You know that light, airy feeling you get when your life feels balanced and fulfilled?
This was not that.
My guilt sat in my stomach as I drove away from my house. This happens more often than I care to admit when I’m leaving my kiddos, but on this particular day it was much more noticeable. No one except me was upset by my departure, but the guilt was there nonetheless.
It wasn’t until I had parked my car and had a good bit of dirt trail behind me that the feeling started to become less intense. A friend, the woods, and walking. There can be so much healing when we make a little space for ourselves.
Guilt alone is not usually a good barometer for determining whether or not the activity we’re doing away from our kids is worthwhile, or even necessary. But, I’ve found that it can give us some valuable information if we let it teach us rather than control us.
I remember having a discussion with a good family friend who is a retired psychologist. We were talking about the difference between guilt and shame. It’s hard to know exactly what brought this up, but these sorts of topics have often arisen after sharing a dinner together with our families, sitting around his dining room table or in his living room.
He further clarified that with shame, we have a belief that we are actually flawed. When we have that belief, that there is actually something wrong with us, it almost seems to us there is nothing that can be done about it. With guilt, you can apologize, or make amends.
The reason I bring up both of these topics is that they’re closely related. Before having the discussion with my friend, I don’t know whether I would have been able to articulate the difference between the two in such a clear way.
ALL. THE. TIME. Right? It’s something that many of us can relate to. “I shouldn’t have raised my voice.” “I shouldn’t have let him watch that much TV.” “I should be working more vegetables into her diet.”
And in the MotherHustle, we can be pros at should-ing on ourselves. Why is it that this seems to be something mamas focus on? It’s probably out there, but I have yet to come across #dadguilt. (Hastily looks up this hashtag on Instagram. Hm. So it has been used about a hundred times!).
Of course, parenting isn’t the only place that guilt takes a seat in our lives. To many of us, our business is like another child. We hold it close to our hearts and have made sacrifices on its behalf, have felt proud of it, have felt perplexed by it at times. We might feel guilt when we don’t focus on it “enough,” when we don’t give “enough” of ourselves to it.
Guilt feels heavy. Each of us feels it in different places in our body, but I haven’t met someone who likes the way it feels. It weighs on us.
It’s interesting, but this is one of those things that if you shine some light on it, notice it, and have some wonder about what it’s really about, you can take away some of its power. Many times, if you lift up a layer of guilt, it might be overlaying some shame.
When it comes to our momming and our businesses, what might be hiding is, “I’m a bad mom” (I hear this one from my clients ALL the time!) or “I’m not a good [insert your business title here]”.
Notice the difference there, where the guilty thought leads to something deeper, like a fear of being flawed. Sometimes this is the case, sometimes it’s not. But in the MotherHustle, we owe it to ourselves to give say, “Hm, anything hiding under there?”
Once you’ve finished, give that guilt a ride on a rocket ship to the stars! Seriously. Envision it!
The first time I heard a talk by Brené Brown, I heard my psychologist friend’s words repeated in nearly the same exact way. Brené Brown has done years’ worth of research on guilt and shame, and her books do an excellent job of discussing how we can get out of our own way when faced with these topics. If you haven’t already, consider taking a listen to one of her TED talks or picking up one of her books. It’s definitely worthwhile!
Guilt is uncomfortable. But I want to invite you, and myself, to see it as an opportunity to listen to ourselves more deeply when it arises.
Emily is a mama, author, and clinical social worker in Maryland. She provides therapy to pregnant women and new moms who are experiencing anxiety or depression, or who are just needing some help adjusting to this new time in their lives. She is married, has two children, and loves spending time outdoors. Follow her on Facebook at Nesting Space Therapy LLC and on Instagram at Nesting_Space. Make sure to check out her book here.
Author Photo Credit: Stevie T Photography
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