Motherhood can be so overwhelming. Your sister, best friend, mother in law, doctor, and local check out lady all happen to know exactly what you need to be the perfect mom. It can be really hard to sift through the piles of unsolicited advice about motherhood to find the one or two gems that actually work for you and make your life a little bit easier. There is so much mom guilt and mom shaming that goes on these days, and the crazy thing is, if you listen to the thousands of voices telling you what to do, you literally can’t do anything right. The standard that society has set on motherhood is full of contradictions and not remotely possible to attain.
I reached out over social media to ask people about the pressures they feel that come with motherhood and cause mom guilt. Here are just a few of the responses I received:
- Breastfeed but don’t let anyone see it because it’s weird! Oh, and don’t let your baby fall asleep nursing because they will never be able to self soothe.
- Don’t use formula but remember to get that body back into gear as soon as possible.
- Hold your baby or they will feel abandoned but not too much or they will be spoiled.
- Let your baby cry it out but not when other people are around to hear it because it’s annoying.
- Sleep train but don’t force a schedule on your baby.
- Be strict with your kids, but not too strict or you are a “crazy mom”.
- Join the PTA and help with all the class parties but also have a job because working moms are good examples to their kids.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps but also make sure the dishes get put away, the laundry gets folded, dinner gets made, and if you have a second you should probably shower.
If that list overwhelms you as much as it overwhelms me, congratulations! You are a human! No one can be expected to do all of those things. Advice about motherhood is so generalized. People often forget that moms are dealing with tiny humans who have thoughts and feelings and opinions. Not all babies are willing to breastfeed. Some babies prefer schedules and some don’t. Crying it out might work for one baby and not the next. Humans are too complex to expect every single baby to thrive in the same exact environment and circumstances.
There are only two pieces of advice that I believe all mommas need to hear.
- Take what works for you and your family and shamelessly leave the rest behind you.
- You don’t have to be the "World’s Greatest Mom", you just have to be the perfect mom for your baby.
Let’s break these down a little more starting with the first one. “Take what works for you and your family and shamelessly leave the rest behind you.” The most important word here is “shamelessly”. People will spend all day telling you what you are doing wrong in their eyes. It is always acceptable to say, “No thank you” and continue being the incredible mom that you are without feeling bad for ignoring their advice. We as women can be both strong and still kind. You can be both of those things as you stand up for your family by politely declining advice that does not help simplify your life and lift your family.
Now for the second piece of advice. You just have to be the perfect mom for your baby. This might sound overwhelming, but guess what? You are already the perfect mom for your kids! You have your amazing motherly intuition that is exactly what your little ones need. This does not mean that you will understand all of your baby's needs right away, but it means that you will figure it out. It also means that no one knows or understands your baby as well as you do. All mothers have an incredible love for their children. This love is what drives you to always want what is the absolute best for them. As long as that is your goal, you are being the perfect mother for your baby. If you need proof, just look at your little baby. Sometimes that baby literally just wants to be held by momma and then everything is better. My husband and I always joke that I am my daughter’s “emotional support animal”. A lot of the time your baby wants you, and that isn’t because you are their food source. It is because they love you and feel safe in your arms. I know an adoptive momma whose baby loves and needs her just as much as mine loves and needs me. Please do not ever doubt your worth as your baby’s mom. You are quite literally their whole world. Trust that whatever higher being you believe in, be it Heavenly Father or the good vibes of the universe, put you and this baby together because you are that baby's perfect mother.
Most of the mom shaming out there is unintentional. It comes in the form of advice or comments that were not meant to offend anyone. Unfortunately, there is not a whole culture surrounding motherhood that focuses on perfection and pleasing others. Here are a few ideas of how we can start to change this culture:
- Ask before sharing advice. Make sure your friend is interested in advice about motherhood and not just looking for a good vent before spouting off what worked for your kids.
- Choose not to be offended if someone does not take your advice. You can be offering out of the kindness of your heart, but you also don’t know their kids as well as they do. If they choose to ignore your advice, trust that it is for a good reason.
- Set reasonable expectations for yourself and others. Don’t expect a new mom to have her house tidy and clean if you go and visit and don’t expect your house to be spotless during that time either. Your number one priority is healing and keeping a small human alive. That is good enough.
- Be careful with the language you use. I once saw a Tik Tok that referred to cribs as “baby jails”. While the mother was trying to explain the sleeping situation that worked best for her family, the words she used made it seem as though anyone doing things differently was harming their baby. We can try to avoid language like this that makes one person’s solution sound like the only correct solution.
Motherhood is hard enough without carrying around the guilt and shame. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but we need to make sure our village is a safe place free from shame and discouragement. It is the beginning of a new year. You have the power to step away from mom guilt and help others feel more loved and accepted. If setting these goals give you stress or anxiety, How to Combat New Year's Resolutions Anxiety is a great resource. Good Grief Journals also has a Motherhood Journey Journal with prompts written to help you explore and navigate these exact struggles. Sign up for our email list and check us out on Instagram for uplifting posts and updates about current journals and new journals!