Let’s talk about mom guilt! Mom guilt has flooded the world and is incredibly pervasive. I see and hear this all day long. The expectations of women, especially women who are mothers, have grown incredibly long, whereas the expectations of men have stayed the same. It’s hard to not feel overwhelmed or like you’re just barely hanging on by a thread when you have so many responsibilities. Know that if you are experiencing mom guilt, you are not alone, and there is hope for you!
When I hear a mom express that “she feels like a bad mom,” I have a few follow up questions. 1. Does the child’s dad feel like a bad dad? 2. Were you knowingly doing things that were preventing your child from meeting their milestones? 3. Were you doing the best you could with what you knew and had at that time? 4. Do you remember when you met all of your milestones?
Try to keep these in mind if you find out that your child may need physical/occupational/speech therapy. It is helpful to learn from the past and ensure that we do our best to implement changes when we learn new and helpful information. It is not helpful to sit and wallow and wonder how we ever could have let our children ‘do x’ or ‘have y.’
Here are some helpful tips that I would like you to try if you hear that your child has a delay or they were referred to pediatric physical therapy:
● Are you able to identify the differences in your baby’s cry? For instance, can you tell if they are hungry/ wet/ tired/ uncomfortable/ in pain/ in danger? If so, modify your interventions appropriately. It is normal for children and adults alike to resist change. It is also normal to express dislike when we are asked to do something that is challenging. If you’ve been advised to do something like limit screen time, increase tummy time minutes per day, or keep them out of their jumper, remember that as long as they are not in pain or danger, it is ok to push for a bit longer.
● If you feel like there is ‘no way’ you can fit in exercises or stretches because your day is already incredibly busy, consider adding these activities to an already established routine, and changing your mindset. The art of habit comes naturally to us, and if we already have a trained response such as, ‘when I wake up, I brush my teeth,’ it is much easier to add in ‘and then I set up baby’s play space for tummy time so that we can forego a helmet for their plagiocephaly.’ Compared to ‘I need to fit in tummy time but I don’t have any time between appointments today; don’t they get that I have a thousand other things to do?’
● Are there places in your home that you can ‘baby proof’ that allows your child to move around in a safe manner without being contained? Think: yoga mat, baby gymnasium, play pen, water mat, etc. By allowing our children to explore on their own, without physical restraint, it allows for trial and error in terms of how they move and how much force is required so that they can master a task more efficiently. Remember, many attempts are required for muscle memory to kick in and to consistently do a task well.
● ASK FOR HELP! Like I mentioned above, there are increasing demands placed on women each day, and you are not alone in feeling this way. Have you heard the quote, “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together”? We don’t need more martyrs in our world; we need more people who can relate to us so that we can take turns being the mentor/mentee, helping hand/ needing hand, yin/yang. Here are some specific examples that I encourage you to try.
○ Reach out to someone you trust and believe they can help build you up or reduce some of the load you are carrying.
○ Can your partner take the kids for the first 15 minutes when they come home so that you can take a walk or meditate in a quiet room?
○ Can a family member come over for 1-2 hours to take the baby on a walk or on their errands while you take a nap or clean the house?
○ Can you and your neighbor meal swap or babysit for one another on alternating evenings?
○ If your child is in daycare, is there an option to drop them off earlier or pick them up later once per week so you can utilize that time towards something else that is on your to do list?
● Is social media helping you or hurting you? Social media was created as a way to connect us with others, to limit our feelings of loneliness. It can be an amazing tool at connecting with loved ones across the world, reconnecting with childhood friends, and notifying you of local events happening near you. It can be great to be able to see updated pictures and videos of your nieces/nephews and friends’ kids. It can also be an incredibly dangerous place that makes comparison incredibly easy and make us feel disheartened. Take a moment to sit and really ask yourself, ‘is this person on my feed making me feel good/ making me feel heard/ providing useful information/ motivating me to be the best version of me/ encouraging others?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these, keep them on your feed. If the answer is ‘no,’ you can mute or unfollow them. Comparing children’s accomplishments, particularly as they are infants and toddlers, can make our egos grow or collapse. Seeking validation from yourself, and comparing to where you were before and where you are going, is the only reputable way to measure your success.
● Have you tried meditation? Meditation has been proven to be incredibly effective at improving quality of life, reducing depression and anxiety, improving mood, sleep and emotional connection. There are thousands of guided meditation techniques that are free to you online, ranging from 5 minutes to several hours. I recently listened to the book ‘Stress Less, Accomplish More,’ and Emily had amazing ways of explaining the benefits of meditation herself, and also had plenty of her insanely busy clients provide testimonials to how it changed their lives. She is the founder of the Ziva meditation technique. You can find out more info here: https://zivameditation.com/
● Have you been able to connect with other moms? There are many social groups that focus around common themes, like new moms, parents of kids with disabilities, neighborhood play groups for toddlers, religious groups, etc. Meeting new people can be terrifying, but staying in your dark, gloomy world can also be scary. We aren’t always able to connect with those who we grew up with, so if you’re feeling like you aren’t being heard, or want someone to empathize rather than provide techniques to get better, consider joining one of these groups.
If you’ve tried these and still don’t feel like you’re where you need to be, please consider reaching out to a trained professional. One provider who I recommend is Inty Allen, an NP based out of Phoenix. You can find her information on her website: https://www.agavepostpartumwellness.com/meet-inty-allen/