Quatela Center for Plastic Surgery
973 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607
Phone: (585) 244-1000
Monday–Friday: 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

Plastic Surgery and “Mom Guilt” – It’s a Thing!

Mom hugging her two children

-by Lisa Daeffler, Patient Consultant for Dr. Heather Lee, double board-certified facial plastic surgeon

Mom guilt: Guilt a mother feels anytime she takes time to do something for herself that does not involve her children. The feeling of not doing enough as a parent, not doing things “right.” 

I am unable to count on two hands the number of female patients who come in for a consultation with double board-certified facial plastic surgeon Dr. Heather Lee, and tell me that they really want to have cosmetic surgery, but they feel “so guilty” spending the money, or doing something that would take them away from their family for any significant amount of time. Dr. Lee saw a patient recently who had been thinking about having a rhinoplasty for more than 20 years, but she put it off because she got married, and then had kids, and as she stated, “my family became the priority.” This common phenomenon is mom guilt at its finest! These women are moms, wives, and caregivers who, more often than not, are accustomed to putting everyone else’s needs before their own. I am a mom and a wife, and I can relate. So how can a patient’s loved ones help them to realize that it is ok to put themselves first and to do things that they, quite possibly, have thought about doing for decades?

Be supportive.

It sounds easier than it actually is for many people.  

There are a lot of reasons why spouses and/or family members find it hard to get behind the idea of their loved one having any type of surgery that they are choosing to have, as opposed to something that is required due to medical necessity. “Why would you put yourself through all of that?,” I heard a husband say, not too long ago. “You don’t need anything done, you are fine the way you are,” or “I love you just the way you are,” I hear all too often, as well. What needs to be understood, and recognized as valuable and acceptable, is that patients looking to have any type of cosmetic surgery are doing it for one person: themselves.

Often times the biggest factor in a person’s decision to move forward with cosmetic surgery is to help them to feel better about themselves; to boost self-confidence and self-esteem. These patients need the people in their lives to get on board, because it is so important to a patient’s experience and recovery to know that they have someone at home who has their back.

Fear of the unknown can be a big issue for family members and friends as they aren’t sure what to expect after their wife/girlfriend/mom/daughter has surgery. They are worried that the woman they love is going to look scary, or different, be in pain, or that they won’t know what is and what isn’t normal after surgery. Our team at the Quatela Center WANTS all caregivers to play a role in their loved one’s experience, so we do our best to involve them. Certainly, with COVID protocols in place we’ve had to change our means of communicating with a patient’s support system, but we do everything we can to make them a part of the team. The more they know about what to expect after surgery, the better they feel.

What can you do if your loved one is thinking about cosmetic surgery?

  • Again, be supportive.
  • Offer to attend visits or to be on Facetime if visitors are not allowed.
  • Send a list of questions and concerns you have along with your loved one to her consultation.
  • Try to understand the reasoning behind her decision, and even if you may not be 100% on board, give her the encouragement she seeks from you.
  • Be active in her care; help to change dressings or bandages.
  • Put a plan in place for tasks around the house that she is normally in charge of; yes, that may mean you’re doing the laundry for a week or two!
  • Shower her with love and simply let her know that you’re there for her.

While the choice to have plastic surgery is one made for oneself, the process is still a team effort. Patients who have a strong support system with them every step of the way fare more positively than those who don’t. They are able to go into their procedure with confidence, recover comfortably knowing that their family and friends are there to care for them without judgement, and enjoy their results without hesitation.

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