Social media is causing mothers to suffer 'mom guilt' like never before: author

Photo of stressed out young mother sipping on a cup of coffee on her messy bed while her three daughters are jumping around her.
Photo of stressed out young mother sipping on a cup of coffee on her messy bed while her three daughters are jumping around her. | Getty Images/Davin G. Photography

Many mothers raising families in the digital age are struggling with the challenges technology presents, as portrayals of perfect families running across their social media feeds generate an overwhelming sense of guilt, a Christian parenting expert warns. 

Author Alli Worthington, a mother of five boys, offered practical advice on how to handle the challenges faced by mothers today, such as social media-induced guilt and low self-esteem.

During a recent interview with the Evangelical Christian parachurch ministry Focus on the Family, the author of Remaining You While Raising Them: The Secret Art of Confident Motherhood emphasized that mothers need to practice self-care, prioritize their emotions, seek help when needed and recognize the false representations of reality on social media.

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She stresses that by doing those things, mothers can help cultivate mental well-being and build confidence in their parenting abilities.

"I think motherhood has always been hard. It is for me. I was surprised when I became a mother raising young kids. I was a stay-at-home mom. And those early years [were] both physically exhausting but intellectually unstimulating. That was a real challenge for me because no one ever warned me of that,"  Worthington said.

"But what I think is really breaking moms right now is a new [thing] that's never happened before, social media," she added, referencing a survey she sent to her audience finding that 96% of mothers say they face "mom guilt," with the No. 1 cause being social media. 

"[Mothers are] going along, going through their day, having a good day, you know, quote-unquote, good day; craziness of being a mom, and then they open up their phone and they're inundated with posts of women who look like they got it right,"  Worthington added. 

"These pictures are, you know, kids who are dressed in all white, and they're not stained. The dog is smiling in the photos. The house is spotless. And meanwhile, every woman who's living in the real world, we haven't washed our hair in three days and the dog has just thrown up on the carpet, and we want to throw our phones across the room. This issue of social media, I think, is really destroying the happiness and the peace and the joy that moms can feel." 

Worthington warned mothers not to blame themselves or their own parenting skills for everything their child does wrong because not everything a child does reflects who his mother is as a parent. 

"Your kids are going to do stuff because they're kids. If you keep raising them thinking everything they do is a reflection of your mothering and your parenting, you're going to be miserable," she said, recalling advice a neighbor once gave her. "Do you think that every time you do something wrong that God is a bad Father? … God is a perfect Father. … Do you hold yourself up to different standards than God?" 

She eventually realized that even if she could do everything right as a mom, "kids are just going to be kids."

"Sometimes they need to grow and test boundaries. And you know, it's such a hard leap, though, because that guilt feeling comes so naturally," she added. "I mean, it's just part of our wiring, and particularly for moms. I think I do wear a lot of the responsibility that my kids aren't behaving perfectly."  

As children get older, they won't remember every memory from their younger years. Worthington said this reality should relieve the pressure on mothers today to know that if they make parenting mistakes, their children won't remember every error. 

"Kids don't remember this stuff. You can relax. Just enjoy them. Snuggle with them. Read them books. Have fun. Not everything needs to be optimized. Even though we're continually opening up Instagram and TikTok and seeing, 'You need to do this,' and 'You need to do that,' and 'You need to grow organic wheat in your backyard and make sandwiches,' and do all these things. Really, when our kids are little, we need to enjoy them," Worthington said.  

"Because when kids are little everything is on us to keep them alive. Well, that's true that we have the mindset that everything I do matters and if I make one mistake, it could be terrible, right? But as kids get older, it's hard to shift from that mindset that every little thing I do has massive consequences to as they get older, we kind of separate a little from our kid and we realize now with each year that they get older, every little thing I do doesn't quite matter as much. And it's hard to shift that mindset from the early years."

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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