Women, life, happiness
  • Guilty Mommy – Caught in a modern-day parent trap

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    March 17th, 2010Keryl PesceFamily and Relationships, Stress and Guilt

    “I’m blessed with a wonderful husband, healthy kids, live in a great house and have a good part-time job, but I live with guilt. Some days I enjoy nothing. I’m just going through the motions to get it all done and it seems like it never does. I’m guilty when at work and things slide at home. I’m guilty at home when my job needs more from me. I can’t even get a hair cut without feeling guilty. ” Yikes! Sounds like this chick (let’s call her Susan) is trapped, doesn’t it? I mean, she can’t stop taking care of her kids, nor can she give up her job. And she sure as heck can’t create more hours in the day. Susan doesn’t have a choice but to keep living as she has. Or does she? I say she does. She just can’t see it yet. She’s about to.First let’s define what she wants. That’s always step one. Otherwise we keep swimming around in the same old crap of what we don’t want. She wants to live happily and free of guilt. She wants to feel as if her children are happy and well-cared for, and that her obligations at work are taken care of. Can it be done? Absolutely. Two simple shifts in her belief and approach to life ought to do it. Make a mental note. In life, each of us operates through our own individual belief systems, meaning we create our own personal reality. Think of it this way. The world is the territory, but we all have our own individual maps or interpretations of it. In almost every circumstance, all we need to do is draw a new map, create a slightly modified interpretation, and we are able to alter our ‘worlds’ and create an entirely new reality for us. No shit. Watch this. I want to start by challenging a common belief. Who was the first dim-witted female who declared that being a good wife or mom meant that our needs and wants must always come last? That one belief has created more misery, stress and unhappiness than all our bad-hair days combined. It’s become a virus. It has spread like wildfire and the vast majority of American women are infected by it, and it’s making them sick. I know this is radical. Just hang with me here for a minute. What if we’ve got it all wrong? What if while it sounds reasonable on the surface, when we really look at it, it doesn’t accomplish what we want it to? The basic premise seems to make perfect sense: If I put my needs and wants aside and care only about what my husband or children want, I will make them happy. If I make them happy, I’ve been a good wife and mother and I’ll feel good. But let’s think about it for a minute. How is that working for Susan? How is that working for you? Not too well, is it? What’s actually happening? We’ve got husbands and children whose needs never seem to be adequately met (by our own definition) and we end up living stressed and/or guilty. Seriously. Is this not the overwhelming result of this belief? So how effective is it? Not very. Why isn’t it working? I’ll tell you why. It’s confusing to us, because the underlying premise is solid. Our greatest joys in life come from what we contribute to the lives of other people, especially those we love. Except what has happened, is we women went off half-cocked and got all extreme about it. What’s extreme? When we view this belief in such absolute terms, we do nothing for ourselves or the little that we do, we feel guilty. So what? You might think. A mom should sacrifice. I challenge that. Well, at least in part I do. If what you do for those you love truly makes you feel happy inside, you are on the right track. Fabulous. Keep it up. You see, happiness is contagious. And this is one thing you do want to spread. If, however, you set out to feel good by doing for your family, but have ended up unhappy yourself, you’re off track. You’ve taken the sacrifice thing too far. It’s like the big-hair days in the 80’s – too extreme. If you feel guilty and unhappy, what are those around you really gaining? I’ll tell you what. They are gaining a lesson from you as to how to live their lives when they grow up. Is that really what you want for them?  I don’t think so. My point here is your family senses and will experience what you are feeling. Good or bad. So whatever you want for them is what you want for yourself. Here’s the kicker. It’s what most of us miss. Your happiness doesn’t come at their expense. It’s not an either/or situation. Your happiness adds to theirs. Are you getting this? The happier you are, the happier they are. Look at it this way. What do the stewardesses tell you to do if the oxygen masks come down and you are traveling with a small child? They tell you to put yours on first, right? Why? Because you’re no good to the child if you don’t first take care of yourself. How does that apply to our lives right now? The better care you take of yourself, and I mean physically, intellectually and emotionally, the better parent or spouse you are. Your well-being translates to theirs. So here’s how I see it. Not only do you need to give yourself permission to do what makes you happy, you have an obligation to do so. Your children or spouse aren’t lacking when you do what makes you happy. On the contrary, you are actually enriching their lives. You are giving them a gift. You are enabling them to live happier by the example you set and the energy and feelings you give off. So go to the gym, meet your girlfriend for a drink, or go get your hair done. I’m not suggesting you drop your responsibilities entirely. I’m suggesting you treat yourself once in a while and do so deliberately and freely. Can you see how shifting one belief has the power to completely alter your reality? By realizing that doing for ourselves is generous to those we love, not selfish, it completely changes how we feel about it. Have we changed Susan’s or your circumstances? No. We shifted your beliefs. It’s not as complicated as we like to make it sometimes. In fact, it’s pretty simple. OK, so I said I had two suggestions for her. And I’ve already been long-winded here, so I’ll be brief and maybe follow up with more detail in a later conversation. Have you ever been in Susan’s shoes? Where you are at work, worried about what you need to do at home, or at home worrying about what you need to do at work? Stop doing it. Whatever it is you are choosing to do, give it your full attention. Choose to live in the present moment. Why? When we allow our thoughts to drift to another moment in time or another place, we create anxiety gaps. The more often we do it, the greater our anxiety. Close the gap. Make it a habit every time you catch your thoughts drifting away, to pull them back to this moment. Try it out today. Watch how differently you feel. It’s like a magic wand that creates instant relaxation. Live happy. And live happy right now! I’d love to hear from you. Let me know how this contributes to your happiness.

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5 responses to “Guilty Mommy – Caught in a modern-day parent trap” RSS icon

  • I can relate to this as well! I think it is compounded when you’ve been a “stay at home” Mom during the vital years of your children’s lives. I thank GOD that I was able to be there, however, I do feel that it’s a harder transition to “break away” from the “job” you were used to having!! It was my “job” to do it all since I was home, and that is a hard habit to break! I had many times of feeling guilty breaking away from my “job” to focus on ME, or treating myself to something once in a while….but.. I’ve learned, through the support and love of my wonderful husband, family and friends, that it really is possible to have the best of both worlds! I believe now that I deserve it!

  • Wow, this is a situation that all good moms can relate to. There is something to be said for a little bit of guilt and uncertainty. It opens our eyes and senses that the way we are doing things on a day to day basis is not quite right; it may not be wrong, but it could be done differently and better.
    When my girls were younger, I felt really “stuck” in the rut of all the things described by Susan. Things had to change and it was easier said than done. One small step at a time and one day at a time. Going back to school, joining a book club, visiting a friend overseas, moving back into the job market, etc. Spouse, kids, employer and volunteer positions all have to understand my priorities. It is still a work in progress, but so far my girls are the most astounding and centered young women in the hudson valley.

  • Sharyn DeBonis

    OMG! My sister just forwarded this to me and I started to read it and thought “this sounds just like MY sister Susan”! You totally described her and many others. Hope we can take your suggestion and try to live in the moment…

    Can’t wait to read more!

  • Boy, this hits close to home! :) I love your thoughts around the happier I am the more enriched my family becomes. Win, win! I’m working on closing the anxiety gaps and living more in the moment. Thanks Happy Bitch – love it!

  • Oh my…I think we can all relate to this..Even when I try to go relax and have a spa day with the girls, I still feel guilty. I don’t know how modern day mom’s do it! Kudos to you who can, I need to take these pointers and run with them!


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