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Being a new mom is hard. Everything is unfamiliar, and you’ve never taken care of a brand-new baby before, so you have no idea what you’re doing. And then comes the mom guilt.
Technology can be helpful, as we have so many tools and so much information right at our fingertips. But it can also be harmful, as it can make us doubt whether the choices we’re making are the right ones or not.
Here are three ways technology can contribute to mom guilt for a new mom, and some ways you can combat the guilt.
1. The Lack of Consensus Can Make You Feel Mom Guilt Over “the Right Thing to Do”
I’ve heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy.
It is so, so true.
When I was pregnant with my first child, a friend added me to a Facebook moms group. I thought it was so helpful to be able to learn from other moms who had already been through what I was going through or who were “in the trenches” with me.
And I did learn a lot. I had support when my baby wasn’t sleeping or when I didn’t know if his poop was normal and when I found out he had tongue and lip ties.
The problem is that there are so many competing voices. Before I got pregnant with my first, I thought I knew exactly how we’d handle things like sleep and discipline.
Other parents disagree
Of course, I knew that people disagree. But then I discovered just how many and how strong the competing voices there are. Of course, this discord is not exclusive to Facebook moms groups, but technology brings it all together into one concentrated place.
Technology gives us much easier access to others’ opinions, and that access can both help and hurt. It’s helpful to get different perspectives and think about whether your own views make sense. It’s helpful to see how other people have handled things.
But for many people, including myself, being a mom for the first time is a particularly fragile time in life. This brand-new little person is completely and utterly dependent on you for everything, and you’re so afraid of messing it up.
The moms group was my first experience with mom guilt. I didn’t really feel it until after our son was born and the postpartum emotions and hormonal changes and lack of sleep kicked in.
But suddenly I had no idea what I was doing, and the opinions of other moms only added to the confusion.
Was I a terrible mom if my son so much as made a peep without my being instantly at his side to comfort him? Or was I a terrible mom if I didn’t let my son cry so that he’d learn to comfort himself? The answer to both of those questions, apparently, was yes, depending on whom you asked.
My instincts went out the window, and instead I ended up with a constant battle in my head between other people’s words and competing views.
Even the “experts” disagree
The other thing this moms group introduced me to was all the “experts”–who also had competing views. So I read multiple books that completely contradicted each other. And so many of them were designed to make you feel like you’d ruin your child if you didn’t follow their advice in exactly the way they prescribed.
They only piled on the mom guilt more.
By the way, the same thing happens with posts you read on the internet. Everyone has their own opinions, so take them all (even mine) with a good dose of your own intuition.
When you’re a new mom who’s already afraid you’re doing everything wrong, it doesn’t help for the so-called experts to confirm those fears.
My husband and I fought a lot during those early months as my confidence tanked, I felt more and more mom guilt for the things I wasn’t doing “right,” and I just regurgitated the things I’d read online. We were both miserable.
Here’s the thing about the experts–every mom is different. Every baby is different. And the dynamic between mother and child and the rest of the family is different for every person.
So I firmly believe you have to do what works for you and your family. The experts and other moms can help by telling you what worked for them and exposing you to ideas you may not have otherwise thought of. Try other ideas to see if they work.
But ultimately, you have to know your child and your family dynamic. You have to figure out what works for you. Don’t allow mom guilt to steal your joy if your decisions don’t match someone else’s. The right decisions are those that leave you knowing you can live with yourself at the end of the day. You’ve done the best you can.
Is it more than just self-doubt?
By the way, if you’re experiencing extreme mom guilt and feeling discouraged, it’s worth talking to your doctor about postpartum depression.
I believe now that I had undiagnosed PPD. It was the confluence of several factors–we’d struggled to get pregnant and miscarried three times in the process. As a result, I was afraid to bond with our son because I was convinced he wasn’t going to survive.
I’m also an extremely independent person who struggled with the sudden loss of independence. Somehow I’d gotten the idea in my head that being a good mom meant I spent every one of my son’s waking minutes interacting with him.
And I was afraid even the smallest amount of crying was going to destroy my son. Every little sound stressed me out. I felt so much mom guilt and like I was a failure as a mom if I couldn’t comfort him. In my rush to comfort even the tiniest sounds none of us were sleeping well.
Things were better with our second child. I was coming from a much better place physically, mentally, and emotionally. With the new-baby experience already under my belt I had figured out some of what did and didn’t work for us.
I bonded quickly with our daughter and actually felt like I loved her from the beginning. But being more confident in myself and my parenting–not letting moms groups pile on the mom guilt and dictate my every move–had a huge impact as well.
I still use those moms groups for help and ideas. I just don’t let them have the final say.
2. The Ability to Constantly Monitor and Track Your Child Can Make You Feel Mom Guilt that You’re Not Doing Enough to Keep Your Child Safe
I loved being able to see what my son was doing in his bedroom with the video camera trained on his bed. And that kind of technology is definitely useful for checking in.
I could tell if he was asleep or just playing quietly in his bed. I could tell if he’d gotten out of bed when he was supposed to be napping.
But like anything, moderation is key. This ability to always know what my child was doing meant if I couldn’t see him I worried. I checked the baby monitor compulsively and wondered if I should be doing more to protect him.
“Is he still breathing?” I’d think, as I stared at the grainy screen, straining to see his body move. It also served to allay my fears, when I’d finally see evidence of life. Now–until the next wake-up–I could sleep because I knew he was OK.
Does the ability to monitor contribute to or alleviate postpartum anxiety?
It’s hard to say whether this compulsive checking was a symptom or cause of anxiety, but postpartum anxiety is a very common experience.
Mrs. B. at One Weird Mamma told me, “I was obsessed with checking on my son after he was born. I was convinced he would just stop breathing for no reason (total fear of SIDS) and no monitor helped, I literally had to have him strapped to me at all times or at the very least have skin to skin contact.”
Liz at Be Crumbled mentioned a friend of her sister’s who “became obsessed with [her video monitor] to the point where she would watch all the night’s footage back the next day, in case she’d missed something.”
Did the ability to turn on the baby monitor whenever I wanted to make me more prone to worry about my child? Or would I have worried and felt mom guilt about not doing enough anyway?
I’ve barely used the video monitor at all with our second child. Half the time I can’t find the handheld monitor because I’ll place it somewhere and forget where it is. It’s no longer glued to my hand.
Technology isn’t foolproof
It’s bad enough when the technology works as intended. But what about when it doesn’t work quite the way you expect it to?
Liz also shared this story with me: “We had to go to stay with my in-laws for my sister’s wedding. The baby monitor kept picking up sound from another house, and I convinced myself that there was a man in the room sshh-ing my baby, but hiding every time I went in!”
Although the devices that track baby’s heartrate and breathing can bring peace of mind to some moms (and have also at times saved babies lives), it’s also very common for these devices to cause unnecessary fear. Sarah at Busy Blooming Joy told me about a friend who had one. She stopped using it after the baby “rolled off the mat and the alarm went off.”
As Sarah told me, “Generally I feel that less is more when it comes to that type of thing… there’s enough worry about a baby without some technology giving you misleading info!”
Tracking apps: useful or harmful?
The abundance of apps to track your baby’s sleep, eating, and milestones can also destroy your confidence as a new mom. When you’re taking note of every little thing and making comparisons (Is he normal? Is he delayed? Is he above average? Why isn’t he like other babies?), you forget to trust your intuition about your baby’s behavior. You may feel mom guilt that you’re not doing enough to help your little one grow and mature properly.
I’m not saying that these apps can’t be useful tools. Mrs. B. told me that she found these tools very helpful as they gave her one less thing to worry about. They may clue you in to a problem you might otherwise miss.
But I believe that a mother’s intuition is a real thing, and we deaden our ability to trust it when we rely too much on technology instead.
3. Fear-mongering, Hoaxes, and News Stories Can Make You Feel Mom Guilt About Bringing Your Child Into a Broken World
Now that I’m a mom, I can barely read the news anymore. It’s full of stories of terrible things happening to children, and it causes all sorts of anxiety and dread to rise up within me. It makes me wary of the ordinary people who surround me.
Yes, there are people in the world who do terrible, evil things. But where are we as a society when we all fear and distrust one another? I believe that this growing distrust is a huge contributor to the rise of incidents where parents are fined or imprisoned or lose their children due to things that would have been non-issues when you or I were children.
My mom used to leave us in the car briefly while she ran into the grocery store for some last-minute supper items. Now if I get to the car and get my kids strapped in, I’m afraid to even run back into the house for 30 seconds for something I forgot. I’m afraid someone will report me as negligent even though my children are perfectly safe.
Technology has made it so much easier for us to be aware of the scary things that do sometimes happen. We start to believe that these occurrences are the norm, and we start to distrust everyone.
Even non-stories become frightening specters
But it’s not just the real news stories that contribute to this distrust. Social media makes it easy for ordinary people to turn anything into a story, even if it’s not one.
I’m sure you’ve seen the stories about parents who were just sure their children were being targeted by sex traffickers. In no way do I want to downplay the problem of sex trafficking or how horrendous a crime it is.
I do believe the problem is a huge one, and it disgusts me to my core. But. The stories of children being followed in stores I believe are largely overblown. And I’m not the only one who believes they’re largely non-stories.
There’s also the Momo hoax. Yes, nasty content makes its way into children’s videos. But taking simple precautions can protect you from the vast majority of it.
Yes, the world can be a scary place. Yes, we must do everything in our power to protect our children.
But I also believe there’s only so much we can do. At the end of the day, our children’s safety is in God’s hands, not ours. Living in constant fear robs our joy just as much as comparison does.
The world is also full of wonderful and interesting people. Let’s not let fear of what could be prevent us from enjoying what is. (I’m preaching to myself here!)
How Can You Combat Mom Guilt?
My goal here is not to scare you away from all technology. Obviously, I wouldn’t be a tech blogger if I believed all technology was harmful.
But I believe awareness is key. If you’re tuned in to the possible ways technology can affect you and contribute to mom guilt, then hopefully you’ll have the presence of mind to pull back when you sense things starting to go downhill.
What else can you do?
Step away from social media.
The constant comparison can be immensely detrimental, especially during a time in your life when everything is already so fragile. And the negative news stories can send you into a downward spiral. Excessive social media use has been linked to depression.
I love social media. But I also believe that moderation is so, so important. Read about the positive changes I experienced when I deleted the Facebook app from my phone.
Be mindful of how tools like tracking apps and baby monitors may be affecting your outlook. Make a point of taking a few minutes to put the tools away and just trust.
Think, “My baby is safe. My baby is developing exactly the way he should. I know how to take care of my baby. I do not need to feel mom guilt in this moment.” Pray for protection and the faith to believe in your child’s safety.
Even if you may not feel in the moment like those statements are true, practicing believing them will have a positive impact on your outlook. Mindset is an immensely powerful tool.
Take a moment for you.
When so much of our time and energy is wrapped up in a brand-new little one, it’s easy to forget about ourselves. But the time spent taking care of ourselves can have hugely positive effects on our outlook. Don’t let mom guilt prevent you from caring for you so that you can better care for your child.
If you can, let someone else take the baby for a few minutes while you take a bath. Or get out of the house just to pick up a couple things at the grocery store.
Even if you have to take the baby with you, taking time to get out of the house for a walk or a leisurely stroll down the Target aisles (hello, #momlife!) can be what you need to recharge.
Talk to your doctor.
If your loss of confidence is more severe and you’re showing the signs of postpartum depression, please don’t be like me and try to power through it. Try to really be in tune with what you’re feeling and talk to a professional about it.
From the Mayo Clinic, “Postpartum depression signs and symptoms may include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.”
Let Technology be a Force for Good and Not for Mom Guilt
Technology can bring us together… or drive us apart. It can help lift us up or drag us down to the lowest depths.
Let’s practice using technology as a positive tool and start recognizing when it’s becoming a more negative influence in our lives.
Let me know–do you feel like technology has negatively affected your experience as a mother? Has it contributed to mom guilt?
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