Updated: Apr 16
If you are a mother, you are probably now or in the past experienced “mom guilt”. This is the guilt that moms feel that seems to be generally different that any type of guilt that fathers or other caregivers may feel. The guilt that exists just because you are a mother. What each of us feels guilty about may be different, but most likely is similar, to other moms. You may feel guilty that you are not spending enough time with your child(ren), or that when you are with them you are not 100% focused on them and their needs (What? You have your own needs? Who really needs to use the bathroom…). Or maybe you don’t think you’re devoting enough time or energy to your job or career, or you’re not contributing financially to the household enough. All of these thoughts elicit feelings of guilt.
Change Your Thoughts to Combat Your Guilt
While the idea of “mom guilt” is very much a reality for many of you, it does not need to be. It’s your thoughts that are causing your guilty feelings, and thoughts are able to be changed. What if you woke up every day, with an absence of guilt about what you’re not doing or should be doing? What a weight would be lifted off your shoulders! You might even connect more with your child(ren), be more productive at work, and be happier overall without that all-encompassing guilt that was following you everywhere. Here are 3 tips to help you combat mom guilt.
1) Realize that you are not alone.
Almost every mother, whether she works full-time, part-time, or stays at home with her child(ren), has some form of mom guilt. You may not realize it but very likely your closest friends who are mothers are also suffering from mom guilt. Open up and talk to them about your guilt feelings, ask them what theirs are, and share your pain. Once you’ve said it and talked about your mom guilt out loud, it is easier to then take the next step.
2) Think logically about your guilt.
Guilt, being a strong emotion, often affects our logical thoughts. Most of our guilt is based in wanting to do everything and be 100% great and focused at everything we do, but if we look at this logically, we know that we cannot have a full-time, fulfilling and productive career while also staying at home to raise our kids and be 100% focused on their needs. It just isn’t possible. But our guilt tricks us into thinking that not only is it possible to do everything, but also that all the other women out there are doing it, and therefore since I am not, I feel guilty.
If you change your expectations of yourself regarding both career and child-raising, your guilt will disappear. Instead of thinking “I should be doing this and that” you’ll be saying “I chose to do this and therefore I cannot do that”. By changing how you think about your expectations, you can have power over and eradicate your guilt.
3) Embrace what you can and cannot do.
The last thing that you can do to combat mom guilt, and perhaps the most powerful thing, is to learn what you can and cannot do. Realize what your limits are while mom-ing. You just cannot do everything the way you did prior to having children; you now have a little one(s) that requires a *lot* of attention, food, and caring for. How does your life need to change so that you can balance out again? What are some things that you might be willing to give up, and what are some other things that you want to embrace? You won’t be able to just take on more things without giving up anything else. You know the expression… something’s gotta give.
Once you make some decisions about what stays and what goes, you then need to come to terms with your decision. If you, say, gave up a promotion at work so that you didn’t have to work as many hours in exchange for spending more time with family, then learn how to be at peace with this decision. Yes, you would have loved that new job, and done a fantastic job at it… but you chose not to take it. Remember why you made that choice, and lean in to the benefits of not working all those late hours and getting extra snuggles from your child(ren).
Feel Like a New Person
If you start practicing the above 3 ways to combat mom guilt, you will feel like a new person. The “gray guilt cloud” that was always hanging over you will be replaced by blue skies. You will open up your mind and body to happier and more productive emotions, and I’m guessing you will be able to be more present and connected with your child(ren), partner, and/or job. While these 3 strategies are not always easy to implement, practicing at least one of them will likely help a great deal with your mom guilt. Who has time for mom guilt anyways? We have things to do, people to see, and places to go!
We’d love to hear from you: leave a comment below. What has your mom journey been like? What is your biggest mom guilt?
Looking for more helpful information?
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Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist, clinical supervisor, guest blogger, and owner of Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.