If any mom every tells you they have never experienced a wave of “mom guilt,” they’re probably lying. It’s a feeling all too common among moms, and one many of us are all too familiar with.
You know the feeling. The guilty feeling in the pit of your stomach that shows up at seemingly random times and makes you feel like the worst mom on the planet. That feeling.
It’s so common that it’s almost a right of passage in motherhood. And it often starts early on, though for others it holds off until the toddler years.
For me, It started more around when my son was eight months old or so. I don’t remember feeling it early on; things made a bit more sense in those early days, ironically. It just was the way it was, ya know?
A dirty diaper needed to be changed, and so I felt fine about changing it even when it made him cry. Everything was new and different for him, and it didn’t bother me if crying was his way of dealing with it while I worked to fix the problem.
But eventually, things catch up with you and that sneaky mom guilt starts showing up when you least expect it.
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Dealing With Mom Guilt: Every Mom’s Struggle
By now, I’m pretty familiar with that mom guilt feeling—you probably are too, even if you’re new to motherhood.
But at this point, three and a half years into motherhood, I’ve also learned that mom guilt doesn’t have to rule you. You don’t have to constantly feel guilty about the parenting decisions you make.
You don’t have to hesitate before making a decision because you’re afraid it’ll be the wrong one. And you don’t have to do things you know in your heart to be the wrong choice because you feel guilty doing the right thing.
I’m not saying mom guilt every really disappears. It will still rear it’s ugly head at times. I’m just saying it doesn’t have to hold you captive, or cripple your decision making.
What is mom guilt?
Before we go any further on how to release yourself from the guilt trips, maybe you aren’t totally clear on what mom guilt is.
Mom guilt is a guilty feeling that comes when you don’t feel you are parenting the way you should be. Often it is accompanied with feelings of inferiority or failure.
But don’t mistake that to mean that you aren’t parenting well. Mom guilt often shows up even when you absolutely are making the best decisions for your family.
Regardless of how well you are parenting your children, the guilt can show up at any time. Even when you’ve done nothing wrong and everything right.
When does mom guilt begin appearing?
Mom guilt can show up at any point in motherhood. For some, it starts when their child is a newborn. Others may not feel any sense of guilt until later on when their child is older.
For me it began late in my son’s first year of life. Sometimes he would refuse to take a nap would I just have to put him in his bed and let him cry for a minute—and that’s literally all it took—and I felt guilty over it.
Sometimes I would have no clue what it was he wanted, and I’m convinced half the time he didn’t know either. And I felt guilty over not knowing the answer. I’m his mom; I should know, shouldn’t I?
Sometimes I get so tired and worn down that I just don’t want to be a mom anymore. That one is probably the worst guilt trigger for me.
It’s not that I don’t want or love him, because I do. It’s just that some days I wake up and I just want to be able to do what I would like to do that day. To take care of just myself for a day, and not feel like crap about it.
It doesn’t make me a bad mom, it just means I’m probably not at my absolute best that day. And sometimes that’s okay.
Does every mom experience mom guilt?
To be honest, I really think just about every mom experiences “mom guilt” from time to time. Some of us more, some of us less.
I think the vast majority of us want to be better moms. We want to be the best mom for our kids (and you are!), but sometimes that leaves us constantly striving to be better. And that often leaves us feeling guilty when we don’t live up to our own expectations.
What is the root cause of mom guilt?
Ultimately, mom guilt often stems from wanting to be the best moms for our kids.
We set high, and I mean high, expectations for ourselves. The problem is, we often fail to meet those self imposed standards because they simply aren’t realistic.
It’s an all too common problem to compare ourselves with others. However, when we compare, we inadvertently compare other’s “highlight reel” to our every day selves. And that leaves us feeling inadequate.
And, queue the guilt.
Most of the time, we’re far too hard on ourselves. Instead of living joyfully in the present, we spend too much time chasing the highlight reel version of ourselves.
We feel we’ve failed when we can’t do everything and be everything for our kids. We feel guilty when we can’t give them smooth sailing through everything they encounter.
But truthfully, that’s not healthy for anyone. Not you, and not your kids.
How does this kind of guilt affect moms?
Occasionally a little guilt can be a good thing. It can motivate you to better yourself, and to continue to grow as a person.
But the vast majority of the time, mom guilt does little to no good. In fact, it can negatively impact your parenting, besides the crappy feeling it gives you.
It can stop you from doing what’s right for your child
How many of us have caved to a request because we felt guilty about saying no? I’m betting just about all of us can confirm that we’ve done this at some point or another.
And sometimes it feels like an innocent concession. For example, maybe your child wants to get involved in another activity.
You might look at the calendar, and realize that if you say yes, your child’s schedule will be completely full. Every day of the week, they will have an activity they will need to be at.
Which means there won’t be a single day to just be at home, with family. To rest and relax.
The activity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But an overfilled schedule can most definitely be, especially for young kids.
And saying no to this new activity can easily make you feel so, so guilty. Saying yes may not be what is best for your child right now, but it may relieve your sense of guilt from saying no. Which can make it awfully tempting to cave.
It can stop you from doing what is best for yourself
Alright, this probably sounds super selfish without any explanation. Look, I fully believe there are times that motherhood requires us to sacrifice of our time, energy, and desires.
There will be times when you can’t do what is best for you, because you have to choose your child’s best interests instead.
Take for example the newborn stage. I don’t think it’s in mom’s best interest to be up repeatedly all night, barely functioning in the day from the lack of sleep. But it is in your baby’s best interest to be fed when they are hungry, even if that time is in the middle of the night.
But here’s the thing. These times of sacrificing are temporary. Even if it’s for an extended time, such as when you’re breastfeeding through the night, these times are meant to have an end.
Eventually your child will sleep through the night. You will get the rest you need. You are not called to constantly sacrifice your sleep for the rest of your life.
(Side note: if you are struggling to get your newborn to sleep more, I highly recommend checking out this newborn sleep course. No crying it out or sleep training, this course is intended to help you understand how baby sleep works—and get more of it in the process)
Motherhood is about learning to balance the times of sacrifice with the times of caring for ourselves.
There’s a reason self care for moms is emphasized everywhere you look. It’s important! But more than that, it’s an area where we tend to favor sacrificing over caring for ourselves, even when it’s completely unnecessary.
Don’t allow guilt to prevent you from doing what you need to do to recharge yourself.
It can increase your stress levels
I don’t know about you, but I always feel more stressed when I’m dealing with mom guilt. It’s often hard to know what to do or what answer to give when guilt is clouding your judgement.
And stress isn’t good for anyone.
I’ve found that I’m much more relaxed and calm feeling when I don’t let guilt rule my decisions. I’ve learned to accept that I can’t do everything, and that it doesn’t make me a bad mom.
It just makes me a normal mom with normal limitations. And honestly, knowing and understanding my limitations has opened me up to being able to do more in the long run. All because I have a better idea of what to say no to without feeling guilty about it.
It can prevent you from living to your fullest
No one wants to feel crippled by guilt. But when we allow guilt to rule, it prevents us from living our lives to the fullest.
Don’t let unnecessary guilt ruin your joy. Learn to live in the present, without stressing out about things that haven’t happened yet. And may not happen at all!
Resist the temptation to compare your parenting to other moms in your circles. After all, comparison is the thief of joy—don’t let it steal yours.
3 things you need to remember about mom guilt
Understanding mom guilt and the root cause of it is just the first step. I also want to give you actionable things you can do to stop it and start living your life more fully.
But before I do that, I want to cover three things you need to remember about mom guilt. Because they are important truths we tend to forget, and just remembering them will go a long way in overcoming any mom guilt you face.
Mom guilt lies
Girl, mom guilt lies. It convinces you that you should be doing better, or at least differently, even when that is far from the truth.
It whispers in your ear that you are not a good enough mom, or that your kids deserve better. That you can’t do this, and that they would be better off with someone else.
It’s a lie. It’s all a lie.
God gave you your specific kids for a reason. And he gave them you for a reason too. And it’s because you are the one best suited to raising and caring for them. Trust in that.
Stop believing the lies that you might ruin your child’s life if you say no to something. Or even yes.
Most decisions are capable of being changed or undone. Very few things in life are so set in stone that you can’t make a different decision later.
So if you think something is right for now, don’t be afraid to do or say it. It may not be right later, but you can always adjust later to fit your circumstances then.
You can’t be everything and do everything for your child—and you shouldn’t
We live in a culture that tries to convince us need to be everything and do everything for our kids. And it’s one of the biggest lies we buy into as parents.
You can’t be everything. You can’t do everything. No one can—it’s not possible. And further, it’s not healthy.
Your kids need to learn to do things, and they need to learn balance in their lives. That means not doing every single activity that presents itself. It means allowing you to care for yourself too.
Raising responsible kids that turn into responsible adults means that sometimes you have to make a hard choice. Sometimes you have to say no, or allow them to do it themselves even if they struggle with it.
It’s hard, and it’s not fun. But sometimes it’s necessary. Growing can be painful, and difficult. But you have to allow your kids to grow.
Sometimes just knowing it’s part of the process can help ease your mind.
You are the best mom for your child
Girl, you have to remember that you are the absolute best mom for your kids. You are the one God created to raise these kids, and he made you fully capable of the task.
It may not always feel like it, but I think that’s also because we aren’t meant to life in isolation. And that includes parenting.
Yes, you are ultimately the one making the decisions for your family. But don’t be afraid to let others help whenever possible.
Trust in the fact that God knew what he was doing when he made you the mother of your children.
How to stop mom guilt in its tracks
Alright, now for what you’ve really been wanting to know: how do you stop mom guilt?
I’m not sure you can ever completely get rid of mom guilt, but I do know you can greatly reduce it. You don’t have to let it consume you. It doesn’t have to rule your life. And it doesn’t have to negatively influence your parenting.
Remember you’re doing the best that you can
More often than not, we’re too hard on ourselves as moms. You don’t have to beat yourself up for everything that doesn’t go 100% right, or rather the “right” that you had envisioned.
I feel pretty confident saying that you are reading this post, you’re likely already an amazing moms. You know how I know? Because bad moms don’t care how they’re doing.
But you do. And that right there is a big indication that you are already amazing, and the best mom for your kids. And I’m pretty sure you’re already doing the best you can.
It may not always feel like your best is much or good enough. But it is. Rest in the fact that your best is enough, that you are enough.
Learn to let go of this perfect idea you have of what a mom is and just keep doing the best that you can. Your kids will survive. More likely than not, they will even thrive, because your best is better than you give yourself credit for.
Take care of yourself
I’ll be honest, it’s taken me about three and a half years of motherhood to really get this one down. And even now, I still have periods of time where I struggle to make time to recharge myself.
Making time for yourself isn’t selfish. It’s necessary.
Let go of the mom guilt that often shows up when you try to practice some much needed self care. Yes, your kids are important and need you. But you are important, too. And at some point, you have to make time for that or you will burn out.
There’s a reason airlines tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. It’s not because you care more about yourself. It’s because you have to do the things that give you life, or you literally won’t be able to help anyone else.
And this looks different for everyone. If you’re in a very demanding season of life, maybe it just means going to the bathroom alone (toddlers…if you know, you know). Or fitting in that ten minute shower every day.
Caring for yourself doesn’t have to be super complicated. It doesn’t have to be elaborate spa days (although that’s great too if that’s your thing!). It just means you need to figure out what breathes life back into you, and intentionally fit it into your days.
Remember your value and believe in your worth
One of the biggest problems we face as moms is forgetting our value. And it usually happens because we’re just too busy doing what we do—caring for our families.
Look, I’m not going to lie. Motherhood can be a pretty thankless job. It takes a long, long time for kids to realize how much you do for them. And that time usually doesn’t come until they’re well out of the house.
It’s long days and interrupted nights, and it can get pretty wearing. But it is worth it, and you are worth it.
Even if your kids and family don’t regularly thank you and remind you of your value, don’t forget that it is there. Even unrecognized, you are valuable and worthy.
Sometimes, we just need to believe in ourselves.
Recognize what’s best for your child isn’t always comfortable
Mom guilt often rears it’s head when we have to make an uncomfortable choice. Maybe it’s saying no to something. Or maybe it’s letting your child struggle through something.
Whatever it is, you have to remember that what is best for your child isn’t always going to be comfortable. Remember, growing can be painful. But the difficultly of it doesn’t change the fact it’s necessary.
I’m not saying it’s not hard, because it is.
Rest in the fact that you are doing what’s best for your family, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Start overcoming that guilt today!
Experiencing mom guilt is so, so common among moms. And I find it pretty unlikely that you won’t experience it at some point, if you haven’t already.
But it doesn’t have to rule you. It doesn’t have to dictate your every move and decision.
Stop living in guilt and fear of guilt.
Embrace your role, and trust in your intuition. Don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions.