Last week in this column, I explained how mom guilt works. It allows us to feel good about ourselves even when we think we are acting improperly. For instance, "I went back to work but I feel guilty about it" or "I lost my temper with the kids, but at least I feel bad about it."
This week, we'll continue to ease the psychic pressure of guilt that many working moms feel by focusing on taking charge of our thoughts and beliefs and harnessing our inner power.
We are not slaves to our emotions. We are their masters. The aim is to take ownership of our goals, thoughts, and emotions. We'll do that by learning two techniques: blocking negative self-talk and creating replacement thoughts.
1. Thought blocking: Tame the gremlin
So, when guilty feelings arise, the first trick is to recognize this little old childhood gremlin that sits on your shoulder and shouts negative thoughts at you. This gremlin reminds you that in times of stress you are still wired emotionally just about the same way you were when you were five years old.
Make friends with this gremlin -- it's a part of you. Create a visual image for your gremlin, draw your gremlin. When you hear the trail of negative thoughts simply smile and imagine patting your gremlin on the head and saying, "Shhhhhh -- enough." Don't entertain your gremlin's diatribe of insults that will lead to poor feelings. Instead, activate your positive thoughts as described below.
2. Positive thoughts: Honour the goddess mom in you
When did you recently find yourself in a state of motherhood when you felt really terrific? Can you remember it? Was it a quiet moment reading a book to your child? Sharing a laugh as you baked cookies together? Answering their curious questions on the drive to school?
Think back on this time and remember the state you were in. How did you feel about that mothering? Can you draw a symbol that captures that feeling? A mother lion with her cub, perhaps? Can you think of a one-liner that sums up that experience, such as "embrace the chaos"? Or a quote that resonates with you about that feeling of mothering?
Write a list of all your positive qualities and strengths. Post those in a visible place like on the fridge or keep them in your purse at the ready.
The next time your gremlin appears and wants to knock you down a peg and make you feel guilty, acknowledge your gremlin and his old past, pat and shush him and then make the active choice of thinking positive thoughts from your list by reading it and remembering it.
You can also look at your symbol so you recall and move towards the positive thinking and feeling state you know you have within you. Call that mother goddess out to play instead of your old gremlin.
The more you practice, the better you will get at conquering guilt and honouring yourself for the great mom that you are.
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