Mom Guilt: How to Escape its Talons


Mom Guilt. Or, more accurately, Parent Guilt. It’s real. And it eats away at our confidence to parent with peace and connectedness. But does it have to?

I’ve been pondering this a lot lately as I navigate a new phase of parenting. With all six kids now school-age, our days are bursting at the seams with activities, leaving me breathless most days.

Questions swirl through my head. Did I spend enough time with the littlest today? Do I need to ramp up my efforts with science experiments for the nine-year-old? How can I help my teen through his math anxiety? The questions are endless. Essentially they are all asking…

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Am I doing enough?

These questions can lead to a barrage of negative thoughts about all the ways we’re not living up to our expectations and ideals. I didn’t read picture books to the little one. I didn’t take the time to sit with the teen and work through those math problems. I didn’t play that game that I promised.

In reality, the day could have flowed smoothly, but somehow I ended up focusing on all of the things I didn’t do, instead of those I did. I read aloud for an hour while the youngest four played with legos. I settled in next to the teen to listen to him share about the thoughts that have been rolling around in his mind. I prepared a healthy dinner that nourished us all. I drove an hour and a half to swim practice and played with my kids in the pool while we were there.

I feel the constant tug between guilt and good enough daily.  Recently, though, I started dabbling in mindfulness meditation with the 10% Happier app. It has helped me start to be more aware, more mindful, of when the questions and negative thoughts pop up. And boy, do they pop up more often than I realized!  

I am learning to let the thoughts flow without judging myself (at least some of the time). I know this is just the beginning of the journey and that I will always be evolving with it,  but I am trusting the process.

I am constantly surprised that just by naming the feeling, its power over me dissipates. “Hey, there’s that mom guilt!” Poof! Just by calling it out, by being mindful that these thoughts are popping up, I’m able to intentionally shift my focus from the negative, can’t-do-enough attitude, to the wow-I-did-a-lot today viewpoint.

Why am I fighting myself?

One of the most recent videos I watched on the app explained how we, as humans, seem wired to look for challenges even when everything is flowing smoothly. Wow! Truth bomb!

While I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in this, I’m sad that we seem to be fighting ourselves so often. This makes me even more eager to explore mindfulness as a way to step outside the cycle.

After some pondering, I am trying to reframe my constant questioning and worrying from the negative to a new, more gentle view. I am leaning into a new view of my questions. My questions are a self-reflection on the heart of my family.  My questions bring me closer to the truth for my family right now.

This may seem overly simplistic and obvious, but when we are stuck in this cycle of questioning → negative thoughts → questioning → self-doubt, it can be challenging to step aside and see it in a new light. By pausing to reframe my questions, I slow the way they swirl in my head and begin to sift through them to find their core.

Questions lead us to new insight

Our questions are a good thing! The essence of each one is asking, “Am I giving what I can right now?” Sometimes that answer may be, “No, I can carve out ten minutes in the morning to read to my little girl.” But sometimes, the answer is, “Yes, I am giving all I can right now and that is enough.”

I am learning to embrace this question, not to produce guilt, but as a beacon to guide my daily decisions, encouraging me to stay in tune with my family's needs. Embracing mindfulness is gifting me with the grace to watch the ebb and flow of these thoughts without judging them or myself. Questions that arise from mom guilt are simply tools on the journey of connected, peaceful parenting.

It is my hope that you find peace in your questions and that they bring you closer to your family’s truth.