Did you know your Mom guilt is like ear wax?
No? You didn’t know that. Okay let me explain. According to the docs who know over at The American Academy of Otolaryngology,“Cerumen or earwax is healthy in normal amounts and serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties.”
Did you know earwax is self cleaning?!
Did you know that cleaning your ears with Q tips can cause it to become impacted and can result in:
- Ear infection
- Ringing in the ears
- Vertigo, which is a sensation of loss of balance
- Cough, due to nerve stimulation from the inside of the ear when pressure in the area is increased”
Yikes! We can get some not so fun stuff when we pay too much attention to our ear wax including vertigo & coughing. Who knew?!
“Yeah but what the heck does this ear wax stuff have to do my mom guilt?”
Let’s break the characteristics of ear wax down so that I can draw the analogy:
- Ear wax is healthy in normal amounts and has a protective value
- It is self cleaning.
- Ear wax can cause problems when you pay too much attention to it. You can end up feeling pretty bad.
I say these are the SAME characteristics of guilt.
Guilt is a normal, healthy human emotion.
It can serve to draw our attention to when we’ve compromised our own values. Guilt has a protective value in that reminds us to live in integrity and responsibility which feels so much better. Experiencing normal levels of guilt allows us to notice when we’ve acted outside of our values and hurt ourselves or someone else, then we say I’m sorry and attempt to make restitution. (Daniel Tiger has a whole episode on this by the way! It’s awesome!) We are then able to learn from that mistake and hopefully grow from it.
2. Guilt is self cleaning.
What I mean by this, is when we allow ourselves to experience guilt and go through the self growth that comes from learning how to avoid that mistake, we cleanse ourself from our guilt. We recognize guilt as part of the human experience, experience it, integrate it’s lessons and most importantly, release it.
3. Guilt can cause problems when you pay too much attention to it. You can end up feeling pretty bad.
The problem I see happening more often than not with moms is that we pay too much attention to guilt!
Moms experience guilt all the time but we don’t just feel it, move through it and let it go. Instead when you do something that is outside of you values, or don’t do something you think you “should” do, you get stuck in the guilt. You keep thinking about that thing you did or didn’t do. And thinking and thinking and worrying about it. You beat yourself up for it over and over again. You might even call yourself names.
This focus on scolding yourself for what you did and thinking almost obsessively about it, is equivalent to sticking a stick with cotton on the end of it and jamming the earwax into a solid, impacted ball of wax that ends up making you feel sick.
When you pay too much attention to the guilt, you end up feeling pretty bad. And that sucks.
I do want to draw attention to the fact that, as mothers, we are often faced with making decisions that seem impossible and equally painful. There are times we do not know, and may never know what consequences will come from our choices. That causes very real and understandable guilt and shame. I really like how Alexandra Sachs, MD describes this challenging truth of mothering in her article “The Birth of a Mother.”:
“Mothers will feel guilty because they’re always making challenging and sometimes impossible choices.”
Just knowing that each and every one of us faces these kinds of choices helps. Knowing that we will feel guilt caused by these choices helps. It’s not your fault.
You will feel guilty simply because you are alive and a mom facing decisions every day. Let that truth sink in and breath deeply with the freedom of knowing it is not your fault.
Mama, you don’t have to feel so bad. You can make a choice to let it move through you and let it go.
Here are the steps:
- Recognize feeling guilt is a healthy thing. Take action to say sorry and make restitution.
- Learn your lesson. Integrate what you have learned into your life. See this mistake as an opportunity for personal growth.
- Stop paying attention to the guilt. Know some amount of guilt comes with the territory and set an intention to release it. (When you find yourself revisiting those obsessive thoughts, think about the q tip and impacted wax. Nobody wants impacted wax. lol.). Redirect your mind to happier thoughts.
Lesley holds a great deal of affection for quiet time reading with a cup of coffee, yoga and cute shoes. She specializes in coaching new moms. Lesley believes deeply and passionately that every mother already has and already IS exactly what she needs to be to mother her baby with confidence and joy. With 16 years working in social work and a Masters in Counseling, Lesley can help you create a joyful motherhood journey. Her advice has appeared in Thrive Global, Mamapedia, Parent Co, and Fit Pregnancy.