A recent visit to my daughter’s home and the celebration of Mother’s Day struck a nerve in me. I felt sad (as I have at times before) and wished I had been a better mom to my two daughters. Especially now, as I observe my first-born parenting her young children so well.
I’ve also developed an awareness of my reactions when my daughters jokingly tell a story about something questionable I did (or didn’t do) when they were children. I experience an immediate discomfort that feels out of the range of what I’d call a normal reaction. My youngest daughter says I have a “mom complex,” but I call it “mom guilt.”
Their stories, which I believe are mostly in fun, can trigger feelings of embarrassment, hurt, guilt, shame, sadness, defensiveness, and even anger in me. I’ve also noticed they can impact my behavior and prompt me to withdraw or strike out defensively in the moment. Sometimes the feelings linger and impact future interactions.
It’s hard for me to accept the fact that I wasn’t a perfect mother. So, I set out to better understand where these feelings come from. Turns out there are many sources, such as the impossible standards mothers are sometimes held to by family, society, culture, religion and such.
Perfectionism is also still a valued trait to many. And, if you suffer from anxiety, you may be more prone to experience these types of feelings. Generally speaking, and especially in our role as mothers, we have a tendency to be hard on ourselves.
Mothers, no matter the age, may also suffer from and pass along wounds from their own upbringing. Those wounds can range from mere scratches and scrapes to more serious mental injuries that require professional help to overcome. All of these among other reasons can provide fertile ground for “mom guilt” to thrive.
If so, you may want to consider examining, processing, and trying to let go of these emotions.
I can think of two very good reasons to do so. The first being your mental health and the second being the mental health of your adult children! Freeing up the real estate inhabited by these emotions may create space for a happier and healthier you. It may also improve your relationship with your adult children.
Personally, I’m motivated by the desire to be the best mom I can be to my adult children in the years that remain. I also desire to be the best grandmother I can be. I believe cleaning out the cobwebs can help to achieve those goals.
If you still suffer with feelings of having been a “less than stellar” mom, here are some things I’m working on that may benefit you as well:
It’s so important to put things into perspective since we all have a negativity bias. One thing that really stood out for me was the fact that I became a mother in my early 20s. My oldest daughter became a mother in her mid-30s, as will my youngest daughter. That’s a huge difference in maturity levels!
Hopefully these exercises will help you see that you were not such a bad mom and perhaps you were a better mom than you give yourself credit for. If you find you are still struggling after doing the exercises above, or perhaps as an addition to them, consider writing a letter to your children expressing your regrets. Just be honest and sincere, and let them know you love them.
It’s your choice whether or not to share the letter with your child or children. If you do, don’t expect a particular response. They may or may not be receptive. Either way it’s ok. Ultimately, you will need to forgive yourself and learn to let go of these feelings.
Remember, we all do the best we can at the time, and that’s all anyone can do!
Please join in the conversation. Do you have regrets as a mom? Do you have unfinished business with your own mom? How have you handled these feelings?
Tags Adult Children