Motherhood 7 months ago by Liz Adams

Let’s Talk About Mom Guilt

outfit details: Varley Sweatshirt (wearing a small), Agolde Riley Jeans, Kizik Sneakers, Madewell Sunglasses, Nuna Demi Grow Stroller

This post is going to be a tangent, try to keep up!

One of the biggest things I struggle with is mom guilt. It’s like no matter what I do, I feel guilty. If I’m taking time to work, I’m not present for my kids. If I’m sitting, enjoying my cup of coffee, I’m not sitting next to them making them feel loved. If I’m looking at my phone, I’m choosing the phone over them. The internal battle I face on a daily basis of this or that is exhausting. Like there are only two choices and if I don’t choose being a present mom well then basically I’m the worst. Dave and I have this conversation a lot and I envy him for literally having no guilt over his choices. Here is an example: Dave chooses to play golf for 4 hours and doesn’t have an ounce of guilt because that choice has no connection to how much he loves his family or kids. He is not going to miss us, he is going to go enjoy himself! If I had the choice, I would feel immense guilt leaving my family for 4 hours because I would think that they would feel like i’m choosing to do something else instead of be with them. And I act like my absence is a huge burden to the family and our routine. Whyyyyy! Because I love being a mom and I feel this pressure to keep our house in check and our family in line and happy and loved and its sooooo silly because I know that when I’m gone, they feel that love anyways.

It’s something I have tried to work on a lot over the past couple years. Some weeks I feel really free from the guilt and some weeks it’s debilitating. I went on a walk with one of my girlfriends last week and we spent the hour talking, judgement free (everyone needs friends like that). We talked about hopes and dreams that we realized aren’t going to happen in this lifetime, we talked about owning businesses and also being moms and the tension it creates and we talked about giving ourselves a break. She made a point that sort of opened my eyes when I talked about mom guilt. She reminded me that a family is so much more than physical love and support. That even when we are busy or maybe something else is distracting us from being present with our kids, the foundation of family that we have created for them helps them feel supported and loved. That even if you can’t physically GIVE love in that instance, you have created enough for them to feel it anyways. Makes so much sense, right?

I related this to something that I think is a big foundation for my idea of family or what I want for my own family. When I was younger, our family told each other we loved each other all the time. “I love you” was always the last exchange and still is to this day! I think about that all the time and how I always want my kids to know how much I love them. I remember when I was little, telling myself that if anything should happen, my family knows how much I love them. I thought about this in relation to the guilt. That in the instance where I have to make a choice, my family knows how much I love them. Something about that concept makes it easier to allow space for other things outside of my family, and not feel guilty!

It’s a concept I really want to hold on to in 2022. I have spent so much time moving from one thing to the next without really stopping to enjoy. If I’m not mothering, I’m tidying and if I’m not working I’m stressed about how behind I am with work. This constant performance expectation that I put on myself has created so much guilt in my choices, where no guilt should be. I’ve talked about this expectation all the time and how I’ve sort of lived my life like each moment needs to be filled with something. And I’m realizing that those gaps in doing are where I really find the most joy.

Being a parent and feeling the pressure to keep your kids happy and healthy means there will always be some guilt when we feel like we aren’t doing our natural jobs. But I’m learning that joy comes from connecting to yourself and letting your inner child be a child, too. Finding pleasure in things that may be insignificant because they are significant to you. With the guilt comes a lot of stress in making a choice and I think choosing to give yourself a break and enjoy your OWN life will bring more joy and love into your home.

Anyways, here is to worrying less and living more this year.

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  1. The reason 99.99% of moms feel that guilt and very few dads do, is because society puts that guilt on us. Dads are seen as heros for doing very basic parenting things ( he showed up to pick up his kids, took them to dance class… eh what a guy!!) while mothers are judged if they not only do not do it all but do not do it all to perfection. Women are the worst for judging each other and until we stop that, I am not sure how we get out of that loop!
    I am a full time work out of the house mom and have always been. My kids are older now (16 and 13) and when they were little, I did very little for myself. It was exhausting but truthfully, I have 0 regrets. They grow so fast and now, they need me in different ways which allows me to have a lot more time for myself. I think if we each stopped judging other women ( and be honest, you know you do it!) for the choices they make that may be different than yours and if we held men more accountable for their shared responsibilities when it comes to parenting , that would be a huge step in the right direction. Stop expecting perfection from moms and stop putting dads on a pedestal for the simple act of sometimes barely showing up!

    1. This. Adding to this, the transition to empty nest can be very life altering if you do not keep in touch with yourself during the 0~19 ages of your children. And if you do not make your co-parent do many of the parenting tasks on their own (in their own way) while you do things for yourself, you are essentially parenting them also which is not the dynamic that most want.

  2. Wow this all resonated so much!! I’m always wondering how my husband does what he wants and doesn’t ever feel guilt!

  3. Liz, this is hard — thanks for sharing so vulnerably. Having conversations with my partner has helped release me from some of this, just like your conversations with Dave. I will say, knowing that the best thing I can do for my kids is to live my best life — that’s also kind of relieving.

    Another woman who leads this conversation so well is Ames Kiefer. She’s the best.

    1. “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.”

      Every time I feel guilty or struggle with the balancing act I think about this quote. When our kids see us doing things we want/need/love to do on any accord we are also showing them how to how to reach for the sun! 🙂

  4. Wow thank you for this post- you put into words exactly what I’ve been feeling. I’m so envious of my husband for having zero guilt for reading/baking/doing whatever he wants to relax. Then, I realize I’m putting this pressure on myself. It’s hard to explain to men sometimes. I completely felt the line about when you’re not mothering you’re tidying; it feels so self-indulgent to do nothing or relax while my little one plays. Working on this in 2022 as well!

  5. I’m totally into guilt-free motherhood but in reality it’s pretty hard to let go all the expectations… Although the first think I’ve done totally for me was sleep training my child (gorgeous and guilt-free method btw: https://www.parental-love.com/shop/baby-sleep-training). When I got my evenings back to myself I started doing some yoga again, reading at least a little bit. But to leave a house without a baby but with an easy mind… that’s my goal for 2022!