Got mom guilt? Welcome to the club.
It’s been more than 4 weeks since my kids have been home from school due to the coronavirus outbreak, and I’m still trying to figure out our new normal.
As a working mom, it’s been nearly impossible to get much work done at all. Writing requires quiet and laser focus, neither of which I’ve been able to get unless I work at 5am in the morning.
Instead of plowing through my list and writing a ton in a matter of hours, these days, my life is consumed with Google classroom, calls with teachers, and wiping away tears.
Not only are there a ton of expectations from their school, but there are also self-imposed expectations to make healthy meals, make sure my kids are getting enough exercise and aren’t in front of the devices all the time.
Even though we’re constantly together, I’m always questioning whether any of it is quality time. I think like most moms, I feel like I’m feeling short, and most days I’ve been riddled with guilt.
After weeks of feeling totally overwhelmed, I finally hit a breaking point—and broke down to a friend.
She’s a Christian mom too, and encouraged me. She reminded me that I’m a child of God, and he thinks I’m worthy and loved.
From a practical perspective, she also told me that I’m not the only one going through this. Many of her family members and friends are dealing with the same struggles.
As I started to read more about other mom’s experiences, and talked to friends, the truth is that every mom (working or not) is going through this right now.
So let’s all give ourselves a break and let go of the mom guilt. Here are 8 things to stop feeling guilty about and let go.
1. WORKING NOT ENOUGH OR TOO MUCH
In the first week of distance learning, I thought I had it all figured out. We had a schedule, a “stoplight” sign on my office door to let my kids know whether they could come in or not, and dedicated spaces for them to do their work. I thought that I’d work when they did—easy, right?
On day one—and every day since—that hasn’t happened.
Although I haven’t missed a deadline, I’ve had a ton of guilt about not being able to do more.
To be perfectly honest, I’m so sick of reading articles from other moms about how they’re getting 3 solid hours of work done.
I think it’s safe to say most moms are working in the early morning and late into the night and fitting work in as they can.
Working mom guilt is pervasive and nothing new in our society, but the coronavirus crisis has taken it to another level.
A recent survey by Bonnier Custom Insights found that of 500 working moms, 81% say that the crisis has impacted their ability to effectively engage at work.
Another factor for working moms are their spouses.
While dads may be stepping up more, in many households, the division of labor isn’t equal.
My husband still has to go into the office so he can’t help out during the day, yet many dads are working from home with their office doors shut like nothing has changed—something Ashley Reckdenwald so beautifully shined a bright light on this week.
Of course, single moms have no choice and have to figure it out on their own.
Regardless of their situations, level of support and how much they’re working, I think that all working moms are feeling guilty.
Yet guilt isn’t going to make you work harder and get more done, nor does it serve any purpose. It only makes you feel bad—something that isn’t healthy for you or your kids.
2. WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE EATING
Although my kids have been eating fairly healthy—I’ve managed to at least get a salad in them everyday—it definitely hasn’t been ideal.
In fact, one week they became obsessed with the Kitchen Little cooking show and wanted to make their own meals.
Teaching kids how to cook is a great way to encourage healthy eating habits so I didn’t mind, but one day they made a cheese sandwich with so many sunflower seeds it was almost inedible. Another day, they made 8-ounce glasses of fruit smoothies with a dusting of pink sprinkles on top.
While I previously paid a lot more attention to what they were eating, and tried to make sure they had a vegetable at every meal for example, lately I’m just trying to get through the day so if I feed them, it’s an accomplishment.
While feeding your kids healthy foods can definitely give them the brainpower they need for distance learning and even make them happy, during this time you should strive for good enough, not perfection.
If you’re feeling mom guilt about feeding your kids way too much boxed macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets and Goldfish, give yourself a break.
Once the pandemic subsides and they return to school and you can breathe, you’ll have more energy and time to devote to healthy meals.
3. HOW MUCH EXERCISE YOUR KIDS ARE GETTING
Before the pandemic, I struggled to find ways to encourage my kids to get more physical activity. For their age, the recommendations are for 60 minutes a day, but between school, homework and the weather, it was tough.
Now that they’re home, we’ve been able to make more time to take walks together, play basketball, and go for bike rides.
Their school has also made physical education a part of their everyday, and have given them planks, curl-ups and movement challenges to do.
You may have thought—like I did—that with the kids at home, there would be a lot more time to do things you always wanted to do, but I haven’t found that to be the case.
Distance learning takes us most of the day to accomplish, so although my kids definitely get out when the sun is shining, they’re definitely not moving everyday for 60 minutes.
What’s more, at the end of the day, I’m not going to get on them to make sure they held their planks for 45 seconds.
They have seen me working out most days of the week however, which is something I think has encouraged them to want to move more. My workouts are like breathing for me so I’m not telling you this from a holier than thou standpoint, but anything you can do to get more activity in your day is good for you and your kids.
Instead of worrying about how much exercise your kids are getting everyday, do the best you can to encourage them to move more. Encourage frequent breaks outside, take a walk after dinner, and on rainy days, put on music and have a dance party.
4. FEELING ANXIOUS, IRRITABLE & EXHAUSTED
As a mom with an anxiety disorder, my irritability, short-temperedness and need to control everything and anything in my life has ramped up. I’m impatient and yell at my kids a lot more.
Whether you normally have anxiety or not, most moms are feeling it.
In fact, a recent study by the Ad Council found 69% of parents with kids in the household feel anxious (69%) and tired and irritable (68%).
Another poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 45 percent of people say the coronavirus crisis has had a major impact on their mental health.
I’ve prayed about this almost every day.
I’ve also tried to put myself in my kids’ shoes and understand what they’re going through. The new schedule, doing schoolwork on a computer, not having much social engagement and being cooped up in the house is tough for them too.
I’ve also been doing a lot of deep breathing and taking a “time out,” when I feel overwhelmed.
Still, I think we all have to accept our current situation and recognize that anxiety, irritability, and a short temper are inevitable.
Finding better ways to deal with it however, can help all of us navigate this time and teach our kids how to cope with stress—something that will help them now and throughout their lives.
5. EMOTIONAL EATING
I’ve written about my struggle with emotional eating and now more than ever, it’s something I, and many moms are dealing with.
Perhaps you’re worried about people you know who have the virus and about you or a family member being infected.
Plus, unemployment, financial stress and uncertainty, distance learning, sibling spats and tension in your marriage can all seem to warrant opening the pantry and going to town.
The truth is that indulging in sweet and/or salty foods is comforting, but it’s temporary. Once the feelings of pleasure wear off, you go back for more and more until you’re stuffed.
Although I’ve been sticking with healthy, regular meals and snacks during the day, at night when I’m exhausted and my stress comes to head, I often start munching.
I know it’s not healthy and not solving any of my problems, but I’ve also tried to give myself some grace. During this time, we can’t be “perfect” eaters and if stress baking and indulging in a sweet treat is something you look forward to and you can do it in moderation, I say why not?
6. HOMESCHOOL/DISTANCE LEARNING
The way distance learning is working is different for each school district.
My kids have had enough work to fill a regular school day—and then some—while other moms I’ve spoken to have an hour or so each day or didn’t get into the swing of things until this week.
While I value education just like the next mom, distance learning isn’t school.
My kids may be learning new concepts but they’re not really learning like they do with their teachers.
This is particularly true for kids with special needs like my daughter, who has an IEP and receives multiple services at school. The first week it became immediately clear that I could not do the job of 5 teachers.
Although both of them are getting the work done, it’s only the bare minimum—no optional work or additional learning opportunities for us!
You might feel guilty that you’re not equipped to teach your kids, or that they’re not engaged or getting through the assignments. Let it go.
They will catch up eventually and become productive members of society.
Remember—this isn’t something we signed up for—that’s why our kids are in school in the first place.
7. PLAYING WITH YOUR KIDS
Despite all we have to do each day, a significant amount of parents worry about keeping their kids engaged during this time.
In fact, the same survey by the Ad Council found 35% of parents worry about keeping their kids entertained and 33% worry about engaging their kids in educational activities.
My kids have definitely been watching way too much TV lately so I’ve tried to encourage them to find activities to keep them busy.
I also try my best to fill what parenting expert Amy McCready refers to as “buckets,” of emotional needs: belonging and significance.
For example, we play Battleship together at night, do arts and crafts on the weekends, and of course, there are lots of hugs throughout the day.
I also can’t play with them 24/7 and besides, I don’t want to—there, I said it.
When we were kids, the message was “kids are to be seen, not heard.” You spoke only if you were spoken to.
Although I don’t think that was necessarily the best way, we were creative and used our imaginations. We could play with our siblings or by ourselves for hours on end.
So don’t feel guilty about not playing with your kids “enough.” Use this time to encourage them to use their imaginations and be independent.
8. CLEANING YOUR HOUSE
Although it’s definitely important to take precautions and coronavirus-proof your home, and the laundry, dishes and cleaning still have to get done, your house doesn’t have to be pristine every day.
I’ll be the first to admit, this is something I struggle with everyday.
If there are papers around (which lately, there’s a ton), clutter and toys, I don’t like it. As a result, I’m constantly on my kids to clean up and I’m constantly cleaning up myself.
But lately, instead of driving myself crazy cleaning up every last bit multiple times throughout the day, I’m setting aside blocks of time at the end of the day when we all clean together and return the house to normal.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter and founder of JulieRevelant.com, where she teaches parents how to raise healthy kids who crave healthy foods.