What is mom guilt? What does mom guilt feel like? Does everyone experience it? Does it ever go away? So many questions! It’s time to really get into what causes mom guilt with real-life examples and share some practical tips to help you overcome it. There’s so much to unpack here.
What Is Mom Guilt? Examples, Causes & Helpful Tips
Today, let’s dive into a topic that often lingers in the corners of a mother’s mind, tugging at heartstrings and playing tricks on confidence – mom guilt.
In my line of work, as a clinical counsellor, writer, content creator, and the owner of a digital Canadian counselling practice, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with amazing individuals from all walks of life.
One common thread weaving through these conversations is the subtle yet powerful force known as, you guessed it, mom guilt. And it takes many forms. Mom guilt for working, mom guilt for going out, mom guilt for taking care of yourself, mom guilt after discipline – the list goes on and on.
What does mom guilt feel like, I hear you ask. Well, I’ve met so many resilient moms, juggling a career, a household, and the beautiful chaos of motherhood. Yet, they often feel a pang of guilt for not being able to attend every school event, comparing themselves to others, and worrying that they are somehow falling short of the mythical ‘perfect mom’ standard. As I listen to these women share their stories, it struck me how universal and deeply ingrained mom guilt is in our shared experiences.
It sneaks into our minds, making us question our every parenting move. Sadly, almost everyone experiences it! But what causes mom guilt? And, the most asked question – does mom guilt ever go away?
Understanding and addressing this phenomenon is crucial. It’s not just about unpacking feelings; it’s about dismantling the unrealistic expectations that society often places on mothers.
Let’s start from the basics.
What does mom guilt mean?
Simply put, it’s that nagging feeling that somehow, no matter what you do, it’s not enough. It’s the whispered doubts that sneak in when you’re trying to savour a cup of lukewarm coffee or catch a quick breath between the countless tasks on your daily to-do list.
Mom guilt is the urge to critique our own choices, casting shadows on our victories. It’s feeling guilty for taking a moment for yourself or for choosing convenience over a Pinterest-worthy meal.
No, you are not alone in this. Every mom, from the “supermom” next door to the celebrity you admire, has wrestled with this unwelcome companion. Jennifer Lawrence, Hilary Duff, Nicki Minaj, have all openly talked about it. The more these topics begin to be discussed quietly between friends and in the media, the more women everywhere will start to recognize that they are not the only ones experiencing it.
What causes mom guilt?
Mom guilt doesn’t just magically appear; it’s cultivated by a mix of societal expectations, personal pressures, and the dangerous game of comparison. Society often sets an unattainable standard of the ‘perfect mom,’ with an endless checklist of duties. It’s the subtle glances from other parents at your children’s school or the well-intentioned advice that unintentionally piles on the pressure.
Personal pressures come into play when we, as moms, set unrealistically high standards for ourselves. We convince ourselves that we must be everything to everyone, forgetting that superheroes are found in comic books, not in our bathroom mirrors.
And then there’s the tricky business of comparison. In the age of social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of measuring our messy, beautiful lives against someone else’s curated highlight reel. Remember, comparing your real life to someone’s filtered snapshots is like comparing apples to holographic oranges – it just doesn’t add up.
Now, let’s explore how we can debunk the myths and navigate this tricky terrain together.
Examples of mom guilt
“I’m Not Doing Enough”
This sneaky thought likes to tiptoe into our minds during those moments of exhaustion. When the sink is overflowing with dishes, and the laundry pile resembles Mount Everest. It whispers that everyone else has it together, effortlessly balancing work, family, and a perfectly tidy home. Spoiler alert: No one has it all together, and those social media squares are often more fiction than reality.
RELATED POST |You can also check out my “10 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed in Life” guide to find practical solutions.
“I Should Be Perfect”
Ah, the pursuit of perfection, the elusive dream that often leaves us feeling like we’re chasing our own tails. The ‘I should be perfect’ notion is here to remind us that any hiccup, mistake, or imperfection is a sign of failure. But guess what? Imperfection is not failure; it’s a beautiful reflection of our humanity.
Something that often comes up with my counselling clients is that the very pressure they place on themselves to be “perfect”, is the same pressure that their children will feel as they grow up and make their own way in the world. Rather than modelling the need for them to try and maintain an image of perfection; consider modelling for them what it looks like to own mistakes, repair after conflict, or give themselves compassion and permission to rest when life feels overwhelming. What a beautiful example for your kids, to allow yourself to lean into that and learn it’s okay for them to lean into it, too.
The inherited beliefs around “perfection” are often just that – inherited. If you were to really slow down and ask yourself what it is that you value, I doubt that perfection would make it onto that list. So make sure you regularly take inventory of what you actually value and how those values are showing up in the expectations you have for yourself.
“I’m Neglecting my Family for Career”:
This guilt-inducing thought around being a working mom often creep in during late nights at the office or when a work trip keeps you away from home. It suggests that by prioritizing your career, you’re somehow neglecting your family’s needs or missing out on crucial moments. The societal expectation that a ‘good mom’ should be a ‘do absolutely everything’ mom can intensify this guilt.
Mom guilt for working is far more common than you think. In fact, working mom guilt and depression has skyrocketed! Here’s a glimpse of some working mom guilt statistics from women just like you. A poll on Workingmother.com found that 57 percent of respondents feel guilty every single day. Yet, a Harvard Business School study of 31,478 adults found that in 24 countries, daughters of working mothers — for the most part — earned higher salaries and were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles than their peers raised by stay-at-home moms.
It’s crucial to recognize these thoughts, challenge them, and reshape our perspectives to foster a healthier work-life balance. Remember, you’re not alone in these struggles, and acknowledging them is the first step toward dismantling the guilt.
“Am I Being Too Strict or Too Lenient?”
Striking the right balance in discipline can be challenging. Moms may feel guilty wondering if they are being too strict, potentially hindering their child’s emotional development, or if they are being too lenient, fearing they’re not setting appropriate boundaries. Mom guilt after discipline is far too common.
You have to keep in mind that embracing the learning curve and understanding that discipline is an evolving process can help alleviate some of that mom guilt. After all, every parent is a work in progress.
Does mom guilt ever go away?
There are many ways to help you let go of mom guilt. It’s essential to seek support when needed, whether from friends, family, or professionals for individual therapy sessions. Sharing your experiences and feelings with others who understand and empathize can provide valuable perspectives and reassurance.
As you grow and adapt to the challenges of parenting, and as your children grow and become more independent, you may find that the grip of mom guilt loosens. Over time, with self-reflection, self-compassion, self-discovery, and a shift in perspective, you can learn to manage and navigate mom guilt more effectively.
Understanding that perfection is an unrealistic goal and embracing the imperfections of parenting can contribute to a healthier mindset. Additionally, as you gain more experience and confidence in your parenting abilities, you may find yourself becoming more resilient to the pressures that often trigger guilt.
How to overcome mom guilt?
Alright, now that you know exactly what causes mom guilt and what does mom guilt feel like, it’s time to get to work! And by that, I mean arming yourself with an arsenal of coping strategies and perspectives to combat mom guilt.
Easy Self-Compassion Techniques
Practice Positive Affirmations: Make positive self-talk a part of your morning routine checklist. Start your day with affirmations that acknowledge your efforts and strengths as a mother. Repeat phrases like, “I am doing my best,” or “I am enough,” to reinforce self-compassion.
Notice the Shared Humanity: One of the toughest parts of mom guilt is the story that you tell yourself about how you’re the only one feeling this way. When you realize that other women experience this as well, and that it’s actually a very common struggle, it becomes easier to acknowledge how difficult it feels.
Engage In Mindfulness: Begin to notice when feelings of guilt are present for you and simply leave it at that. Rather than experiencing guilt and beating yourself up, notice the guilt. Then speak kind or even neutral words to yourself such as “I’m having feelings of guilt and that feels uncomfortable.” Then ask yourself if you are living in alignment with your values. Remember: just because guilt is present, does not mean you’ve done something wrong.
Set Boundaries: Learn to recognize when self-criticism and guilt are taking over. Set boundaries with yourself, allowing space for self-compassion and forgiveness. Treat yourself with the same kindness you would offer a dear friend in need. That’s one of the best ways to cope with anxiety and mom guilt.
Setting Realistic Expectations
Delegate and Prioritize: Recognize that you don’t have to do everything alone. Delegate tasks when possible and prioritize activities that align with your values and goals as a parent.
Flexibility is Key: Embrace flexibility in your parenting approach. Understand that plans may change, and it’s okay to adjust expectations accordingly. Flexibility allows for spontaneity and reduces the pressure to meet rigid standards.
Celebrating Small Victories
Gratitude Practice: If you are a loyal reader, you know that gratitude is one of my top favorite Self Care Ideas. Cultivate a daily gratitude practice to acknowledge and celebrate the small joys of parenthood. Take a moment each day to reflect on moments that brought you happiness or pride. The things we focus on will expand.
Create Rituals of Celebration: Establish rituals or traditions to commemorate milestones, no matter how small. Whether it’s a dance party in the living room or a special family meal, find ways to celebrate achievements together.
Encouraging a Shift in Thinking
Embrace Growth Mindset: Adopt a growth mindset, viewing challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning. Reframe failures as valuable lessons and celebrate progress along the journey.
Allow Yourself To Take Up Space: Many of the counselling clients I work with, begin working with me because they feel so disconnected from caring for themselves. Oftentimes, they hold some deeply rooted beliefs that they don’t deserve the care they give their family. We will work to dismantle these beliefs and build out daily self-care and pleasure practices such as journalling, meditation, movement, and hobbies. As they begin to pour into themselves, they notice that they are better able to show up to their family feeling nourished and joyful, rather than exhausted and depleted.
Self care is not selfish; self care is your birthright.
Bonus: Great books to help overcome mom guilt
Ask for professional help
If you find yourself caught in the web of mom guilt, seeking the guidance of a professional—like me—is not a sign of weakness but a courageous stride towards emotional well-being. Whether you’re grappling with a major life transition, aiming for personal or professional growth, or simply in need of an unbiased sounding board, individual therapy is a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals.
Individual therapy sessions, tailored to your unique needs, provide a safe and confidential space to explore the complexities of motherhood and navigate the nuances of mom guilt.
You can learn more about my education, experience & certifications, here.
Remember, you’re not alone on this path, and support is just a conversation away.
This post is all about understanding what mom guilt is and how to overcome it
I hope you now have a better understanding of what causes mom guilt, what mom guilt feels like, and how to overcome it. The rollercoaster of emotions that accompany motherhood, with its twists, turns, and occasional loops of guilt, is a shared journey. It’s okay not to have all the answers, to occasionally stumble, and to be a work in progress.
Embracing imperfection is not a sign of weakness but a declaration of strength. You are doing an incredible job, navigating the complexities of parenthood with resilience and love. Your journey is uniquely yours, imperfectly perfect in its own way.