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ParenTalk- Mom Guilt, and How To Let Go of It

ParenTalk- Mom Guilt, and How To Let Go of It

Ah, mom guilt. As I write this, my elder one is grumbling that I never read to him, and the younger one is trying to peep through the little gap under the door to catch a glimpse of me. “It is important, I say to myself”, as I fight my guilt. “Well, there needs to be food on the table. Someday they’d be proud of me”. As I try to settle down with this thought, there is a sound of crying. The 1.5-year-old just fell off his scooter. I fight the urge to rush out with all my might because papa is there, he will manage. However, I know for sure I will replay this incident in my head at least a hundred times. 

Sounds familiar?

Mom guilt is a common phenomenon that I have been dealing with for 5 years now. And it has nothing to do with my work because in the initial 2 years of my motherhood, I was a stay-at-home mom. I worried endlessly about not adding financial value to the family, about not being able to buy the fisher price rocker for my child, and about putting my career in the backseat. 

I am sure all moms are the same. Caitlyn Collins mentions in one of her research papers that mom guilt helps men immensely as it works as a regulatory mechanism for women. It pushes them to work harder, to prove themselves on all fronts. Caitlyn believes that this is one of the primary reasons that no one tries to resolve that guilt. All society does to guilt-ridden women is preach or fake worship them to guilt-trip them further. Stressing the fact that a mother needs to be an epitome of sacrifice and that she is a goddess doesn’t help either.


What exactly is mom guilt: 

Mom guilt is the relentless voice in the head that tells a woman that she isn’t doing enough as a parent. There is always an invisible pressure to go an extra mile, to make the porridge powder from scratch or to carry homemade snacks to the outing, or to craft a gazillion activities to keep the child engaged. Working moms often face the flak of society and their inner voices about prioritizing their career and money over their availability for their child. Stay at home moms constantly feel guilty about not being ambitious enough or not setting the right example for their kids.

Reasons mom-guilt is so prevalent:

Out of all the factors that contribute to mom-guilt, conditioning is the evilest. Over the years, books, advertisements, and people have all conditioned us to believe that no one can do better for a child than the mother. That the mother is kind and warm and that her job is to stay home and ensure the best for her child. 

Below are some other factors that contribute to mom guilt:

  • The glitz of the virtual world: We often see perfect Instagram posts with gorgeous toddlers calmly doing all the activities. What we fail to see is that this is just a minor chunk of their day. The same toddlers could be throwing around stuff or yelling without an explainable reason at some other time. A survey by refinery 29, concluded that social media adds to the insecurities of mothers. Karen Kleiman, the founder of ‘The postpartum stress center,’ quotes that women are making themselves sick with the expectations of perfection.

  • Societal expectations: This is an overused quote but sums up the situation perfectly. “We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work”. We live in a world where women are criticized and labeled lazy for even taking maternity breaks. Society wants them to give their 100% at all fronts because that is convenient. It takes the onus off men to do better in those areas. However, mothers internalize these expectations and expect themselves to work more than is humanly possible.

  • Anxiety or depression: We all love our children and the desire to give them the best often makes us anxious. While this can be a passing feeling for some, those with clinically diagnosed mental health concerns find it hard to escape the loop of guilt. Karen Kleiman also quoted that, “Guilt is so pervasive that many mothers, particularly those who are depressed, presume it is a natural part of mothering, one that is inescapable in this day and age.” 


    Stay at home mom guilt: 

    Many may argue that stay-at-home moms are blessed because they do not have to balance two fronts. I have even heard someone say that stay-at-home moms can sleep in longer with their children and enjoy their meals while working moms are deprived of these joys. Well, whoever said that, had no idea about the 999999 jobs a working mom does. It surely is a 24*7 job without breaks. Then there is no reason to be guilty. Right? 

    What do you do all day is a common question that society throws at them each day and they internalize it? They do not value their contribution because there isn’t a price tag attached. However, in 2018 estimated the monetary value of being a stay-at-home mom to be over $150k per year. If you convert that to INR, it is over 11 lakhs per annum. Do you still think you do not do anything worthwhile? 

    Tips to get over stay at home mom guilt:

    Here are some ways in which you can get over stay at home mom guilt:

  • Spend distraction-free time with the kids: It helps immensely to keep household chores aside for a while and focus on just the kids. This will help you realize that you had to earn this time to see this precious blessing. Not only will this give you a sense of self-worth but also earn you some squishes and kisses.
  • Join a parenting community: Parenting communities are support groups where you will find several other mommies that share the same guilt as you. Encourage each other and get over your guilt together.
  • Enlist what you do through the day: Make a list of all the things you accomplish throughout the day. You will be proud of yourself. If you still feel unproductive, follow a hobby. This will be a great respite from the household tasks and will also give you a feeling of accomplishment.

    Working mom guilt: 

    Working mothers are often at the receiving end of taunts about ignoring their kids, not fulfilling their duties, or chasing money. They are also continually trying to balance expectations on both fronts. They often feel frustrated because they cannot be available at work as much as their peers and also miss major milestones of their kids. The covid-19 pandemic has made the balancing game even tougher.

    Tips to get over working mom guilt:

  • Stay away from people who try to bring you down: I know it is easier said than done, but the garbage needs to go. If someone is giving you a hard time about your life choices, they don’t deserve your time.
  • Remember that you are setting a great example for your kids: The way you balance work and home will inspire your kids to chase their dreams and not bow down to external pressure. 
  • Spend quality time with the kids: For kids, quality always matters over quantity. Ensure that when you are with them, you are not using your phone or chopping the veggies. Encourage them to talk about their day and tell them about yours. Remember that a tidy house can wait. 
  • Outsource other household chores and prioritize kids when you are home: Hire help or invest in technology if you can afford it. This will help you relax and spend some time with the children without having to worry about the chores.

    The world will always try to bring you down irrespective of what you do, but you mean the world to your children. Ask your children what you mean to them. Trust me, this isn’t compliment fishing. Children are the most honest creatures on earth. Ask them why they love you or what you mean to them and you will be pleasantly surprised to realize your worth. All moms are doing their best and it is best not to compare with others or feel guilty. If you feel overwhelmed with guilt and it interferes with your routine, consult a mental health practitioner.


    Smriti is a freelance content writer and an avid reader. She quit her 6 year-long IT career to embrace her love for writing. She writes content across genres and takes pride in her ability to research and carve magic with words. She passionately writes about parenting and is currently working on her book. When not writing or reading, she can be seen running behind any of her 2 kids or learning Deutsch.

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