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Mommy Guilt vs. Mommy Wisdom

Recently as I led a workshop for busy moms, I started to notice a pattern: No matter what topic we discussed, at some point the moms would start to describe how they didn’t measure up — they didn’t spend enough time with their kids or weren’t focused enough when with their children or they weren’t being good examples.

I wondered whether they were just perfectionists who beat themselves up for no good reason or if they had realized and shared something significant that was truly missing in their mothering. Was this senseless Mommy Guilt or important Mommy Wisdom?

Both are real. Discerning the difference is important.

The Inner Critic and Mommy Guilt

We’ve all got a tough inner critic — a mean-spirited voice inside our heads that judges us, tells us we are likely to fail and compares us unfavorably to the people in our midst.

If you are a mom, the inner critic likely sometimes shows up via Mommy Guilt — through persistent critiques about how you have fallen short in your mothering. Maybe it declares you don’t spend enough time with the kids, or earn enough to give them all they deserve. Maybe it says you should pack lunches or have a happier marriage for your kids to see.

Here are clues that the voice of your inner critic is feeding you Mommy Guilt:

You feel as if you hear this voice in your head, rather than consciously thinking through what it says.

The voice is often anxious and frantic.

The voice says things you know are untrue, but they still get to you.

The voice is repetitive, like a broken record.

The things you are thinking about yourself are not things you would say to someone you cared about.

Ironically, this voice attacks you for having self-critical thoughts! That sounds like this: “You are failing as a mother. You are not being there for your kids.... Get a grip. You know that’s not true. You are so insecure! So neurotic.”

The voice may be a version of external critics from your life. It may echo Mom or Aunt Susie or your mean 2nd grade teacher.

Mommy Wisdom

Your inner wisdom speaks in a different voice and it comes from a different place in you. Mommy Wisdom brings you important information about what your kids need, what you need and where something in your parenting needs correcting. These clues that can help you recognize Mommy Wisdom:

It’s quieter. While the inner critic often speaks frantically or anxiously, inner wisdom speaks slowly, with confidence and calm.

It frequently needs time, space and downtime to emerge. It may surface through a long walk, journaling or an honest chat with friends.

It doesn’t come from the left brain. Rather than being based in language and thought, inner wisdom often shows up as a gut feeling, a sensation in your body, an emotion or a wordless knowing.

It’s about solutions and moving forward. Inner wisdom swiftly moves you to action and problem-solving. The inner critic will say over and over again, “You should be spending more time with the kids.” Inner Wisdom will quietly knock on the door of your consciousness and say, “Something is off. The kids need more quiet, home-based unstructured time with you.” You’ll feel free to make that happen, not stuck in a hamster wheel of self-criticism.

It’s kind. Because it’s about solutions, inner wisdom won’t beat you up. It will just share the information and let you use it. It’s about the insight, not about an evaluation of you.

All may not be revealed. The inner critic tends to talk in definite pronouncements. It’s a know-it-all. Inner wisdom sometimes reveals only fragments of information or feelings that aren’t quite clear yet.

Cultivating Wisdom, Bypassing Guilt

Where is Mommy Guilt showing up in your life? What is that repetitive, mean-spirited voice saying to you about your mothering? What helps you slow down and open up to Mommy Wisdom

Once you know the voice of Mommy Guilt, it’s much easier to not take its critiques too seriously. Don’t let it diminish your confidence, distract you from the real work of parenting or keep you from celebrating your life.

Know what your own wisdom sounds like. Remember it’s there, deep and pure and infallible. Create the conditions in your life that allow you to hear it speak.

Tara Sophia Mohr is a life coach and writer. www.taramohr.com

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