Flipping My Guilt Into Gratitude

Mom guilt. It is a very real thing that I think most moms – maybe ALL moms – experience. It wears many hats, and frequently rears its ugly head, often without warning. It can be LOUD and all-consuming. It can be quiet and sneaky, a little voice in the background.

“I should be doing dishes rather than reading this article.”

“I should lose this baby weight.”

“I shouldn’t go out with my girlfriends tonight.”

“I should get a job.”

“I should be at home more.”

“I shouldn’t give my kids that unhealthy snack.”

The list goes on.

My son is medically fragile. He has a feeding tube and has multiple, complex and rare diagnoses. His infancy was filled with confusion and medical questions, poor weight gain, food allergies, pain, decreased sleep, tears. His tears, my tears. So many tears.

With every decision my husband and I made in regards to his care, the mom guilt’s voice grew louder and louder.

“I should have known that would cause an allergic reaction!”

“I should have given him pain medicine earlier!”

“I shouldn’t have allowed him to try that food!”

My mom guilt grew so loud, and compounded with my insecurities and fears about his medical conditions, created in me an anxiety I could not shake. The should-haves from the past and the what-ifs of the future dominated my mind, and pretty soon, my mind was anywhere but the present.

Luckily, around this time, I started seeing a fantastic psychologist. She recognized my mom guilt, and helped me by giving me tools to quiet the guilt and allow me to live and thrive in the moment.

One of the first strategies she taught me was flipping guilt into gratitude. Anytime I recognized my guilt voice, I was supposed to answer it with a statement of gratitude. At first it felt awkward and useless – most of the time I did not recognize the negative self-talk as my mom guilt voice, and when I did, the words sounded so true and real, it felt disingenuous to ignore them or replace them with other, opposing statements. But I trusted her, and I was desperate for help, so I tried it.

“I should be doing dishes rather than reading this article.”

  • “I am grateful to have a moment to myself to unwind.”

“I should lose this baby weight.”

  • “I am grateful for the body that grew and birthed my child.”

“I shouldn’t go out with my girlfriends tonight.”

  • “I am grateful for time with my friends.”

“I should get a job.”

  • “I am grateful for time at home with my child.”

“I should be at home more.”

  • “I am grateful to have time out of the house, so I can be more present when I am home.”

“I shouldn’t give my kids that unhealthy snack.”

  • “I am grateful for food I can provide for my child.”

The more I practiced the exercise of flipping guilt to gratitude, the easier it became, and the quicker I was able to catch myself, sometimes mid-guilt trip, and turn my negative self-talk into something more positive and present. Even the deep guilt associated with my son’s medical conditions were eased by this exercise.

“I should have known that would cause an allergic reaction!”

  • “How could I have known? I am grateful I recognize it now, and will use this knowledge in the future.”

“I should have given him pain medicine earlier!”

  • “I am grateful for medicine that relieves his pain.”

“I shouldn’t have allowed him to try that food!”

  • “I am grateful that I had the courage to try something new, and that his reaction was not too severe. He is safe and will be alright.”

Flipping guilt to gratitude takes time and practice. It feels awkward at first. But it is one of my favorite tools for staying grounded in the moment, for giving myself grace for being human, and for helping me enjoy my parenting journey.

Motherhood is hard. It is messy, painful, confusing, and tiresome. But it is also magical, awe-inspiring, enlightening, and fun! Flipping guilt to gratitude helps me tap into the positive aspects of parenting, and enjoy my present moments while they occur.

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