“While not every one of my clients is a mom, many are. It makes sense. As a yoga therapist I work with women with a variety of health issues, as well as those trying to get pregnant and pre- and postnatal women. My work also focuses on reducing stress and anxiety, common for moms new and seasoned alike.
So when I first announced a Therapeutic Yoga Retreat for women in Spain last year, I wasn’t that surprised that one of the biggest barriers to attendance wasn’t cost or schedule, but ‘mom guilt’.
I get it, as a mom I was also feeling guilt for creating the retreat.
Yet the retreat ended up being filled with moms! All but one participant WAS a mom, and the one that wasn’t was there with her mom!
With that in mind, I thought I would write a bit about what mom guilt is, and how we can best overcome it to ensure it isn’t stopping you for caring for your own wellbeing. This commitment to reducing mom guilt will once again be a major component of the
next Therapeutic Yoga for Women Retreat in Spain in May 2020, and I want to make sure that unfair expectations aren’t holding people back from caring for themselves.
So what is ‘mom guilt’?
I view mom guilt as any guilt a mom feels for ‘non-essential’ time away from their kids. That means different things for different moms.
Some feel guilty for working, others for recreation, such as a yoga class or going to the gym, and others for taking time away while their kids are home, to close the door and read a book, or take a shower in silence.
I thought about writing about why there is no ‘dad guilt’ but I think that is a different (equally important) topic.
I think this has more to do with the pressure we put on ourselves as mothers, and the pressure society puts on all of us. We are supposed to ‘have it all’ and be happy every minute of it. And if you do have it all (amazing career, clean house, happy smiling children, perfect relationship) why would you want any time away from it?
So a sense of guilt for not having it ‘all together’ or for not being happy for what you have can develop. And while the idea of ‘having it all’ is by no means new, it has certainly been exasperated by the internet, where we get to see everyone else seemingly flawless happy life.
It is important to remember that it is ok to not want to be around your kid ALL THE TIME. That doesn’t mean you don’t love them, it just means you also love YOU.
I don’t know about you but I am absolutely the best mom I can be when I am well rested, and relaxed, able to happily engage with my toddler instead of feeling cranky or anxious.
It would be a lie to say I don’t deal with ‘mom guilt’. I do all the time.
What can you do to ease the grip of mom guilt?
Here are a few things I do when I am feeling overwhelmed with these feelings:
- Remind myself I can’t pour from an empty cup. If I am not caring for myself well, I’m not in a good place to care for my son well either.
- I try to remember the importance of quality of quantity time. If I’m feeling good, I can be more present for my son, I have more creative games to play and I’m not anxiously checking my phone the whole time. When I’m stressed or anxious, I can’t fully be present for him.
- Remind myself that the person I see on social media who seems to never stop, who seems to have it all together – I don’t know her life. I don’t know what self-care she is taking and what she needs. And I don’t know what her stress limits are.
We all require different amounts and different types of self-care. In fact, all I know about her is what she is choosing to show me, which is probably the happiest and sunniest part of her life, while I am in my own head every day.
- When I take care of myself, I’m teaching my son two really important lessons. For one, I’m teaching him the importance of caring for himself. As his parent, I’m modelling behavior and I want him to see that, in this society of constant information and activity, taking a break is essential.
I’m also teaching him that it’s OK for me to have time for myself. That it doesn’t mean I don’t love him when I want to have some time to care for me.
This is an important part of healthy attachment, I want him to know it’s ok for me to leave for a bit and come back happy and refreshed.
Giving yourself the best kind of time-out
The topic of ‘mom guilt’ came up a bit during our five days on the yoga retreat in Spain last May. On the first day of the retreat, some of the participants were feeling this guilt and I was too. Worried about my (fully competent) partner and how my son was feeling.
But after a day or so of soaking up warm sunshine and practicing 3 plus hours of yoga and meditation a day, the guilt started to subside. Because we all started to really feel great.
The stress and anxiety of parenting had been feeding the guilt we all carried around. As we moved out of feelings of chronic stress we were able to see things a bit more clearly.
We all knew our kids were safe and well cared for. That it was ok to take time to focus on our own wellbeing. That it was ok to turn off and turn inward for a bit.
A major focus of the retreat isn’t just relaxing during our time there (though that is important) but also enhancing the stress response so that relaxation can continue after we left. So that when everyone got home they could continue to feel good, even when not practicing hours of yoga, relaxing by the private pool or enjoying three delicious and healthy homemade meals a day.
The retreat is also a great reminder of the importance of ‘just being’. That we don’t need to always be doing, and neither do our children.
Taking home how great it can be to just be present can serve as a reminder that our children don’t always need to be entertained, and that we can all enjoy some time for ourselves.
Even months later I am still hearing from participants how great they feel, and how they are still implementing many of the stress management techniques we practiced during our time there.
‘Self care’ is trending right now, but as parents we rarely discuss the complex emotions that are tied in to caring for ourselves.”
Emily Gold is a Masters of Public Health and a Certified Yoga Therapist based in Brussels. For more information, visit her website at EmilyGoldYoga.com.
You can find details about Emily’s next Yoga for Women retreat in Andalucia, Spain in May 2020. Reserve your spot before 31 December to take advantage of the ‘early bird’ rates.