Dealing With Mother’s Guilt
A lot of my clients are mothers. One thing I’ve noticed across the board, whether she has one child or five, it’s that at some point she will experience mother’s guilt.
Guilt that she’s not doing enough for her child and this renders her a failure as a mother. Sometimes this fear of being a bad mom twists itself into the excuse, “I shouldn’t be exercising every day or eating healthy because that makes me feel guilty.”
To unpack that a bit: If she’s exercising an hour a day, that’s an hour she’s not spending with her kids. If she’s not eating junk food, she no longer gets to share the joy of eating ice cream with her kids.
I get it. Heck, I’ve felt it! There’s a lot of pressure on women to not just be moms but to be super moms. A super mom loves her children, takes them to baseball, soccer and piano lessons, volunteers for the PTA, and hires private tutors to teach them Mandarin and Farsi on the side. Her kids have full scholarships to Harvard and the NFL scouts are knocking on her door to sign her son, even though he’s only in second grade. They eat healthy, home-cooked meals every night where they discuss current events and financial literacy. But wait, there’s more. Because she’s super mom, she also works a full time job, keeps the house immaculate, never loses her temper to cause her children self-esteem issues, and (for her husband) is a supermodel with the sex-drive of a 20 year old.
To which I say: Stop.
By trying to be the perfect mother (and wife) you’re setting yourself up for failure because no one is perfect. You can’t be perfect, but you can be great. A lot of this starts with establishing priorities.
Your kids are still your top priority, but they shouldn’t be your only priority. There’s a reason why the flight attendants tell you in case of emergency to put the air mask on yourself first and then on your child. Because if you’re out of breath there’s no way you can help them!
My clients are given workouts that range from 30 minutes to 90 minutes based upon their schedule and their fitness goals. Often they tell me that they feel guilty spending so much time on themselves.
I give them my own example, because it’s a bit extreme but highlights an interesting point. I’m a bodybuilder and training for a competition is extremely time consuming. Most days I’m up at 4 a.m. to go to the gym for two hours to do cardio and strength training. I’m home before anyone in my family even wakes up. I absolutely cherish those two hours. I’m surrounded by adults, I get to listen to my favorite music (2Pac) and can work out any aggressions via squats.
Two hours a day, five days a week, sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Well when you consider there are 24 hours in a day x 7 days in a week that equals 168 hours, so 10 hours a week at the gym means I’m still dedicating 94% of my time to everyone else! And that’s exercising two hours a day!
So if you’re just taking a measly hour per day, that means you’re still dedicating 97% of your time to everyone and everything else. Don’t you deserve 3% of your own day for yourself?
By exercising and eating well you are making yourself healthier. This makes chasing your kids at the park easier to do because you have less excess weight to lug around and more energy to keep up with them. If your kids are old enough, you can also workout together in a park or you can jog while your kids ride their bikes.
Exercise has been shown in study after to study to boost your mood and reduce stress, something every mom needs.
Also, when you take the time to take care of yourself, you are sending a powerful message to your children: I am of value too. If we want our kids to stop acting entitled, it’s important to demonstrate that each member of the family deserves “me time”.
Now on to guilt over eating healthy…
If you’re an athlete then food is for fuel, but for most of us food is a social thing. It’s great being able to break bread with family and friends and share a few laughs over dinner. This has gone on for thousands of years.
The problem is the types of “food” we share nowadays is mostly junk food. Kids (and let’s be real: moms) want McDonalds, pizza, ice cream, donuts, chocolate chip cookies and chips. That junk food is not only bad for you, but it’s terrible for your kids.
You can still have quality time with your kids if you switch up the foods. If you hang out with your kids eating chips and watching Disney movies, still watch the movie but crunch on apple slices. Instead of a trip to McDonald’s try going to the farm. Lots of towns have farmers markets and some farms let you pick your own vegetables. The produce tastes fresher than what you’d buy in the store and it makes for a novel experience if you’re a city slicker.
Instead of driving to Chili’s and spending $40, you can have your kids become junior chefs and help you prepare your own chicken tenders, baked sweet potato fries and steamed green beans. You’re saving money, teaching them a life skill, and will have left overs for that mid-week time crunch and you’re making memories by cooking together.
Don’t let mother’s guilt keep you from your fitness goals. Part of loving your kids is loving yourself enough to do what it takes to be healthy. By modelling this behavior for your kids it teaches them how to grow into great parents themselves one day.
Want to Train with Me?
If you are interested in signing up for my online personal training programs, click here to order now: SLI Method.
Local to Austin? Email me at email@example.com.
Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, published author, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!