Guilt To Last: My Struggle with Chronic Mommy Guilt


I remember when I said it. Even back then, as a naïve new mom, I knew it sounded crass the moment it came out of my mouth, but it was true.

I don’t have any mommy guilt,” I proclaimed, perhaps a little too proudly, and inwardly cringed. I was sitting with a group of much more experienced mothers who were casually chatting about their regrets and failures as parents. The majority of these women had children in upper elementary school or older, whereas I only had the most compliant one-year-old on the west side of the Willamette.

The woman across the table just gave me a half-grin, and with an air of wisdom and grace said, “Oh, you will. Just wait.”
I silently thanked her for covering my social idiocy and wondered exactly what she meant. As far as I was concerned, I had mothering down. After all, I dedicated just about all of my waking hours to making sure my daughter was clean, healthfully fed, stimulated, intelligent, polite, obedient, and happy. Of course I had nothing to feel guilty about, except maybe for the faulty filter between my brain and my mouth.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that fellow mom, and I don’t even think she’d remember who I am, let alone the foolish words I said. But I would immediately confess to her that, YES, her prophecy was true. I am absolutely swimming in mommy guilt.
Mom Guilt
Image Credit: Flickr
It hit like a ton of bricks the week my second child was born. My daughter was almost three. Somehow I underestimated how frequently both of my kids would urgently need me simultaneously. I could no longer attend to my daughter’s every need at the first whimper. She would have to wait. If she had a poopy diaper right after I helped my son to latch on for a nurse, or if she got a big owie right as I started cleaning up a gigantic newborn diaper blowout, my only option was to try to calm her (often unsuccessfully) while she waited. I had a rough delivery and wasn’t able to physically play as much as she wanted, either. Meanwhile, my newborn son would holler and cry if he wasn’t being held or bounced, so I ended up wearing him much of the day in the Moby wrap, preventing my daughter from settling in for snuggles. It seemed like both of my kids were always on the verge of tears. All of the new struggles of having two kids took their toll on me, too, and any discontent and frustration I felt would eventually morph into guilt for having felt it. That whole first month of my son’s life was a perfect mommy guilt storm. It was a tough lesson to learn.
Ultimately I’ve realized that the sole reason mommy guilt exists in the first place is that we, as moms, deeply love our children and only want the best for them. And when we can’t provide that (since none of us is perfect), it wounds us with this guilt. It first strikes when you aren’t suspecting it, and that first bout is particularly painful. Then it’s like a disease that never entirely goes away, lurking in the background. Given the chance, mommy guilt can overwhelm even the strongest moms.
My trick to surviving the waves of guilt is to not fight it. I try to let it flow, recognize it for what it is, understand that I can only do what I can, and then let it go. Sometimes it reveals an area of mothering that I can improve. Sometimes it is so destructive that it pummels me and spits me out on the shore, defeated, where my husband or my mom is waiting for me with a bag full of dark chocolate truffles.
Making sure that the time I spend with my kids is quality time, being more patient with them (as hard as that can be), and prayer helps me feel less mommy guilt, too.
Now with three kids, my potential for mommy guilt is higher than ever, but I’ve usually got it under control. I feel like I’ve grown personally from it, and so have my kids since I can’t indulge their every “need”. My kids have definitely humbled me, and now I find myself on the other side of the table across from new moms.

I would love to know: how have you dealt with your own mommy guilt? How about a round of Mom Guilt Bingo?!


  1. Thank you for sharing your story and for linking to Mom Guilt Bingo!
    I forgot send Sweet T anything for snack time at Kindergarten today and have myself worked into a guilt frenzy. Her accusing tone at pick up won’t help, but your post did. Thank, mama.

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