Mom guilt: 10 tips to overcome it and become the mom you are meant to be

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

Last weekend was Mother’s Day, and it got me thinking about what being a mom means, and how I am showing up as a mom for my kids, and I started to feel again that mommy guilt as I was thinking about these things.

Before I keep going, let's define mom Guilt. Mom Guilt is the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiousness or uncertainty experienced by mothers when they worry, they're failing or falling short of expectations in some way.

Mom guilt is something I have carried with me since the day my oldest son was born. Sometimes that guilt feels really heavy or heavier than other days.

We have been quarantined for nine weeks now. When quarantine started one of the things that come to my mind was that I was going to have more time to focus on being a "better" mom, to spend more quality time with my kids and work on those things that I had not been able to do due to the "lack" of time. That was the one thing I was looking forward to. The reality ended up being so different. Both my husband and I have been working full time for home. We barely see each other during the day. My oldest son is in 5th grade so we are home schooling right now. He gets assignments for every day of the week and starting in week 7 of quarantine he has daily Zoom calls with his teacher. We also have a 4-year-old. She is curious, full of energy and very independent.

I won't lie, it has been a challenging to get to use to this new norm. Week one was a complete mess. In week nine we have found and establish routines that seem to be working for us. We are very lucky because our kids as I mentioned are very independent and they let us work when we need to work. Sometimes I need to stand up and go check on my kids to make sure they are still alive and have not paint the walls or done any other antics. That quiet they can be sometimes. Most of the time when I check on them, they are playing together, building Legos, watching TV or playing video games. Many parents would wish this was their reality right now, so don't get me wrong I am very grateful. That being said many days, most days, I feel guilty.

Yes, I feel guilty more often than not. I feel guilty for not spending more quality time with my kids. I feel guilty for not being able to seat with my son and help him with his homework because I am on work calls. I feel guilty for not being able to play hide and seek with my daughter when she comes to my desk and pulls my sleeve when I am trying to meet a work deadline. I feel guilty for checking my email at the table when we are having lunch or dinner. I feel guilty for being so close and at the same time so far away. I think that is the reason why mom guilt has been creeping up lately.

Guilt goes the other way too. I also feel guilty when I turn work off and I am spending quality time with the family for not having send that letter that someone is expecting to get at work, or not having finish that tasks that I needed to get done today. I feel guilty for not being 100% present in every meeting because I am multitasking.

Can you relate to any of this?

This last week I spent some time thinking about this. I have spent time this week thinking about why I feel guilty and what can I do to change that.

At the end of 2019 I spent a good amount of time crafting a vision and goals for 2020. If you have been reading my articles you probably recall me making the statement that this year, I was going to live my best life. I visualized what that means to me and how I was going to show up this year in order to live my best life. Of course, when I made that statement, I had no idea we would be where we are today. That said, I am still determined to live my best life in 2020 despite COVID-19. I recorded a podcast episode addressing this and sharing how to live your best life in the middle of COVID-19, you can find it here.

One of the things I envisioned was spending more time with my kids. One of my life goals, one that will never be able to cross of my list because it will be an ongoing purse is "I am an exceptional wife and mom". In my vision of me living my best life, I show up every day as that exceptional wife and mom. Every morning when I write down that goal in my Start Today Journal as part of my morning routine, I asked myself the question: How will I show up today with my husband and kids? What am I going to be intentional about today to show up as that exceptional wife and mom that I say I want to be?

So, where does mom guilt come from? I realize for you might look different, but for me these are the main triggers:

  • Working long hours (I am a workaholic)

  • Missing school events

  • Losing patience, which I have to say my patience is being tested more than ever in the current situation as we are trying to home school our son

  • Comparing myself with other moms

  • Taking time for myself

  • Feeling I was not there to help my kids with something

  • Forgetting something

One thing I am convince of is that feeling guilt does not serving us or help us become a better parent.

When I am feeling those things, I need to ask myself: Are these things in my head real? I find that many times these are just lies I make up in my head and are far from the reality.

Aside from asking myself these questions, here are 10 tips to overcome mom guilt. Some of them I have been able to successfully embrace to help me fight my own mom guilt and others are things that I came up with as a result of my reflection, things that I am planning to be more intentional about to help me feel less guilty and more fulfilled for showing up as best as I can for my kids.

1. Accept the trade-offs

When you choose to combine motherhood and career in any way, shape or form, there will always be trade-offs, sacrifices and compromises. What is crucial to your happiness – as well as your ability to stave off guilt - is reconciling those trade-offs by being crystal clear about why you are making them in the first place.

Create a list of the reasons you work. I am very clear that my kids, my family and myself are ultimately all better off because I have a rewarding career outside the home.

2. Don’t “should” on yourself

Our shoulds are a melting pot of social expectations, family pressures, and often unspoken ‘rules’ we often buy into without even realizing it. Our shoulds are shaped by our environment, which has seen them skyrocket in recent decades with the rise of so-called “parenting gurus” - experts that bombard us with advice on what a “good” parent should, and should not, do.

So when I find myself using the word should, I replace it with could- and add an alternative option. Doing so takes the judgment out and allows me give myself permission to do what actually works best for me and my family – minus the should-inflicted guilt.

3. Don’t dilute your presence with distraction

We can be with our kids 24/7 and yet never be fully present to them. While ‘turning off’ from work and other distractions is easier said than done, it’s important to be intentional about being fully present to your children whenever you are with them by minimizing the multi-tasking as much as humanly possible.

4. Don’t think about the time you don’t have. Use what you do have.

I know this is true for me. I torture myself thinking of all the time I don't have. All the moments I might have missed, the school events I don't get to attend. I let the guilt get to my head and those thoughts prevent me to be fully present when I get to be with my kids. Focus on quality over quantity. No matter how much or little time to have with your kids, make the most out of it.

5. Let go of perfection.

Pinterest perfect homes are not a reality. Your kids don't need a Pinterest perfect house or mom, they need you! They need a mom that is there for them and with them.

Don’t think about the dishes in the sink (as much), or your kids not being dressed up for that perfect Instagram picture, or toys being everywhere. Worry less and enjoy more! The things that are going to fulfill you most as a mom are those things that happen out of perfection.

6. Stop comparing yourself with other moms

The fact is, there is no one ‘right way’ when it comes to raising children. Think for a minute, if other moms were to look at you Facebook or Instagram picture what would they think of you as a mom? probably the same you think of those mom's you are comparing yourself with. That you have your act together. That you are a caring mom. Do I need to keep going? You know where I am going with this, right? Stop comparing your oranges with someone else's apples!!!

Not everything you see in social media is true, at least not the whole truth, not the full picture. Those mom's you compare yourself with, they struggle with the same things you do, and right now they might be comparing themselves with you and feeling just like you feel when you compare yourself with them. Be yourself! Do you! Show up as you! As the mom you are meant to be, as the mom you know your kids need.

7. Remind yourself that you are not and should not aspire to be your kid's best friend.

Be careful you don’t allow your very clever children to blackmail you with guilt. They know they have an amazing ability to pull on your heart strings, which is why they can be masters of guilt manipulation if you let them. Refuse to play the game! Tell them you love them and that you are doing your best to support them (which often includes not doing for them what they can do for themselves or always letting them do what they want), but that you have other commitments, interests and responsibilities besides them. And when you drop the odd ball (as you will), tell them you’re just giving them an opportunity to grow more resourceful and resilient. Because, after all, you are, and that is what parenting is about to a great extent.

8. Give yourself some credit and a break

Focus on the things are you doing well and give you some credit. One thing that has helped me is to ask myself at the end of the day two questions:

  • Did I did today everything I could to show up as the mom I know I am?

  • What did I did today to show up for my kids?

Because in the morning I ask myself the questions, how is that I will show up as a mom, sometimes at night I feel I didn't show up as I should because I did too showed as I said I was going to. Here is the thing, life happens, and you need to stay flexible, the important thing is that you showed up the best you could given the situation. Are you kids alive? Did I feed them? Are they safe? Give yourself some grace! You are doing the best you can and that's all what matters.

9. Share responsibilities and ask for help

I know you know this already but sometimes we need someone to remind us that we don't need to do this alone, we don't have to do it all. Ask for help! Help can come in many different shapes and ways. Many times, we don't ask for help because we believe we are supposed to do it all, because we think asking for help is a sign of weakness and incapability to be good parents. Again, that is a lie that we tell ourselves. We look at other moms and we believe they are doing it all, so we tell ourselves we need to do it. The truth is no one can do it all, at least not successfully.

10. Fill your cup first

Do you remember the last time you took at flight? Remember the safety guidelines when they say, put you mask first before you help others. That applies here too. You can't be the mom you are meant to be, the best mom in you if you don't fill your cup first. You can't be the best mom your kids deserve if you can't be your best self first. For me, I relay on my morning routine to start my day filling up my cup. You can learn more about my morning routine and the 7 components I intentionally built into it here.

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