BISMARCK, N.D. - Mom guilt. It's the haunting feeling of not being enough for your kids; not spending enough time with them, having enough patience for them, or doing enough to fulfill their lives.
Whatever form it takes for moms or dads, many of us feel it.
Chris Aman and Kristen Getzlaff of Inspired Life Wellness are weighing in with some helpful tips to manage it.
Getzlaff says the self-critical thoughts can often be isolating. "You think you're the only one who is going through it, the only one who is a mess, the only having these problems. And everybody else has it under control," she said.
Both Getzlaff and Aman agree it's not just a problem for mothers. Fathers often report feeling confined to play a certain role for the family, which typically keeps them working long hours rather than being at home for special moments and milestones.
The trained counselors say it's helpful to start by identifying where you came up with your picture of perfect parenting. If the image came from social media feeds, it helps to remember photos of smiling children are just a second-long snapshot of real life. And, if you're working to live up to idealized memories of your own parents, it might be beneficial to sit down and talk with them about what life was really like for them. That's what Getzlaff did.
"I finally sat down with her and said, 'how did you do it? You were this stay-at-home mom, and you were great with us.' She looked at me and laughed, and said, 'I hated every minute of it.' So, it finally clicked in my head that those perceptions that we have of how we grew up and how other people are managing their lives are almost never correct."
They say it will take some work to train your thinking for a different set of standards. Rather than comparing yourself to others, rate your parenting skills on whether you are meeting simple needs for your children. Are they fed? Check. Are they warm? Check. Are they getting a good education? Check. Way to go, mom.
"That's the only way you need to measure yourself. Are those basic needs being fulfilled? And if there's time for more, what else do I want to put in there?" Aman explains.
That's where asking for help can come into play. Allow yourself some time to be with your own thoughts, so you can weigh your values. Not the values you see portrayed on social media or what you remember from your childhood. Take some time to appreciate who you are, before challenging who you want to be.
"There is no way you can get through this with your sanity intact if you don't take that time for yourself," Getzlaff reminds us.
The pair also recommend weeding out your social media feed by unfollowing accounts that don't leave you with a positive feeling.
Finally, confiding in a friend or professional can help you realize just how normal those feelings are.