Stop the Mom Shame! Three Ways We Can Be Kinder to Ourselves
By Kami Loyd
Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying “All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Although as mothers we may want this same sentiment from our children, especially on Mother’s Day, it can also leave us feeling inadequate.
As women we often compare ourselves to others when assessing our value. When we see another mom volunteering each week in her twins’ classroom while patiently and happily taking care of her quadruplet toddlers we feel intimidated. But we feel equally intimidated by working moms, stay-at-home moms, moms of multiples, moms of newborns, moms who foster, moms who adopt, single mothers, and the list goes on.
Simply put, the problem is our mindset. We think we don’t measure up, and although it may come as a shock, we never will live up to our own expectations! The issue with measuring ourselves against others is we as women tend to measure their strengths with our weaknesses. Although we may see other mothers’ challenges we feel that they are surviving with grace, because we overlook or justify their frustration, tears, short-lived anger, etc.
In his book Forget Me Not, Dieter Uchtdorf says, “Many of you are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others. Please remember also to be compassionate and patient with yourself.” How then can we be as compassionate and patient with ourselves as we are with other mothers?
Here are three ways we can learn to be kinder to ourselves:
First, we must change our mindset. If we see our motherhood as a competition with other mothers, we will most likely end up feeling like the loser. If we instead see it as a journey of growth and learning, we will fare much better.
When my husband and I first married, I was incredibly disappointed in my parenting skills when my then three-year old stepson didn’t want to eat vegetables at dinner. I would watch my nieces and nephews eat their vegetables and compare my parenting skills to my sister’s. Usually I’d wind up in tears with thoughts like, “If only I was a better mother, he would like vegetables!” or “Why can’t I parent like she does?” The problem with this thinking is I didn’t take into account that my son had his own opinions. I hadn’t considered that his dislike of vegetables had nothing to do with my parenting skills.
By changing my mindset I have learned and grown as a mother, and I have come to recognize that comparing my parenting skills to anyone else does both me and them a great injustice. It gives no merit to what I am accomplishing and no value to the struggles the other mom has gone through to get where she is.
Next, we can be grateful. The Harvard Mental Health Newsletter (2011) stated, “Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” No one will ever have the children that we have, the experiences that we have, or the opportunities that we have.
Although it is extremely difficult to be grateful for a toddler that will not stop throwing a tantrum because you won’t buy her a new doll, we can be grateful that our child is strong-willed because this can benefit her in the future. We may not enjoy being grateful for the hardships that we face as mothers, but we can be grateful for the teaching opportunities we have, the experiences we have been given and the growth that we gain from our children.
As our children see us practicing gratitude, even as we struggle, they will learn to be grateful. (For great ideas to teach your kids gratitude see the lesson “Gratitude” in 30 Days to a Stronger Child and A Simple Lesson on Gratitude found on on our Lesson Page.)
Lastly, we can be present with our children. When we are busy comparing ourselves to other mothers, it is easy to disengage from our children and our lives worrying more about how to take the perfectly framed picture to post on social media than actually getting down and playing with our children.
Instead of trying to post the perfect picture, we can engage in having fun with our children. Haley Hawks said, “Your life is utterly beautiful, amazing, redeeming, and lovely. You don’t need to filter and photoshop to achieve the perfection the world demands. Show the world who YOU are and what unique things you have to bring to the table.” Rather than worrying about what others will think or may say, have fun, run, laugh, play, parent your kids and if you get a couple pictures along the way, that’s great!
Comparing our parenting to anyone else will be anything except beneficial. So this Mother’s Day instead of comparing ourselves to others around us, let’s change our mindset, exercise gratitude and participate in our kids’ lives because this will help us to see that we are the best mother they could ever have. Then our kids may one day echo Abraham Lincoln’s sentiment and we will feel fulfilled and joyful as mothers.
Kami Loyd received her bachelors of Marriage and Family from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She and her husband have been married for four years, and she is the proud mother of four children. Her interests include reading, board games, and most of all her family. She is passionate about helping her children and others find joy in family life.
Harvard Health Publishing. (2011, November). In Praise of Gratitude. Retrieved December 28, 2017, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude
Hawkes, H. (2017, November 06). Four Simple Ways to Let Go of Social Media This Holiday Season. Retrieved December 28, 2017, from https://educateempowerkids.org/letting-go-social-media-holiday-season
Uchtdorf, D. F. (2012). Forget Me Not. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Books.
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