You know that guilty pang inside when you’re trying to walk out the door to get to work or go meet a friend for dinner and your kid is clinging to your leg crying “mommy please don’t go!”? That moment when you feel shamed for wanting to do something with your time for yourself? Yep, that’s what I want to address. Because in that moment you have a choice, you can give into your guilt and begrudgingly step back into the role of mommy OR you can move forward with your plans, swallow the guilt, get a break, and enjoy some you time. Usually when you do the latter then you come back feeling more refreshed and rejuvenated and able to better manage the responsibilities of being a mom.
I once heard a quote “guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.” Sounds a bit backwards, but when you think about it, it makes sense. Guilt is one of our strongest emotions. It can feel icky and dark, so how could it be a gift? Well I believe that the guilty emotion gives you an opportunity to learn. Anything that creates a chance to learn more about yourself and your relationship with others is a gift. This hasn’t always been my natural reaction when feeling guilty about something. I've worked hard to come to respect my guilty feelings and use them as a growth point not only in my journey of motherhood but in my life too (it just so happens my biggest source of guilt comes from my emotions being a mom). That respect manifests itself in 3 ways:
1) Acknowledge it
For so long I fought my feelings of guilt by calling it anger, frustration, or even resentment. These are other strong and somewhat negative emotions but when I started allowing myself to see guilt for what it is, that was the first step in my healing process to move beyond it.
2) Embrace it
Once you’ve acknowledged you are feeling guilty, own it, be it, let it have its moment. Sometimes just the internal battle of denying your guilt can hold you back from moving forward. So acknowledge it and then allow it to have its space as this creates room and nurtures your emotional well-being.
3) Let it go
Letting go of guilt is perhaps the hardest part of the process but also the most important. If you know you have guilt and have embraced it the ONLY way to go on is to then let it go. Typically guilt comes from something we’ve experienced in the past so by the time we start feeling guilty, it can’t be changed. Nothing good comes from holding on to the past, so let it go.
I’m not guilt free, in fact I don’t know of any mamas in my tribe who are. Just the other day I had tremendous guilt around the amount of help I asked of our five year old when trying to nurse daddy back to health and deal with a tired and cranky toddler. I snapped at her and she still had a smile on her face and happily agreed to my requests which were more like demands. It made me feel very guilty that I imposed my stress on her. I took a breath and acknowledged that it happened and then I sat down with her and explained to her how I was feeling. Then I embraced my guilt feeling happy that it made me appreciate my daughter’s loving demeanor and ability to find the positive in all situations. Finally I let it go. This was the hardest part because I was constantly thinking of how I could have handled the situation differently but I accepted that the past was in the past, and I needed to keep moving forward.
This mindset takes practice and it will get easier with time. Guilt is ugly, raw, and can hang on your back for a long time if you don’t shake it. But instead of letting it wear you down, know that guilt is an emotion that can stimulate personal growth and eventually, set you free. Whether I am going on a date with my husband or having a girl’s night with friends, the guilt of leaving the kids can sometimes creep in. It’s when I work through these three things in dealing with my guilt that I am able to feel free to enjoy whatever activity I am doing. Let being guilty set you free too!
Be Well Woman,
Certified Holistic Health Coach, AADP