What is Mom Guilt? It’s The Worst, and Grace Is the Answer: Tips For Kicking Guilt to the Curb

The antidote to mom guilt is grace

As I lay on the couch right now, sick as a dog, the TV is on for one sick kid who is laying on top of me, the other kid has an iPad, I’ve hardly moved all day, we are ordering in for dinner and I feel absolutely zero guilt about it.

5 years ago?

It would have been a different story.

Five years ago, I would have spent the whole day not only not feeling well, but telling myself that I needed to pull it together and that there was no excuse for being lazy and allowing everything to fall apart. I would have guilted myself for being sick and seen my lack of doing things as a character flaw and not a reflection of the mere fact that I felt like garbage. 

I was a sucker for layering guilt onto every single emotion I was already feeling and it was exhausting. It affected my self-worth, my confidence as a mother and endless other aspects of my life.

I look back on my inner guilt thoughts simultaneously with horror and sadness. What the frig was I thinking? I would never say or even think those things about another mom!!

Why? 

Because grace is so much easier to hand out to other women and moms than it is to extend to ourselves.

@diaryofanhonestmom we may all be different but this we have in common & we love these kids fiercely #momguilt #momtok #honestmom #momlife #workingmom #sahm ♬ Pieces (Solo Piano Version) – Danilo Stankovic

Mom-Guilt Is Very Common, But Often Unnecessary

So what is mom-guilt?  I define mom-guilt as: a collection of negative feelings which contribute to feelings of not doing enough, not being enough or constantly feeling as though your actions, choices or even thoughts are going to negatively impact your children. And while we’ve all likely been guilty of yelling at our kids, or forgetting to send their water-bottle to school or not playing when we promised we would- these disappointments or mistakes don’t always align with the sheer amount of guilt we allow them to hold over us.  Heck. I’ve even felt guilty for thoughts!!! Like, thinking about my desire not to be touched for 5 flippin’ minutes And the worst part is, while GUILT is the feeling of responsibility for doing something wrong, mom-guilt is often felt when things aren’t even in our control or when nothing has even gone wrong. It comes from our perception of our ‘enoughness’ or failure to meet our own unrealistic or ambiguous expectations.   It can be all-consuming.
@diaryofanhonestmom just want you to know you are enough #momlife #relatablemom #motherhoodunplugged #honestmotherhood #thehonestmom #mumguilt #mommyguilt #sahm ♬ original sound – 🍒

How Other Moms Feel About Mom Guilt

I polled my community of over 200,000 moms on Instagram recently and nearly every single one of them agreed they have experienced mom guilt. 

I also asked them what they felt the most mom-guilt about, and these were the most common answers:

  • getting frustrated with my kids or not being patient enough
  • practising self-care 
  • not being with them as much because I am working
  • putting on the TV so I can work or get things done
  • not being able to calm a  child when I am not calm
  • not being able to afford things that they want what other kids have
  • not constantly engaging with my baby while he/she is awake
  • leaving the house without them
  • being on my phone too much

What do these responses tell me?

All of these answers, every single stinking one, every version of each one tells me one thing about you: THAT YOU ARE A HUMAN BEING. 

Some of them aren’t even things that are necessarily wrong or bad, they are just ideas that are rooted in a mindset that you don’t matter as a mom, and that everything needs to revolve around your children- which in my opinion- is wrong. 

And I will tell you why…

Give Yourself Grace Instead of Mom-Guilt, Because You are Human

1. Our needs don’t disappear when we become moms so let’s stop pretending like they should.

Before we entered motherhood we had a biological need to sleep, to drink, to eat, and to go to the bathroom. We had social/emotional needs for human adult connection, affection, nurturing and affirmation. We had cognitive needs to engage with the world, to learn, to create, to be productive. 

Those needs don’t disappear. 

And the fact that we are treated and also treat ourselves as though we should is ludicrous. It is detrimental to our health, our relationships, and our overall well-being. 

You cannot pour from an empty cup.

You love your kids, and they need you to be the mom you want to be. Feeling guilty for wanting to be alone, or leaving the house to work or play, or taking time on your phone to engage in life-giving friendships makes no sense. Not only do you deserve to take care of your needs simply because you are human, but in doing so you will be more equipped to be the mom your kids deserve. 

Self-care and the prioritizing of our own needs are necessary to our long term functioning and happiness. Never feel guilty for meeting your needs or the desire to do so.

It doesn’t make you a bad mom, it makes you human.

 

2.We are going to slip up, fail, or make mistakes. It is a part of life, not evidence of being a bad mom.

DISCLAIMER: If you are struggling with parenting in an environment that is unsafe or harmful to children please know that there is help out there for you and your children. You can stop the cycle today, even if that means self-work and professional support. No child deserves to be psychologically or physically abused. If you are in a dangerous situation or know of a child in a dangerous situation, please reach out for help. Some professional resources include: speaking with your family doctor, calling a crisis line or centre in your community, calling the police.

Sometimes we do things we aren’t proud of, that don’t align with our values, or that cause our children to be disappointed or have hurt feelings.

We are not perfect and were never meant to be.

Sometimes, they are big things. Part of teaching our mini humans to be big humans is to show them how to come back from a mistake, to make amends, to apologize and to show humility. Part of this teaching may mean self-work and asking for help yourself. Carrying around shame is heavy, but you can lift that shame today, by acknowledging it and addressing it. 

Coming from a home where I endured significant emotional abuse, I can say that accountability and an apology would have made an incredible difference to my healing journey. Grace doesn’t mean we don’t take ownership for our mistakes, it means that we make space to forgive ourselves while simultaneously making amends and striving for change. 

Making little mistakes like being late, forgetting a special outfit, or dropping the last pancake on the floor that “little Ben” was looking forward to are frustrating. They are inconvenient. Sometimes they even ruin our day. They are not evidence of bad motherhood. They are evidence of a human doing human things.

Give yourself some grace and start fresh tomorrow. Wallowing on it will only take your energy and attention away from what’s coming next. 

3. Part of being a good mom is modelling a healthy mindset; it starts with us.

Our mindset frames everything, and whether we realize it or not, it has the power to produce extreme feelings on either end of the spectrum.  As women, many of us tend toward perfectionism and a highly critical self view. I believe society has played a huge role in why many women feel this way, and unfortunately, we then internalize these absurd expectations of us.  When we add in how badly many of us want to be good moms, societal comparison and non-stop information about ‘best practices’, we find a recipe for a graceless and self-loathing disaster.

Setting expectations for how we feed our kids, how clean our houses are, what activities we do and how we will parent,etc… are great in theory. Good intentions are good! But, when those good intentions become a rigid mindset with low flexibility or room for change, we find ourselves being hard on ourselves for things that we don’t need to be hard on ourselves for.

When I look at my daughter making mistakes in her school work and beating herself up for it, I tell her that it’s okay to get things wrong. When I look at my son, upset with himself, because he forgot his mitts and hat at school again I tell him that mistakes happen. 

So why is it that when we don’t meet our own expectations we are so grace-less?

Our kids may not always listen… but they are watching everything we do, including how we talk to and treat ourselves. Let’s show them that life isn’t black and white, that it’s okay to be human, and that perfect isn’t something we should be striving for anyway.

Grace Over Guilt is Not a Slippery Slope, Mom Guilt Will Never Fully Go Away

Here’s the thing:

Guilt exists for a reason.

It can have a positive effect in that it can spark change where change is necessary. 

We should have standards. We should care about how our actions affect others. We should be self-aware enough to know that the things we do and say aren’t in line with our values. Sometimes, guilt gives us the push we need: to apologize, to be present, to get off the couch, to do better. 

But like everything, too much of a good thing is not good.

Too much unnecessary or misplaced mom-guilt can cloud our judgement of what’s important and lead to feelings of doubt, regret, anger, sadness, or even hopelessness. 

Mom-guilt has the power to steal our energy and our joy, and I don’t know about you, but I need those things to enjoy motherhood.

Okay, so you yelled at your kid. I’ve done it. I felt bad. I don’t want to. I’m desperately trying to break the cycle of trauma so it matters. BUT it’s usually because I’ve neglected my own biological needs or because I am overstimulated or I’m triggered by my own childhood experiences, or a million other reasons. I am learning to not only apologize to my kids, but to ask myself WHY.  

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Honest Mom (Libby) (@diaryofanhonestmom)

Maybe instead of feeling unrelenting mom guilt, we should turn that guilt into wondering. Why did this happen? What do I need? What’s going on beneath the surface? How can I lower my expectations and shorten my to-do list? How can I do better? 

I used to have this misconception that if I gave myself grace then I couldn’t spark change or be better. In fact the opposite is true.

Without the added layer of guilt I am free to put my energy into looking deep into myself and creating change where necessary-whether it’s of my actions or my mindset. 

Believe that you are worth your own energy. Believe that your kids are worth you believing in your own worth. Believe that giving yourself grace is going to help you not only feel better, but do better. Grace is the answer, not guilt. 

Following me on Instagram and Tikok? You should be. I talk about all the hard things about motherhood plus trauma and mental health and everything in between. I’m told I’m kind of funny too!

- Libby

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Libby
Libby
I’m Libby, a relatable mom of 2 but also a recovering perfectionist, anti-mom shamer, mental health advocate and generational cycle breaker! I don’t take myself seriously and want you to know that you are a good mom.

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