Expectations and “Mom Guilt”

When I was pregnant with my first, I was sure having a child wouldn’t affect my ambition. Sure, I’d have a kid, but it wouldn’t change who I was! But after I left my job during maternity leave (because they wouldn’t alter my schedule), I started searching for moments to be myself, not someone’s mom. I was exhausted, yes because I was up all night taking care of a small human, but also from trying to be “the same as I was before.”

Finally, after 4 years of pregnancy, breastfeeding and working for myself, I threw myself back into a full time role. I took on extra assignments, worked nights and weekends. Then I got sick, unable to leave the couch for months. I felt unwell and had so much guilt, and I expressed it through being angry and short tempered with the kids. I had so little patience — it was tough.

In some ways, the pandemic helped us to come together as a family. We had a lot time to spend together thanks to school closures and lockdowns. We were all at home, so we had no choice but to get organized (my response to most of life’s problems!) and we were lucky— my mother-in-law was stuck with us for 4 months, unable to get home. I created schedules for school, designated someone to teach each subject, and designed weekends of fun at home so the kids didn’t feel that they were missing out-  all while working a new job. Even though I had the formula down, by week ten I was exhausted again.

But we had grown together over our fun weekends! Even though I couldn’t manage at that level anymore, I didn’t want to lose out on the family time. I wanted to create experiences without overwhelming myself.

Through meditation, I determined goals for the year: I wanted us to spend more time outdoors, on the water and exploring art and art museums. This created a frame work, giving us ideas and general plans for the weekend. Knowing that we had great family experiences ready, allowed me to focus on work during the week. It helped me manage my family expectations and work schedule while keeping my mom guilt at bay.

Helpful questions to explore for yourself:

  • Did you always know you’d be a working mom? What did you think it would be like?
  • How did you respond to the pandemic? Did you set expectations for yourself?
  • Willard Gaylin, a psychiatrist said “guilt is the most personal of emotions. It is between us and ourselves.” How do you manage any guilt “mom guilt” you may feel?
  • Is there a connection between your expectations and that guilt?
  • Between those expectations and mom guilt- How can we be more compassionate with ourselves?