Why Crying Moms Should Stop Feeling Guilty
When my children were quite young, I had a very busy career. It wasn’t until I had gallbladder surgery that I discovered the stress faced by tired moms. When recovering at home I woke to hear my nanny telling my two-year-old daughter to let me sleep. My daughter whispered, “But I just want to look at her.” I did what any mother would do when I heard her plea: I cried.
At the time I felt pretty alone and very much like a failure. I also realized “having it all” comes at a cost. More importantly, it also wasn’t the first time motherhood had caused my tears. According to Sociologist Caitlyn Collins, the U.S. finishes in last place among western industrialized countries when it comes to supporting families and children. With this kind of empirical evidence backing us up – tired moms should stop feeling guilty when they shed a few stress-related tears. (1)
It’s Not Moms’ Fault
When Collins wrote her book, Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving, she told the mothers she interviewed the lack of balance was not their fault. These simple words would often lead to tears. Collins felt the tears came when women were told they deserve better. This was a new concept most women had never heard before. (1, 2)
The U.S. In Last Place For Family Support
Collins studied mothers in four countries over five years. She found women wanted to combine paid employment and child-rearing without feeling there was a disadvantage at home or work. (1)
Unfortunately, American women live in a society where a lack of policy and social support keeps them in constant conflict between the two. (1)
Working Mothers And Support
Collins found that Sweden leads in support for families with children. There is more balance between mothers and fathers because they share the roles of child-rearer and bread-winner. Similarly, in East Berlin, mothers express no conflict about working. They have policies and childcare in place to support their roles. However, she did find that not as many women aspire to a “career” in East Berlin. (1)
Meanwhile, in Western Germany and Italy, part-time work is more common. Histories in these countries support “maternalism.” Here, more women feel that careers and child-rearing are not compatible. They also believe when a mother does not raise their children it causes harm. Despite this, these countries still provide support to help with home and children. Yet in the U.S., where having it all is expected, moms don’t have much in the way of societal support systems. (1)
Overcoming The ‘Shouldstorm’
According to Alison Escalante M.D., the “Shouldstorm” is at fault for parent related stress. She says the constant pressure of worrying what “should” be done can be balanced using the 3S Method. (3, 4)
Whenever you feel a “should” coming on: sigh, see, and start. Sighing lets you release a deep breath slowly to calm and connect centers in your autonomic nervous system. You can then take the time to ‘see’ your child, situation, and options more clearly using mindfulness when you are feeling pressured. You can then ‘start’ listening and thinking about how to act appropriately. This also allows you to ‘start’ accepting that you won’t always get it right – and that’s okay. (4)
Words Of Wisdom
Mom Bethany Jacobs provided some words of wisdom for the mom “hidden in the bathroom because she needs a few minutes of tranquility while slipping tears from her eyes.” Here’s an excerpt to keep you focused (5):
You are enough.
You are doing your best…
Those little hearts that reach out to touch yours — they don’t want anything more. They just want you.
Because you are enough. You are more than enough, mama.
You. Are. Amazing.
As for Collins, she hopes her book will help Americans see things can be different based on what other countries have achieved. (1) Hopefully, tired moms will at least start to see they aren’t at fault for all the “shoulds” and can overcome them without crying tears of guilt.