Mother’s Guilt and Tips to Cope

Motherhood and all that noise… 

One may think that I am referring to the external noise of a household – with baby crying, dog barking, and husband asking where his socks are…

But no, I am referring to all that noise inside our heads, especially when we are navigating a life transition such as motherhood, a change of careers, marriage, and lost identity. With all these moving parts, we often feel overwhelmed and stretched to our limits, yet at the same time ‘underperforming’ in various categories. This can generate a strong sense of guilt since, no matter how hard we try, we are not doing them well enough. Many mothers experience feelings of guilt at various points in their parenting journey.

Guilt often strikes when we are trying to balance work and familial responsibilities. Some common sources of guilt for mothers include:

  • Societal Expectations: There is often pressure from society to be the “perfect” mother who excels in all areas of life: including work, parenting, and household responsibilities. Mothers may feel guilty if they believe they are falling short of these unrealistic expectations.
  • Comparisons: With the rise of social media, mothers may constantly compare themselves to other mothers who appear to have it all together. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and guilt.
  • Prioritizing Work: Mothers who choose to work outside the home may feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children, or not being fully present when together. They may worry that their children are missing out on quality time with them.
  • Prioritizing Family: Mothers who choose to (temporarily or not) devote their full-time attention to their children and family may feel guilty about this decision. They might be concerned about the implications on their future professional career trajectory or about any potential stigmas of being a stay-at-home mother.
  • Self-care: Mothers often put their own needs last, prioritizing their children and family above themselves. This self-sacrifice can lead to feelings of guilt when mothers take time for self-care or pursue their own interests.

It is important for mothers to recognize that it is normal to experience some feelings of guilt, but also important to practice self-compassion and seek support when needed. Taking care of oneself and setting realistic expectations can help alleviate some of the guilt associated with balancing work and family responsibilities.

Here are some tips to help manage and cope with mother’s guilt:

1. Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and recognize that it is normal to have conflicting emotions as a parent. Treat yourself with the same empathy and understanding that you would offer to a friend in a similar situation.

2. Focus on quality over quantity: Remember that it is the quality of interaction with your child that matters most, not quantity of time. Make the most of the time you have together by being present, engaged, and attentive.

3. Prioritize self-care: Taking care of yourself is essential for your well-being and your continual ability to care for others. Make time for activities that nourish your mind, body and soul – whether it is exercise, meditation, hobbies, learning or spending time on passion projects.

4. Set realistic expectations: Accept that you cannot do it all perfectly. Set realistic expectations for yourself and recognize that it is normal to experience challenges and setbacks along the way.

5. Seek support: Talk to other parents, friends, or a therapist about your feelings of guilt. Openly and honestly sharing your thoughts and emotions with others can help validate your experiences and provide perspective and support.

6. Practice mindfulness: Stay present in the moment and focus on the here and now. Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or journaling can help you stay grounded and reduce feelings of guilt and anxiety.

7. Celebrate your wins: Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements as a parent, no matter how small they may seem. Recognize the love, care, and effort you put into raising your child and give yourself credit for your hard work.

Remember that mother’s guilt is a common experience, and you are not alone in feeling this way. By practicing self-compassion, setting realistic expectations, prioritizing self-care and seeking support, you can navigate these feelings and cultivate a sense of peace, purpose and acceptance in your parenting journey.