My mother always warned about mothers’ guilt. I never thought it could be that bad, until I became a mother! It has become a constant companion. Mother’s guilt is real!
It is like PMS, we all get it from time to time. The severity does differ from mom to mom but nearly all of us experience it. We are tormented with guilt, we constantly question ourselves and feel that our best isn’t good enough. You pray for alone time and when you get it you feel guilty about taking that time for yourself and feel even worse for doing so.
All moms, even the moms who seem to have it all figured out, feel at some point that they are not good enough. We feel guilty when we can’t afford something, we struggle when work obligations take up too much of our time, and we wonder if the choices we have made, will have extensive negative consequences.
I often see my clients get overwhelmed with guilt when deciding to sleep train their children.
Here are a few personal thoughts from me, a mom who experiences overwhelming mothers guilt to you, a mom reading this article. Whether you have decided to sleep train or whether you are still undecided:
- Accept the trade-offs:
When you choose to combine a career and motherhood, there will always be trade-offs, sacrifices and compromises. You need to resolve those trade-offs by being clear about why you are making them in the first place. You need to work (whether it is for money, satisfaction or sanity) therefore your sleep need is crucial.
- Wanting your child to sleep IS NOT a selfish thing:
Why the big fuss about sleep?
- Brain development takes place during sleep
- It will affect a baby’s mood
- Helps build your child’s immune system
- Studies show that sleep deprived children are also showing behavioural issues such as being “overactive” or “hyperactive” and these children are labelled as “attention deficit” children.
- Lack of sleep results in a very sleep-deprived, fussy, and cranky baby who may have more difficulties than just not sleeping
- Sleep deprivation in Mommies can lead to Post Natal Depression
- Sleep deprivation can lead to lower milk supply
- And in the end a happy rested mommy equals a happy baby! Our children need the sleep as much as we do, if not more.
- We project our guilt onto our children:
Often we feel guilty for making a specific parenting decision and project that guilt onto our children, which leads us to suddenly “see” behavioural changes in them. Examples of this are moms who say to me, “My child seems “clingy”, “anxious”, “scared” of their room”. I’m going to tell you to STOP this guilt projection as we can instil this in our children without even realising.
Not all guilt is bad, please know that a little guilt is healthy. It means that you care about your family and the way they experience you, and it makes you question whether you did the right thing and if it wasn’t the right thing, then you’ll do it better next time. Please remember that children don’t hold grudges! That’s something we as adults do. Your child will love you just as much the next morning.
- Get real – Understand that there is no such thing as a perfect parent:
Stop trying to be supermom, or expecting to be supermom. Acknowledge that love is the only prerequisite to becoming a supermom. Sometimes we don’t have all the answers ourselves and it’s ok to get help. There is always a reason your child is not sleeping. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A BAD SLEEPER.
- Keep it positive.
Focus on the things that you are doing correctly, instead of looking at what isn’t working. Create a supportive community for yourself. Consider joining in with a group of moms that are non-judgmental and supportive and already went through the process of sleep training. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You and your baby are unique. You are in good hands with the professional you choose. Trust in them and the process.
- Don’t dilute your presence with distraction.
We can be with our kids 24/7 and yet never be fully present to them. Be mindful. Be present. Be in the moment. Put your phone down and get on your child’s level. Spend quality floor time with your child. Toddlers often want to make up for lost time with their parents in the middle of the night. Night time is not for bonding, day time is. They are fully conscious and take in that quality time. If you only have one hour or 30 minutes with your baby after work – then make it count.
- YOU are the best mom that your baby could ever have.
Donna Ball says: “Motherhood is a choice you make every day, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you are not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” When all is said and done, you do what you believe is best for you and your family. You know your baby best. You are good enough!
Mother’s guilt is natural and is the consequence of wanting to be the best mother to your children. However, in the end it will only weigh you down if this is what you focus on. Consider my tips when you are in the process of sleep training or when deciding to sleep train. I hope that you will feel happier and more confident and enthusiastic to enjoy motherhood for the important and rewarding experience that it is. You are doing a great job.
By Carla Kriel
Good Night Consultant