Mom Guilt vs. Mom Shame
Mom guilt is a basic mom emotion, because guilt is a basic human emotion.
While unpleasant, it provides an important social and psychological function. It motivates us to behave differently than we have.
Shame, on the other hand, is a destructive emotion.
Brene Brown, a pre-eminent shame scholar and famous TED-talker, says that while guilt creates psyhcological discomfort, shame makes us feel fundamentally unlovable.
Motivation to Change
These are two wildly different things.
Mom guilt would be a feeling that tells us we aren’t behaving in line with our values, and it would nudge us in the right direction.
Mom shame motivates us to hide our behavior, not to change it. Since we become morally bad by our actions, it is important not to let people know. We cannot do without having other’s approval.
Mom shame is what most women are feeling, not mom guilt.
Or maybe something else entirely.
Why do I think so?
Because mothers are largely doing the same things day in and day out. They aren’t feeling motivated to improve. Their conscious is not leading them.
Shame is a toxic emotion. We need to banish mom shame, and encourage mom guilt. Mom guilt would be when we feel discomfort because we have done something that we should not doing.
Mom shame about spending time away from your children would be ridiculous. It’s normal and natural in the context of a community, and spending time away from your children—especially young babies and toddlers—could help them with stress inoculation.
This would be useless shame. Not only do you likely have to spend time aware from your children, but it is neutral to helpful for your children. When you do it, you feel morally bad and alone, and you can’t change it. That is toxic.
Mom guilt is when you give your children food that you know isn’t good for them.
People are judging you for it.
And they should be.
The reason that you feel bad is because you are doing something that is against your core values.
Leveraging Mom Guilt
Does that mean that you cannot give your kid chicken nuggets every once in awhile?
It just means that you need to be mindful, and realize that the emotions you’re are communicating to you.
I’m proposing that we want more mom guilt in our life. How can we get more?
- Clearly laying out our priorities. When we know what we value, and in what order we value it, it is much easier to make decisions and much harder to feel guilty. “I value my children’s health enough to always have healthy food in the house, but do not believe that snacks will harm them. We can have snacks when we travel or are at a friend’s house.”
With this clearly laid out, I can feel bad when I bring some cookies into the house, and good when we eat a pie at Grandma’s. There won’t be low-level shame running through each day.
- Surrounding ourselves with people who share those priorities. Willpower doesn’t work. Changing your environment works. The people and things around you are what motivate you to do the things that you do. Call it triggers or associations, for better or worse, this is what ultimately dictates most of your decisions. Whatever your environment is geared towards will become your autopilot.
People are a key part of that environment. If everyone around you is upholding the same values as you, you will feel deep, social mom guilt when you do not follow through—and the good news is that following through will be easier.
As our children grow, we want them to know that not all uncomfortable or negative emotions are bad. We don’t want them to run away from sadness or anger. We want them to rest comfortably in the fact that emotions are trying to alert them to some truth about themselves, the world, and how those two are interacting.
We want the same thing for ourselves.
Guilt does not need to be run away from. It needs to be acknowledged, and it needs to be dealt with. By forcing more mom guilt into our lives and forcing out the mom shame, we can let go of this low-level nag and move into action.