Mommy guilt — that nagging feeling that haunts every mom and shouts we’re not doing enough, not getting it right, and we’re failing our kids big time.
I’m willing to bet you know this feeling all too well.
For me, it shows up as a fear of failure. It’s that overly critical voice that’s judging every decision I make as a mom.
It tells me I work too much.
I’m not spending enough time with my kids.
I’m going to mess them up for life if I’m not readily available at their beck and call.
The truth is, it’s a joy stealer and peace killer. Not to mention a big fat lie.
Its sole purpose is to make you feel like a bad mom so you parent from a place of guilt and shame instead of joy and freedom. That is not the life Jesus came and died for us to live, mamas.
He came to set us free from the condemnation and false guilt that we feel as mothers.
My big “aha” moment came when I was reading Valorie Burton’s book, Letting Go of Guilt. In her book she discusses the different places guilt comes from, and how guilt is actually a form of worry.
DING DING DING!!!
She nailed my problem with guilt.
The mommy guilt I feel is actually a representation of my anxiety and worry over my kid’s future. My deepest desire as a mom is to love my kids well and to give them a healthy and successful start in life.
So if I ever feel like I’m doing “less than perfect” mothering (which is all day, every day), I immediately feel this sense of guilt that I’m not doing enough or I’m not good enough—which reinforces my worry that my being “less than” will negatively impact my children.
And that’s the last thing I want.
Maybe you can relate to those feelings of worry, anxiety, or not being good enough?
Challenge Feelings with Facts
When I’m tempted to feel like I’m a “bad mom,” I’ve learned I have to check the facts. Am I really a bad mom?
What do I think a bad mom does?
Neglect or abuse her children.
Not meet their needs.
Not show them love and affection.
Am I doing any of those things? No! Are you? No!
Then by our own definition, we’re not bad mothers. Which means the feelings of guilt or the negative self-talk bouncing around in our brain is not only unhealthy and ineffective, but also misplaced.
Adjust your feelings to the facts, mama.
Do you love your children? Yes.
Do you take care of your children? Yes.
Do you make parenting choices based on what you believe is in the best interest of your child? Yes.
You are a good mom.
In case no one has told you lately, I want you to hear it again:
You are a good mom.
And the devil is a liar. I can guarantee you God is not sitting on his throne judging your parenting and wagging his finger when you miss the mark of perfection.
He’s up there with a big smile on his face saying, “I see your heart and how hard you’re working, how much you’re trying to do right by the children I’ve placed in your care. You are doing a wonderful job, my good and faithful servant. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
Recognize Fear and Worry
One of the biggest motivators of mommy guilt is fear over the future. My biggest fear is messing up my children.
I was very blessed to have wonderful, God-loving parents, who did their best to raise us. But, they were still human, sinful, and broken people living in a broken world. And, some of their brokenness affected me.
My biggest worry is that my imperfections and broken places will negatively impact my children. And, I don’t want my children having to spend their adult years recovering from negative experiences in their childhood.
But really, who do my children belong to?
Who is their Savior?
It’s not me.
Is the Lord capable of protecting them and restoring them?
Nothing is impossible with God.
Proverbs 12:25 says that worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.
Let me encourage you today, mama.
You are doing the best you can in this moment and in this season of life.
Your children love you and they know you love them.
Your imperfections and moments of falling short are not going to ruin your children for life.
Whenever you start feeling mommy guilt creeping in, stop and ask yourself, “What am I worried about? What am I fearing will happen?”
Labeling the fear and worry for what it is will help you see that you’re not actually guilty of any wrongdoing. You’re simply feeling worry or fear.
“I feel worried that if I tell my daughter I can’t play right now because I have to work she’ll think I don’t love her.”
What’s the truth about the situation?
If your kids are anything like mine they may not enjoy being asked to wait until you finish the work email, blog article, or project you’re working on.
But will waiting damage them for life? No. It will teach them patience.
Will your children believe you don’t love them because you had to take care of your responsibilities?
In the moment they may be upset and say something unkind, but how many other ways have you shown them love today? Attention and affection, words of affirmation, quality time together? Reflect on those moments when guilt tempts you to despair.
I really have to remember this one because my four-year-old is the queen of “I want to play, and I want to play right now.” I could push her on the swing, go for a walk together, play tag, play hide and seek, read her a book, play a board game, and ride bikes and the moment I sit down to send an email she’s at my side begging to play.
This is when it hits me the hardest. I have a broken record in my mind of that darn quote I see on Pinterest all the time and which I’m quite sure I’ve taken out of its original context but it says, “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”
And, then the mommy guilt comes flooding in.
This is when I have to go through my list of fact-checking reminders . . . I’ve invested time with my children today. It’s okay to set boundaries with my children around my work, and for them to see mommy working, and for them to have to wait.
What reminders do you need to tell yourself today to combat the worry and fear that bothers you?
Share the Hard Feelings
I’m not sure what’s harder, feeling mommy guilt or keeping it to yourself where it festers and grows.
I’ve learned over the years that when I’m feeling unfounded mommy guilt it seeps into other aspects of my life. I end up feeling anxious, annoyed, or even short-tempered and who do I take that out on? Those closest to me. Namely my children and husband. Then I feel guilty and the vicious cycle continues.
The only way to stop the cycle is to speak up.
Is there a close friend, family member, or fellow mama that you can open up to?
For me, when I’m feeling the pangs of mommy guilt I tell my husband. He’s the first person to speak truth to my worried heart.
He’s also a bazillion times better at setting boundaries than I am. I will run myself into the ground doing for our kids (and we have six, so there’s always someone who needs help or attention).
If I’m feeling “less than” I can go to him, share what I’m feeling, and he’ll speak truth to me and encourage me.
Sometimes, all I need to hear is you’re doing a great job.
It helps to check my thoughts out with someone else, though. They can tell you if what you’re feeling is accurate, or if you’re dealing with negative self-talk and false guilt.
The great thing about sharing it with another mama, though, is they can totally empathize with you.
Talk about being heard and understood. They’re right there in the trenches walking through it and they know how tough overcoming mommy guilt can be.
There’s freedom in bringing those tough feelings out into the open and hearing you’re not alone, I’ve been there, and you’re not a bad mom.
So, there you have it. My three tips for overcoming mommy guilt when it rears its ugly head from a fellow mama to six kiddos.
If you are trying to figure out how to balance the demands of raising a family and managing real-life while growing your resume or at-home business, here are 3 Simple Ways to Manage Life While Raising A Family and Growing Your Business.
Also, let’s connect on LinkedIn, you can send me an invite here.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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