If you are a mom, you’ve experienced it: that overwhelming feeling of doubt or anxiety that you’re falling short of expectations. Mom guilt. As the mom of 7 kids and the co-founder of a fast-growing startup, I am no stranger to this feeling. When we are responsible for and relied on by all these little (and big) people, the self-doubt can be crippling: am I being too strict? Too lenient? Fun enough? Patient enough?
It was a particularly heart-wrenching moment of mom guilt that catalyzed starting my company, Chatbooks: I realized I had never printed a single photo of my youngest… and he had just turned 5 years old. (Horrifying, I know.) Our app was created when I realized there must be an easier way for parents to get their photos off their phones, and I continue to champion ways to resolve mom guilt in every part of our company (like our new Toddler Guarantee—if your child rips, bends, spills on, or eats your photo book, we’ll replace it for you for free!).
My main strategy for tackling mom guilt is taking action and shifting your mindset. Here’s a few of my go-to coping strategies to fight off the tidal wave of mom “shoulds”:
Remember that you’re doing great: It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the mini failures of being a parent: forgetting lunch, being late for carpool pickup, etc. Forget all those small, imperfect moments—your kids are happy and alive and (mostly) okay! My favorite tip: research shows that when you take a minute to look at family photos, you remember that you’re doing a good job and feel like a better parent. I have photos everywhere now to remind myself that I’ve got this!
Accept help: As a mom (and as a startup founder), I sometimes think that I’m the only one capable of doing what I need done. But, turns out that’s a recipe for disaster and burn out! I’ve learned to ask for (and accept) help, both at home and at the office. Asking someone to entertain the little kids while I make dinner and oversee homework with the big kids allows me to focus, just like having an assistant to book my travel ensures that I don’t book my flight for the wrong day!
Take a break: Kids are demanding, and sometimes you just need a plain old break! But a break doesn’t have to mean jumping on the next flight to Bora Bora (though that does sound nice). In the “good moms have bad days” episode of the #MomForce Podcast, we talked about how a short drive to pick up a treat for yourself, or a few minutes alone in a quiet bedroom can often do the trick.
Divide and conquer: Family time is important to me and I love it when we are ALL together, but I learned that it is ok if we split up sometimes. We can still have “family dinner” while someone is working late, and we can vacation with just the “big kids” for more big adventure. Sometimes my husband takes the girls mountain biking, while I take the little kids to Costco. Splitting up can be the key to keeping it together.
Find your mom tribe: There is no need to struggle alone! Find yourself a support system of other women who get it—who don’t think you’re a crappy mom for not loving every second of motherhood, or who will come fold laundry with you when you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed. These days, there are incredible digital options to connect with other moms, like the #MomForce or Tubby Todd Mamas Facebook Groups that are there when you need validation (or just some mom memes for a good laugh!) can do wonders for your mood.
So when you’re in the thick of the crippling mom guilt, feeling like you are not good enough, please take a moment and remember: this too shall pass. You are exactly the mom your kids need.