Shame and Motherhood

Last week I listened to Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting” and Wow. Just Wow.

There were a lot of great insights in this short audio, but my biggest take away was the discussion on shame versus guilt. Shame has come up for me multiple times in the past month, in this audio and in a discussion with my fertility specialist. He mentioned that struggles with fertility come with shame. At the time, I thought of guilty emotions, but really the two are so vastly different. Guilt is what a person feels when they make a decision that they don’t feel so good about. Shame is when a person blames themselves at the core for an undesired outcome.

Think of it like this. Back in school, you receive an undesired grade on a test. What is your response? If your response was “I should have studied x, y, z more” great job! You just felt guilt. If your response was “I can’t believe I did that, I am so stupid” – that is shame. Believing that there is something wrong with you at the core. When I relate this to motherhood – I see shame everywhere, in myself and in those around me. “What is wrong with me? I’m such a terrible mother!” I’ll be honest and tell you that I have had these thoughts. I will also admit that the majority of these shame thoughts have been related to fertility, although I’ve had my fair share related to just being a mom.

So why does it matter if I feel shame over guilt? Well apparently, there are some studies (noted in Brené Brown’s Audio) that demonstrate that kids who experiences thoughts of shame more often than those of guilt are more likely to participate in dangerous high risk behaviors and commit suicide than those that experience guilt.

Our kids learn way more about life in watching how we treat ourselves as opposed to what we tell them. Monkey see, monkey do. One exposure of my daughter overhearing me say (aloud to myself) “What is wrong with me! I’m a terrible person!” will impact her so much more than 10 times of saying to her “every one makes mistakes, we just need to learn from them”

How often to you listen to your children talking and realize that they are saying phrases that came verbatim from your mouth? They are listening, especially when we don’t think they are. Respect your children, love them for who they are. Let them feel guilty for bad decisions but please don’t shame them for it. We can’t shield our children from shame outside of our home, but inside it is in our power to show them how great they are – even when they are screaming bloody murder, tantruming on the floor!

My goal, is to continue to be mindful of how I treat myself and my spouse. In my research on parenting in striving to become a better mother, I have learned something that I want to share with you. It is more important to work on your relationship with yourself and your partner (if you have one) than it is to work on your relationship with your child. I may not be respected in saying this but I have seen time and time again, that the happier my husband and I are at a given moment, the better mood my kid is in. She learns to interact in watching us interact. I mean she also learns at school with teachers and friends, but I’ll be honest, I want her to learn the most of it from us. Which means, I need to love me above all and show love and respect to my spouse too – because really, loving your kiddo is the easiest of the three and the one we often spend the most time on.

Whatever your resolutions may be this year,  take the chance to love yourself just a little bit more. Don’t wait until to achieve that resolution you made a week ago, love yourself right now. You’re worth it, your kids deserve it.

1 thought on “Shame and Motherhood”

  1. I really agree with you about a good relationship with your spouse makes your child feel more secure and happy. I’ve seen it work both ways throughout my life and my friends lives.

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