Moving Past the Mom Guilt

I just love this guest post by my friend Jennifer Richler. It really is time we mothers started appreciating our own hard work a little more.


Perhaps you saw the image making the rounds on Facebook, as I did a few weeks ago. In the top half, a mother liesawake at night, eyes wide with angst, a bunch of thought bubbles surrounding her head, including: “I should play with the baby to aid her brain development,” “Why can’t I be more like Gwyneth?” and “Oh God, I’m such a terrible mother.” In bottom half, a father sleeps serenely next to his angelic-looking little daughter, with only a single thought bubble: “I’m a pretty awesome dad.” My first reaction was to chuckle, “like” the post, and write “So true!” in the comments. But my next thought was, if this is true, isn’t it a little sad? Why do we mothers have such a hard time thinking of ourselves as good parents, the way fathers seem to do so effortlessly?

I think it stems, in part, from a double standard for what constitutes a “good mom” versus a “good dad.” When I return from a solo trip, for example, friends will tell me what a “great job” my husband did with the kids in my absence, but as far as I know, my husband receives no glowing reports about me upon his return from time away.  As a mother, I’m expected to parent competently, whereas when my husband does it, it’s cause for praise.

Clearly, mothers have internalized these messages: When Tamara Reese posted a piece on the parenting website Kveller a few months ago imploring readers to tell their mom friends “You are a good mama,” the post received over 80,000 likes and even got its own hashtag on Twitter. Although I couldn’t disagree with the positive message of the post, I also couldn’t help but worry that the piece resonated so much with readers precisely because so many of us doubt its central premise. Of course we’re good mothers, I thought — why do we need to be convinced?

It’s not only when it comes to parenting that women doubt their abilities. Research finds that we are also more likely to suffer from “impostor syndrome” in the workplace, feeling that we are unqualified for our jobs, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  When it comes to work — whether it’s at home with our kids or in an office — we somehow feel like we don’t measure up.

I’m as vulnerable to these feelings as the next mom. But instead of giving in to them, I want to get past them — or at least try to. I want to take a cue from my husband and other dads, for whom, as Ayelet Waldman puts it in her book Bad Mother, “Self-flagellation is not the crux of paternal experience.” It’s not about being complacent, but about giving myself a deserved pat on the back once in a while. Instead of waiting for a friend to tell me, I’m going to tell myself, the next time I curl up next to my dozing children at the end of a busy day: I’m a pretty awesome mom.

Jennifer Richler is a freelance writer living in Bloomington, Indiana with her husband and two kids. Follow her on Twitter

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Shared by: Carla Naumburg, Ph.D, Contributing Blogger

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