Recently I polled my friends on social media regarding what makes them feel overwhelmed with mom guilt. Their responses were surprisingly similar: doing too much or not doing enough.
Mom guilt has become a normal part of motherhood. Every day there seems to be some situation that wakes up the mom guilt monster and it haunts us for the rest of the day. It reminds us we have failed yet again and that our kids will probably turn into criminals or need therapy because of us.
Our emotions often take over to the point we can’t think straight and we succumb to reacting in unhealthy ways. When we’re overwhelmed in a dark place of defeat we might wonder: “Why would God give me two kids? I can’t handle two kids!” I have thought this myself but felt too guilty to say it out loud. I know I am not alone.
The dread of discipline
One area where I have often felt defeated is disciplining my kids. If there was ever a manual every parent needed it would be one on discipline. There is no one method that works best for all children because kids are all different and situations vary. Most of the time we parent the way we were parented, or we do the exact opposite.
I am the primary disciplinarian in my family; my husband is more patient, so he jumps in to discipline mostly when there is a safety concern. I grew up in a house where the loudest person was heard most. So I naturally yell to make sure I am heard loud and clear.
I am also a huge rule follower so I can’t let wrongdoings go easily without an appropriate consequence. (I was the kid in elementary school who loved checking other people’s papers and marking them up with my red pen.) But my husband, who is a lead pastor at a church in Norman, always provides great advice: “Don’t fight to win the argument, fight to win the relationship.”
Connecting before correcting
I’ve been striving to put into practice a few key steps to manage the mom guilt monster that rears its head for me related to discipline. As much as it is contrary to my personality, I am choosing to connect before I correct. I am real with my kids so they know I relate to their struggle in not always making the best choices or playing nice every time. I initiate vulnerable conversations starting with: “I know how you feel. I have done that, too.” This allows me to connect with my kids at their level first, then I correct by giving them time out or whatever consequence is appropriate for their behavior.
I’ve learned that when I discipline as a parent, my primary goal is not behavior modification, it is character development and creating trust. Believe me, I have done it wrong for so long. But I am trying to change my parenting style, proof that it is never too late.
From guilt to grace
Whether over discipline or something else, I’ve also learned to manage mom guilt by caring for myself. Here are three things I do when the guilty feelings start to creep in:
- Go for a walk. When I am overwhelmed by mom guilt, I want to sit, scroll and sulk, so instead I force myself to go for a walk around the neighborhood, Martin Park Nature Center or Lake Overholser.
- Read. Some of my favorite parenting resources have come from Paul David Tripp. His books and podcasts on parenting are packed with wisdom and practical tips.
- Hang out with a friend. I coordinate a coffee date for real talk with authentic moms during those tough seasons. For now, virtual connections will have to do. Play Cafe is the perfect spot when you have to bring kids along with you!
Simi John is married to her best friend and they pastor New Life Bible Church in Norman. They have two kids and love exploring OKC. Simi is a speaker and author, having just released her first book: “I Am Not: Break Free From Stereotypes & Become the Woman God Made You to Be.” Connect with Simi on Instagram @simijohn.