Tackling your Mommy Guilt: A Few Strategies

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The weekend came and went with a whirlwind of activity.  Much like it often does.

Book club and movie night with my daughters on Friday night.  Hustling and driving three kids around to sports on Saturday in addition to shopping, errands, and clothing returns.  My husband and I also began work on a small porch makeover.  Sunday arrived and we attended church and then grabbed some bagels with the kids before I spent the rest of the afternoon organizing my desk, paying bills, planning our school week, and working more on the porch project.

And despite all that we did and all that I accomplished and all of the fun we had, I still felt guilty on Sunday night.  I hadn’t done enough.  I hadn’t been enough.

Mommy guilt.  Guilt over my never-ending failure to do all things in all categories perfectly.

Mommy Guilt

What on earth was troubling me?  In reality, my weekend was incredibly productive and fun.  Yet the joy of productivity and fun was being overshadowed by a feeling of guilt.

What IS troubling me?  It is the question I have learned to ask myself when mom guilt sets in.  It might take a few days of pondering or a phone conversation with a friend to get to the heart of the matter, but I know that I have to get to the source.  And then I have to tackle it head on.

Sometimes tackling it looks like a reality check.  I remind myself the truth of my reality.   “Of course I feel guilty about the neglected laundry, I am teaching and mothering four kids all day and am exhausted at night.  It can wait.”

Other times tackling it looks like a phone call to a good friend.  The kind of call where you share the source of your guilt and she gives you a reality check.  “Girl.  No one can do it all.  You gotta let things go.” And then she reminds you of the reasons you rock.

Then there are times that tackling it means action.  This occurs when my guilt comes from a concrete and definable source.  A messy house.  Harsh words.  A spouse you haven’t talked to in days.  An unfinished task.  When there is something I need to do because it is weighing on me, I make it a priority.  Perhaps an apology needs to be made.  Maybe school needs to be canceled so we can clean the house from top to bottom.  It might be time to put a date night on the calendar.  Whatever priority needs to be established, I make sure it happens as soon as possible.

Turns out that this past weekend, I felt guilty that I hadn’t given my kids enough attention.  My 7 and 9-year old sons mentioned on Friday that they wanted to learn how to play the game, Risk.  I hadn’t taken the time to teach them all weekend.

Never mind that they hadn’t asked again.  For some reason, their request began to bother me.  Of course, this led to even more guilt as I realized that I hadn’t really chatted individually with any of my kids other than the one I drove to sports.

Funny how guilt begets guilt like that.

And so I failed.  In MY mind at least.  And MY mind is the one I have to settle up with at the end of the day.  Whether or not my guilt is based in reality doesn’t always seem to matter.

I hadn’t taught my boys to play Risk.  I couldn’t get past it.

Clearly, a game of Risk would have to be played on Monday.  The perfect opportunity occurred in the afternoon and I took it.  Meanwhile, my school plans for the afternoon had to be shelved.

Truth be told, the game playing wasn’t the picture perfect bonding time that I imagined in my head.  Things rarely are.  Siblings argued.  The setup and learning curve caused some boredom.  But we made it through a decent amount of the game before my kids were ready to go outside and play instead.

And then my day continued forward.

Math was left unfinished and spelling lessons remained untouched, but we tore up a 50-minute introduction to the game of Risk!

And that mommy guilt feeling in the pit of my stomach? It disappeared…at least for now.

Does anyone else struggle with mommy guilt?  How do you handle it?





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  1. Mary, every bit of this post sounds so familiar in my head. One of the articles I like best on this subject talks about how we often have guilt not over a specific issue (like a specific thing we did wrong or failed to do) but over a spectrum kind of thing. I don’t save enough money. My house isn’t clean enough. I watch too much TV or don’t spend enough time with the kids. Those kinds of guilt can hang over you like a dark cloud (like Olaf, with my own personal rain cloud). And then, because you just kind of get used to the guilt ick, it becomes harder to identify those times when there really is something specific you need to address (like that apology that needs to be made, for example). So, all that to say, I LOVE how you addressed not just slogging through under guilt, but taking it head-on, really examining it and getting to the bottom of it. If it’s something that needs addressing, address it. Great wisdom!

  2. Thanks Lynna! I agree. Many times it is more of a general “we shouldn’t be eating out” or “I shouldn’t be buying that” ($ is a big one for me), but it is important to address it when we can! Thanks!

  3. This was interesting, I just shared how returning to work felt like I was dying and how the guilt was just killing me. How I overcame it. It was nice to read this and see that some things we just need to let it go 🙂 Great article, sharing it out.

  4. I wrestled with some mommy guilt this Saturday. My response was to write down what I’d done with the boys that day to see if I really hadn’t engaged with them enough or if it was in my head. I did that, and I discovered that it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but there were a few things I’d wanted to do better. I took what I’d learned and applied it the next day, and I felt a lot better afterward.

  5. Guilt is a tiny voice inside your head that comes every now and then.

    Yes, it does come every now and then. How I wish I could have done more. How I wish I could have done something else. How I wish I took a chance to do this or that. And it is a never ending list of how I wish…

    I think motherhood makes that guilt even bigger and resounding louder. I even found a book titled “Mommy Guilt” on my early mothering years. Does it help? Well maybe, but one thing that really helps lately is to know Christ in us.

    I am so much relieved when I get a better understanding of how God wants us to be free of guilt. He wants us to know how much He loves us. How much He is satisfied with us. Yes, He is, and all that we do satisfies Him. Now, when I feel that many kind of guilty feeling, I will go to His word, listen to sermons that gives me life, remembering me that He cares for me. He knows that what I have done is enough. It is simple, yet very complicated for ourr little minds to really sink that in.

    I pray for all of you to have the peace in your mind and not to be consumed in guilt.
    You are all loved by Jesus Christ.

    1. Thank you for sharing a bit about what helps you when you are dealing with guilt. I appreciate your encouraging words.

  6. Oh, it is so, so true that guilt begets guilt. Honestly, my best way of dealing with it is to remember that as long as I’m doing my best, that’s what matters. And I can try again the next day. I need to remember that I’m human and can only do so much, but as long as I do my best, then that’s what’s most important. Other times, I realize that’s a crutch for me not to push myself, and so then the guilt comes back again. Typically, a nice workout helps me get a clear head. 🙂

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