Mamahood is full of things left undone, imperfect, and unexpected turns that can often feel painfully different from the plans you had in mind. Whether it is a twist in the birth that leaves you holding onto self blame, or something on the path of motherhood that you just can’t seem to feel okay about, it’s easy to end up in a negative cycle of self criticism.
There is a way out of this negative spiral.
It’s okay to blame yourself. Self criticism is normal, and extremely common. In fact, the majority of mamas have a habit of self criticism. It comes from setting high standards and then expecting ourselves to meet them in an unrealistic way. Were you a perfectionist? Well, chances are excellent that becoming a mama didn’t take that away.
The key is to notice it, and rather than thinking negatively about yourself, to end the cycle by just noting: I’m being mean to myself right now. I’ve set myself up as the bad guy, or am setting extremely high expectations.
What we often do is notice self critical thoughts and then think, Oh, there you go again! Can’t you do anything right?! Self blame and negative thoughts like this can quickly spiral out of control when you start feeling bad for having them.
The truth is these are normal, very common thoughts for new parents. I mean, c’mon! What other job in life do we ever start suddenly, without one single day of specific training, and then expect ourselves to do perfectly because it’s so important. Mamas often think, If I mess this one up, this baby is going to be f*ed up for good. We’re talking about caring for a life. That’s a big job!
It’s literally a recipe for self blame and criticism:
no training + high expectations + super important job = falling short, every time
Ending a habit is never easy, and it takes time to build toward this goal. The key to ending a habit that is no longer serving you is to begin, one moment at a time, to replace the negative habit with a new one. For example, you might notice feeling self blame or criticism and then replace it with:
- a deep breath, breathing in for four seconds and then out for the count of eight
- reframing your thought to something less harsh (for example, if you were thinking, “If I don’t breastfeed, then my baby will never be healthy,” try replacing it with a less ultimate statement like, “If I don’t breastfeed, I will be in good company with the many mamas whose babies who still grow happily and turn out well while eating formula.”)
- calling a friend or close confidant who is quick to nurture and support you, without judgment or being super “advice-y.”
- having a cup of tea
- closing your eyes and focusing on your body and breathing
Just choose something that makes you feel grounded and gently replace your negative habit with the kinder, gentler one. After all, you’re a mama! You deserve love, admiration, praise and huge thanks! You are doing the very most important work in our world, and you hardly ever get the thanks you really deserve. You are doing sooo much, doing your very best with that help and info you have. You deserve a big hug, a huge smile, and a pat on the back from someone who really gets how much you do every single day. Here’s a hug from me to you, because I get it mama, and you deserve it.
Change takes time, so give yourself permission to make mistakes, get stuck, and think critically of yourself anytime. It’s okay! We all do. And, when you can notice and shift your energy to invest just a little bit in noticing how awesomely bad*ss you are, that’s a huge win! You can celebrate the small successes, and know you’re deserving whether you can remember that or not.