stranger to any one person. It has infiltrated the minds and hearts of many moms.
I am as prone to this type of self-laceration as the next person. At any sign of conflict or challenge with our kids, I would instantly and ferociously start scanning for my own mistakes. Had I been too tough on them or too indulging? Had I been too present or too absent? Was there some parenting book I’d forgotten to study 15 years earlier? Was this a bona fide crisis, a sign of bigger problems? Which critical life lessons had I failed to impart? And was it too late now?
The thing to keep in mind is that it's never ever ever too late. The hardest part is actually having the awareness of what is occurring. Being able to catch those thoughts and begin to implement strategies to contradict the negative narrative. Recognizing that you don’t want to feel like you’re doing it wrong, that you don’t want to feel like your kids misbehave more than others, that others do it all better. Because once we become aware that we’re in this unhelpful pattern, we can make the pivot to experience it differently. More accurately. Unique to you.
One of my number one strategies I often suggest to clients in this spiral is to call out your wins from the day as a parent. It’s the adult version of “catch them being good” where you reflect on all of the ways you showed up, were kind, compassionate, fun, helpful, amazing, and handled parenting like a boss that day. The slightest wins are still wins.
We’re you a tad more patient during homework time? Win.
Did you spend 10 minutes playing and engaging in something that your child was interested in? Win.
Did you tell your child you loved them? Win.
When we are able to hone in on ourselves in a positive light, we end up noticing that we do, in fact, have an amazing set of skills within us. Self trust and confidence is something that we are constantly working towards. The idea that we believe in ourselves and openly give ourselves permission to honor our big dreams (even when it comes to unlocking the parent that you want to be within you). Everyone has the ability to show up for themselves and family during the day without looking at others and comparing. Keeping blinders on because you’re working on healing, reprogramming, and building a home that you envision.
Can you imagine how awesome it would feel to lay down at night and say “good job” to yourself? No self deprecating comments, no “bad parenting” thoughts, no let downs. Just a full heart and knowing that you pushed yourself just slightly outside of your comfort zone and it made an impact. That is what happens when we make small shifts within ourselves because we know we can meet out personal standards. Not based on what others are doing.
Ready to make a shift within your wheelhouse of strengths? TMP offers two high value parenting courses at an affordable rate (hint one is only $5.55). Click here to learn more and make a slight pivot outside of your typical routine for big rewards.