Center for Shared Insight, PC

Understanding and Overcoming Mom Shame

May 22, 2018
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.

When you hear the words “mom shame” you probably think of the judgement and criticism moms have for one another. Psychology Today cites a study in which sixty-one percent of the recipients report that they have been criticized for their child-rearing decisions. While this form of mom shame and judging is highly prevalent and painful, there is another kind of personal mom shame that runs parallel to it. Personal shame, anxiety, and doubt about your own abilities, and judging yourself as a mother, are thoughts that might run rampant everyday. Overcoming this type of mom shame requires a deeper understanding of it and strategies to identify and overcome the dynamics. 

Identifying the signs

Do you feel inadequate in your role as a mother? Do you feel doubt, shame, depletion, or under-appreciation? Do you feel spread too thin? Is there a deep exhaustion and little hope that you will feel better in the coming days or months? These are some telltale signs that you are dealing with a form of personal mom shame or anxiety. These feelings might come in waves, or become stronger when you are more exhausted or alone. They affect both working mothers and stay-at-home moms equally. A racing heart or tears at the end of the day are not uncommon. You may feel comfortable talking with other moms about what you are experiencing, or you may feel like you need to put on a strong, confident front in an effort to silently compete or keep up with other moms in your life.

Getting clear on your values

Because mom shame is tied to feeling like there is not enough of you to go around, or not enough time for everything and everyone, it’s important to prioritize competing responsibilities based on your personal values. Getting clear on what is important helps you to determine both trade-offs and boundaries.

For example, perhaps social connections are more important to you than a clean house. There will most likely be a day when you planned to clean the house and then got invited on a walk with one of your mom friends. If social connection is more important than housework when you reflect upon your top values, choosing that walk and opportunity to talk to someone else who might be experiencing some of the same challenges is an easy decision.

Work to master the art and responsibility of “saying no”. When you get clear on your personal hierarchy of values prior to making these decisions, priorities clearly emerge and some of the stress of trying to be everything to everyone dissipates. Values and priorities to consider include: Exercise, housework, errands, meal preparation, yard work, social time, hobbies, sleep, work, your partner, friends, professional development, family, travel, unstructured time, and so on.

Setting boundaries

Trade your “shoulds” for healthy, conscious boundaries that are aligned with your values. By establishing limits and honoring them, you can address some of the feelings of depletion and the reality of being spread too thin. Healthy boundaries also relate to values and trade offs but they run deeper than just making decisions around how to spend your time. They are about establishing healthy limits and learning to say no. They are often acts of self-love that results in deeper self-care. They can help make both life and relationships more satisfying. When there is stress to do more and be more, boundaries might be hard to establish. However, in doing so, feelings of depletion can dissipate and there will be more margins in your life for “free play” – which can help with the overload of daily life as a mother. An excellent resource to help you understand and overcome some of these dynamics is the book Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the Process.

Cultivating self-love

So often, feeling inadequate is rooted in poor self esteem and a lack of self love. Committing to self-care and regular reflection, as well as honoring your limits, are ways to cultivate self-love. While self-love and self-care may seem simple - but definitely not easy - the team at Center for Shared Insight can help you explore the deeper origins of feeling not enough and not worthy enough of these essential self-care skills. Therapy can also help hold you accountable to regular self-care and self-love practices and help you make these acts a commitment. Steps toward self-love can help pave the way toward overcoming the pressures and stresses that accompany personal mom shame and anxiety around not being enough.

Our team of therapists is committed to your growth and expansion. Therapy can be a powerful tool for reflecting on the reasons you may experience mom shame and how to overcome it one decision at a time. Contact our team for a free consultation to learn more about how therapy can help you live a more fulfilling life.

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