The hardest part of being a mother is guilt. The guilt of not being enough. As long as your kids know you love them, because you show them, you’d never ever leave them, you are giving it your best, they’ll be ok.
A couple weeks ago, I had the unique opportunity to speak on a panel at a local women’s conference. Our topic was “Mommying” and the questions were simple, but carried a lot of complexity.
“How many times a day do you lose your sh*t?”
“What life skill do you wish they taught you in school?”
“How do you cope with MOM GUILT?”
That question took a lot of time to answer. I just sat back and listened, as some of the panelists had amazing answers.
Before we launch in to ways to debunk Mom Guilt, let’s first weigh in on what it is.
What is Mom Guilt?
Mom Guilt: the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiousness, or uncertainty experienced by mothers when they worry they are failing or falling short in some aspect of parenting.
While Mom Guilt isn’t recognized by Merriam Webster, that’s a definition I found online and it makes the most sense to me. In short, our own insecurities are telling us we aren’t good enough.
Why do we have Mom Guilt?
The simple answer is we feel inadequate. For me, I have Mom Guilt about working from home. I’m afraid I’m not doing enough for the kids or for my work, so someone is always being neglected. I use the word neglected very liberally here. I do not neglect my children, but I also do not sit down and do crafts with them or build a Lego set in the middle of the day. Since I am home all day with my children, it’s hard for me to compartmentalize my work, housework and time with them. I often make lofty goals and even promises that are unfulfilled.
“If you give mommy an hour to work, I will play that game with you.” When secretly I’m hoping my 3-year old will forget and be distracted by something else. It’s not that I don’t love my children, it’s just I only have so many hours in the day and I simply can’t do it all.
What gives us Mom Guilt?
Perhaps the better question is what doesn’t give us Mom Guilt?! I posed the question during one of my Late Night Feeding Questions (LNFQ) on my Instagram and was overwhelmed with your responses.
Here are some of the things you said gives you Mom Guilt:
- Working outside the home, so I’m not with them as much as I’d like to be.
- Working every weekend. I miss out on games, events and family time.
- Working outside the home for sure…and worse when I have to bring work home which is a lot!
- Having anxiety and not being fully present because of it.
- Being impatient with one particular kid more than the others.
- I don’t enjoy “playing” with them.
- Not enough home cooked meals.
- I make way too much mac and cheese.
- Breastfeeding, I wish I would have tried harder.
- Being on my phone too much.
- So many kids, not enough me.
- Paying for babysitters so I can breathe for a hot minute.
- Too much screen time.
Do any of these sound familiar? Almost all of these resonate with me.
The number one response I received had to do with work or working outside of the home.
When Eden was born, I told my husband I wanted to be home with the kids. He supported that from the start and we decided to take action. We moved into a one bedroom apartment and cut back on almost every aspect of our lives. I found free things to do with the kids, like library story time and metro parks. We stopped eating out and cut way down on groceries. Granted they were only 1 and 2 years old, so it was a lot easier back then.
When we moved back to Ohio, we lived with my parents for a full year before buying a home. These were sacrifices we were willing to make for me to stay at home with the kids while I built my business.
Today, I own 2 businesses and work from home. I can honestly tell you that I can be with my children 24/7 and yet never be fully present with them. “Turning off” the work is much easier said than done. I find many moms who work away from their kids, or perhaps don’t work at all, are much more intentional about being fully present with their children because they haven’t been around them all day long.
How to debunk Mom Guilt:
- Ignore it — I realize this isn’t the most diplomatic answer, but the guilt we feel as mothers is our own insecurities. When a negative thought about the way we’re doing something creeps in, just stomp it out immediately. I try to remind myself daily, I am doing the very best I can right now and that’s all I can ask for.
- Prioritize – Jot down the reasons you feel Mom Guilt. Are you missing a soccer game because you’re grabbing lunch with friends? Are you picking up McDonald’s because you worked an 8 hour shift and didn’t have time to grocery shop, let alone energy to cook? Did you hire a babysitter so you can go to the store by yourself? It’s okay to skip that home cooked meal, it’s okay to pay for a sitter for your own sanity, it’s okay to work outside of the home or not work at all. When you put it all out on paper, I think you’ll see the root of the Mom Guilt really isn’t as bad as we make it out to be in our heads.
- Create more time — There is no magic potion to creating more hours in the day, but writing down everything that must be done helps me stay on track. I do this before I go to bed the night before. It also helps me focus on what can be done at the same time or what doesn’t have to be done that day.
- Lower your standards — We’ve all read articles about growing up in the 70s or 80s. Most moms worked outside the house in our hometown. We all grew up just fine. My mom was an exception to the rule. She worked from home (still does today) so she was there for me when I got off the bus and during the summer. BUT, she wasn’t always intentional with her time or present with me. I remember hundreds of times her telling me to go find something to do because she had to work. I was an only child too, so finding a playmate wasn’t always sitting in my living room. If you lower your standards of being that perfect parent, I think you’ll see you already are the most perfect parent you can be.
- Be intentional, when you can — Working from home means I do a lot of multitasking. I’m trying to do a better job of being intentional with my time with the kids. I’m trying to do an hour of work here and then play games with them. It’s really hard to explain to a 3 year old mommy has to work, but my older children understand now that mommy works (A LOT) and even though she’s here, she’s not always here.
- Don’t listen to the mom police — haters gonna hate. I promise you, work from home moms wish they had an office to escape to. Work away from home moms wish they could do their work from a home office. Non-working moms wish they had some adult conversation in the day. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, sometimes if we water our own grass we’ll see it can be just as green.
I hope this helps some. I know there is no easy fix to debunking Mom Guilt. As I mentioned before, it’s one of the the hardest parts of parenting. But the fact that you worry about being a bad mom, means you already are a good one.
What gives you Mom Guilt?
How do you debunk those feelings of guilt?