How to Deal With Mom Guilt
Do you feel like everyone else has this parenting thing figured out and you don’t?
My husband and I welcomed our first baby boy, Carter, into the world on January 31, 2015. As you can imagine, we were filled with a flood of emotions: excitement and anxiety, gratitude and uncertainty, relief and fear. But there is one stressful emotion that I started experiencing the day my child was born, and unfortunately, I believe I’ll battle it the rest of my life—guilt.
You know that feeling, don’t you? When I had Carter, I had been a mom all of five minutes and already knew it all too well! It’s that feeling in the back of your mind that:
- You’ve done something wrong
- You’re not doing enough
- You could have done it better
It’s the feeling that all of the thousands of choices you have to make that affect these little lives that God has entrusted you with are probably wrong. It’s feeling that everyone else has this parenting thing figured out and you don’t.
The Struggle Is Real
I don’t think anyone is immune to mom guilt, and I don’t think you ever fully graduate out of it. I’ll be honest: Most days, I don’t even feel like a mom. I feel like a poser. I feel like maybe I am the babysitter, and I just keep waiting for the real mom to come home, swoop in, and take over with confidence and certainty and all of the right answers.
If that’s you right now, I want you to watch this two-minute video about a time I was at my lowest and feeling this way—and the five words I discovered that make all the difference.
Many things make that guilt flare up, but the one that seems to do it the most for moms is around how or where we work. And the mom guilt gets you regardless of the path you choose. If you stay home with your kids, you feel guilty for not working outside the home. If you work outside the home, you feel guilty for not staying with your kids.
Guilt that you enjoy going to work while your baby is being cared for by someone else (“Who, by the way,” says the guilt, “Is probably doing a better job than you.”) Guilt that on Tuesday at 9 a.m. you’re wishing it was Friday at 5 p.m. because all you really want is to be home with your child. Guilt when you miss bedtime prayers because you’re working late on a project. Guilt when you have to leave the office early because she got sick.
Once I went back to work after having Carter, God reminded me of something that has helped me shake the mom guilt a little bit. When I was feeling discouraged about leaving my son at daycare one day, I felt God say this:
“Remember that what you’re doing is important.”
I felt an immediate relief as I rested in that.
And you know what? It’s true. What I am doing is important. The work that I do, the messages that I share, and the lives that I get to impact are important.
How to Deal With Guilt
Since that realization, I’ve been able to deal with guilt a bit better. Here are some practical ways you can deal with guilt, too:
Do what’s important to you.
It would be really difficult to leave my son for something I didn’t believe in. But in my daily life, I practice the same thing I teach all of you: I only spend my time on things that are important to me. So when I focus on the importance of what I am doing, I keep the mom guilt from distracting me from living out the life God has called me to.
Don’t get caught up in comparisons.
Because doing what’s important to you goes the other way too. Saying yes to one thing means you’re saying no to another.
So when I don’t answer emails at night because I am being present with my family, when I leave the office on time to go for a run, or when I take time off to go on vacation and rest, I choose to not feel guilty.
Related: Stop Helping Everyone
Your values and how you spend your time are just that: yours. It won’t look like the way someone else lives their life. My friend Rachel Cruze says, “When we start comparing ourselves to other people, we’re playing a game we’ll never win.” So when everyone around me is working 70–80 hours a week, I remind myself again: What I am doing is important. My family, my exercise, my rest, my hobbies, my values—those things are important.
Ignore the haters.
I know we’ve all been wounded by the judgement of another woman at one time or another. And of course, it’s not always obvious.
It’s the scowl on another woman’s face when she hears you’re taking off work for a week-long vacation. It’s the tone in another woman’s voice when she asks where your baby’s hat is “in this weather.”
In those situations, you can’t control what someone else thinks of you, but you can control how you feel about yourself. The temptation may be give in to the guilt, but listening to those whispers of self-doubt will only send you into a spiral of negativity and self-consciousness.
Instead, come to terms with this very real fact of life: Not everyone will like you. And that’s okay! I know as women we are so relational—and so much of what we do every day, all day is because we just want everyone to like us. But we need to stop putting this pressure on ourselves to achieve this ridiculous and impossible standard.
If this is something you struggle with on a regular basis, I have a free webinar just for you: How to Deal With Rejection and Criticism. You can apply what I teach in the webinar to your personal life, professional life, and in your side or small business.
Getting Over the Guilt
I love how my friend Tony explains it. He says, “I’m always driving to somewhere I love. When I’m driving to work, I’m driving to a place that I love. When I’m driving home, I am driving to a place that I love.” It’s the difference of looking through the front windshield and where you’re going, rather than the rearview mirror and what you’re momentarily leaving behind.
That’s how I’m able to be fully present and guilt-free at work and fully present and guilt-free at home. Don’t look at what you’re leaving behind. Focus on the importance of what you’re going to. Wherever you are, be there.
So the next time you’ve got guilt nagging at you, remind yourself that what you’re doing is important. It’s important not only for you, but also for everyone else in your life too.
Related: Podcast Ep. 36—Shake Off Your Shame