BOISE — This week's Life in Balance explores why moms always seem to feel so guilty. The negative feelings moms tend to have over just about anything, from not spending enough time with our children to yelling at them.
The feelings are so prevalent among women that it's been given a name: "mommy guilt."
For me, the mommy guilt began almost immediately. It was over breastfeeding - I couldn't do it, I wasn't successful at it. The guilt I put on myself and felt from others was overwhelming. Three kids later, and I still second-guess my choices. The mommy guilt I feel is stronger than ever.
Experts say one way to cope is to talk about it. So I sat down with two other KTVB moms: Bri Eggers and Tami Tremblay.
Tremblay is mom to 5-year-old Lucy and 2-year-old Leo. Eggers, who's new to the KTVB team, is also a new mom to 3-month-old Charli Joann.
"I'm looking on Instagram and I'm seeing other moms who are seemingly doing it better than me," Eggers said. "And looking on Instagram I'm thinking, 'Is that where my kid should be?'"
"Well remember everyone always posts the positive," Tremblay said.
But it still makes mothers feel guilty.
Experts say moms of all walks of life have mommy guilt, whether you're 20 or 40, CEO or stay-at-home. Mommy guilt is an equal-opportunity affliction.
KTVB morning anchor Maggie O'Mara, mother of five, feels it too.
"Especially having a new baby. It's hard to come back to work. So there's a big guilt thing there," O'Mara said. "And then you know when you miss their school performances or something because of work."
Tramblay and Eggers question why women seem to feel more guilty than men.
"Moms are wired different," Tremblay said.
Added Eggers, jokingly: "Have you seen that meme that says, 'Forget sleeping like a baby, I just want to sleep like my husband.' I feel that way all the time! The fire alarm could be going off, the child is screaming, the cat is jumping on his face, and he's still just snoring away."
Tremblay knows that struggle well.
"I swear, I will hear Leo crying in the middle of the night while my husband is fast asleep," she said. "He just won't hear it. We're just wired differently."
Women are more likely to feel guilty than men, according to Rebecca Som Castellano, a sociology associate professor at Boise State University.
"Most social scientists would argue that a lot of that derives from cultural expectations around gender," Castellano said.
Women internalize gender expectations. No matter how equal the roles are in the household, deep down inside women will still feel it's their responsibility to be the prominent caregiver.
"A father may take their child to go get their flu shot, but it's probably more likely that the mother, in a traditional couple, was the one that reminded him or made the appointment or made a note on her calendar to make sure that that happened," Castellano said.
Oftentimes the biggest source of guilt is a feeling that you're doing it wrong.
"But why does it have to be our fault as the mom?" Eggers asked, "That's the hard part because I have dealt with that too."
The pursuit of perfection feels like it's eating me alive at times. It's not so that I appear to be that perfect mom on social media who has it all and can do it all. That's not what I'm after. I want to parent perfectly so I don't mess up my kids.
"So if you have another [child], the guilt multiplies because then you feel like you have to share your time between the two equally," Tremblay said. "I remember when I brought Leo home and she would say, 'Put the baby down.' And it would just break my heart."
O'Mara says spending as much time with her kiddos helps her guilt go away.
"The more you can spend with them, the more you can combat that guilt," O'Mara said. "So I just spend as much time as I can with them. On the weekends, dedicated to them. When I get home from work, dedicated to them. And you know it really takes care of it for me. I don't feel it as much."
Tremblay says her supportive friends help her.
"You need a mom tribe, if you can find one, and there are good mom groups here that you can exercise with, where you can talk about everything to why is my kid not sleeping to they don't want to eat their vegetables," she said.
And remember moms, you're not alone. Everyone feels it. My advice is to do your best to accept the feeling and move on. Don't let it bring you down. When my perfectionism starts to get the better of me, I remind myself of one of my favorite memes, 'Don't be so hard on yourself. The mom in E.T. had an alien living in her house for days. And she never even noticed.'
"It's really nice to do just what we're doing right now and sit down (and talk) with other moms," Eggers said. "Not just look at those [social media] posts, not just look at what's happening on the surface because it's always only the good things, but talking to one another and saying, 'Oh my goodness, this terrible feeling that I'm having is normal, like I'm not the only one feeling it.'"