As I write this, my little man Finn is 5 months old and ready to get mobile! I grow more in love and amazed by him every day. And as the days, weeks, and months swiftly move along, the depth of my fatigue also grows. This is motherhood– simultaneously the best and hardest all at once. I do believe that for those of us who are blessed with the privilege of raising a little one (or two, or more!) motherhood is the single most brain-changing, delightful, challenging, rewarding, exhausting, and terrifying of life experiences. And if that isn’t enough, somehow feelings of guilt end up in that pile of emotion. I have chosen to refuse guilt. I declare “mom guilt” total nonsense.
is guilt really just a choice we make?
I was raised with the understanding that guilt is a choice. We can choose to feel guilty, or be persuaded by guilt, or we can choose not to. This lesson came from my mom, and for that I am grateful. My mom has never once laid a guilt trip on me of any kind. If I’m good and happy, my mom is good and happy for me. It is actually that straightforward.
My mom and I were once out for lunch with a friend of mine, who had had a young child and had recently split from her partner. My friend was explaining that her partner made her feel guilty for wanting to take a couple hours to herself once in a while. My mom called her on it straight away. “Guilt is a choice. It has nothing to do with your partner. You can feel guilty, or you can not. It’s up to you.”
This stuck with me. I have long been a believer that there is very little we can control in our lives. What we do get to control is how we respond in any given situation. Feelings of guilt included.
For most of my life, guilt was never a factor. It’s just not an emotion I chose to indulge and when others attempt to use guilt as a strategy to get me to feel a certain way, or do something, I recognize it for what it is: their stuff. This is about their fear, insecurity and judgement, not mine.
Then I became a mom and really had to put this into practice.
My baby was born in the complete opposite way that we had planned, and almost immediately, I felt inklings of guilt start to creep in. With him needing a week in the neonatal intensive care unit, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was anything I could have done to prevent this. I had to consciously shake these feelings, and keep looking forward so that I could be as present as possible to nourish him to health with all my might. Being the best mom I knew how to be in each moment was my only way to keep the potential guilt at bay.
When we arrived home, it came on even stronger.
Is it too soon to get him to try a bottle, because I need a little sense of freedom even if I don’t actually go anywhere?
Is it okay if I sit him in his bouncy chair while I quickly answer some emails?
At three weeks I left him for the first time to go to work to host a live online information session for my school. Was this selfish of me to want (or perhaps need) to work this soon?
There was one time when he was about five weeks old that I spent forty minutes trying to decide if I should leave him at home with Josh while I went for a walk by myself, or if I should be wearing him more and this was a prime opportunity for bonding. By the time the decision was made, he needed to be fed again and the walk never happened for either of us.
where does mom-guilt come from?
Here’s the thing though: most of the potential triggers for guilt weren’t really about how I was doing as a mother. I felt like Josh and I were rocking it as new parents. If our baby took some naps, nursed, got a bath once in a while, had a fresh onesie ready to go in his drawer, had enough diapers to last us to tomorrow — then I felt like we were smooth sailing.
Most often, the times when guilt-like thoughts would kick in was in response to comments from others. And not just anyone, but from other mothers specifically. This, I hadn’t expected.
One woman online attempted to shame me for not having a name picked out as soon as he was born. Another informed me that I should not be referring to him as “the boy”– that this was cold and insensitive. I was (jokingly?) criticized for only dressing the baby in onesies for his first three months (why buy clothes he’d grow out of so fast?). I was told he needed more toys (and I’m like, he can’t even see his own hands yet!).
I posted about an EMF blanket a mom could wear while nursing if she were on her phone, and someone commented that “god made babies to fit perfectly in our arms for a reason”. At the market, an acquaintance asked if I loved having Finn with me all the time. I explained that he wasn’t. I left for a few hours, two or three days a week to pop into work – which left an awkward moment hovering around us.
Taking care of your little one means taking care of yourself too
Since Finn arrived, I have received literally thousands of kind of beautiful messages of love and blessings. But the comments above? These are the ones I remember word-for-word.
I would often catch myself explaining to total randoms why I had started working again so soon after his birth. I’d explain that I needed to for my own sanity, that it helped me feel competent and connected, and allowed me to serve a purpose aside from being the milk caboose. I don’t know why I felt the need to explain myself.
We are moms. We are amazing. We are enough. We are also sleep-deprived, physically drained, and have just had our worlds exploded by a new tiny human. We don’t have to explain anything. We don’t have to feel guilty for anything at all.
I am not co-sleeping (tried it, no one was sleeping well). I am not attachment parenting (I don’t even fully know what this means but as we’re not co-sleeping, and that I leave him for roughly ten to twelve hours a week, I think this crosses that one off) . I don’t use cloth diapers (I use Seventh Generation). My son doesn’t have an extensive wardrobe (he’s 5-months old, he doesn’t have a job to go to). When I am nursing my son for the 8th time in a 24-hour period, I will go on my phone and check in with my team, or scroll through Etsy or Instagram.
And guess what? I am still an amazing mother. So are you. You are an incredible mom.
I like to think that for most of us, it is built in to our DNA to want the very best for our children. Parenthood will never go as we plan. Life is not an Instagram feed. Shit happens. And sometimes it happens while you’re giving your little one a bath. Or it happens and it’s a total blow out, or a poo-nami as we call it, and you have no choice but to cut his onesie off with scissors and hose him down in the shower in the middle of the night.
Ultimately, I don’t feel the least bit of guilt for making the choice to nourish myself. I know that if I do what I need to feel good emotionally, physically and mentally, then I am able to be the best sleep-deprived version of myself. Yes, my baby means everything to me, and I absolutely want the very best for him. I also know that in order to best serve my little man, I have to take care of myself, be present in my marriage, keep my business going, and tuck away little pockets of time through the week to nurture my wellbeing. Doing that is exactly what makes me an amazing mom. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty. You best not either.
I am very lucky. When I am crawling back into bed at five in the morning after the third or fourth feed of the night, my husband will tell me that I am an amazing mom. He’s an amazing dad, too. We tell each other this all the time.
Parenthood is hard. Don’t choose guilt. That only makes it harder.
Be as present as you can be. Hug and snuggle your little ones. Get sleep when you can. Nourish yourself as you need. Take care. If you are good, your child will be too. What your child needs most is love and you have that to give unconditionally.
You all know a mom, struggling to best care for her little ones. Please, tell her she’s rocking it. You have no idea how much that positive affirmation helps when we are in the midst of the swirling chaos that is motherhood. Unless you are in it, right now…
And if this is you? You are enough. You are a mom. YOU ARE AN AMAZING MOM.
26 responses to “Why “Mom Guilt” Is Total Nonsense”
Yes! Thank you for the reminder to not only not choose guilt, but to model guilt-freedom for my 4 little ones. The shaming thing is big, and I am challenged every day to subvert the dominant paradigm of shaming and guilt that was built into me growing up and challenges me me each day as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend. Awareness and conscious efforts to do what’s best for us and our families, not what others think is best, is key. Way to go, mama! I wish I had your wisdom back when I had my first! You inspire me, I love your work.
Well said! Thank you for this :)
Thank you for saying this, Meghan. I think there’s a lot of us that needed to hear it!
Thank you Meghan for such an extremely important message to all of us Mom’s. I made the choice to stay home when my kids were born, and I still experienced feelings of guilt, even when I was with them all the time. So we all struggle with this. But we need to stay present, and stop guilt in its tracks. It doesn’t serve us. Thanks for your words of wisdom.
Thanks :) needed that…..big time. Wish I had it more when my girls were growing up. But the guilt never stops even when they’re older, so it was good to hear because we’ve definitely got a lot going on right now. You’re awesome
What a great post to wake up to! Mom guilt is huge, I can’t get through the day without myself or fellow mom having some sort of mom guilt moment. We live in a time where so much pressure is put on us as women and as mothers. This is a great message Meghan, thank you for the reminder!
Although I have never been a mom as I am an old man, I was raised with guilt and know all about it. Love your blog. I hope it helps everyone who reads it. As to that son of yours, he is one big fellow. Looks like he will be a football player. He is also very lucky to have you as a mom.
I have to admit, Mommy guilt was the thing I was least prepared for, going into pregnancy and subsequently becoming a parent. It was instantaneous, the moment I first conceived and being a big time type “a”/perfectionist, learning to embrace self care as not just optional but essential was huge. I am nearly 10 years into this journey and I still need to remind myself that taking time for myself is important, and not me shirking my Mom duties. Balance is key, thankfully I have a supportive spouse who supports my taking time, guilt free. I’m the one who has put limits on myself (in terms of the guilt monster). Thanks for this, it was a great read and a wonderful reminder of the importance of self care and kicking guilt to the curb.
Thank you for writing this! We all need to hear it loud and clear!
Beautiful post. You are wise beyond those 5 months of motherhood! Support and encouraging is SO important for new parents and judgement or guilt really has no place here. Interestingly, I found my own feelings of guilt come from within much more than others, because of what we grow up thinking we are supposed to do and be as parents and how to raise kids safe when sometimes that just doesn’t end up working or feel right when you try it. I had the opposite sleep/guilt experience – I couldn’t get my baby to sleep except right beside me, and well, couldn’t very well manage a minimum of 8 wakings a night getting all the way out of bed anyway. I suffered through at least 8 months of guilt about that I think, feeling the need to explain why I couldn’t sleep the way we were supposed to until I came to terms with the fact that we were okay, we were following safe co-sleeping guidelines, and it was just what I needed for my sanity and sleep, which was more important than anything at that point. We all do what we need to survive and be the best parents we can be and what works for one baby just isn’t necessarily going to work for another! Keep being awesome and loving the adventure :)
So true! Very needed for all women to remember, and create almost a spiritual practice out of the concept of no-guilt!
I really want to recommend to you and to all beautiful moms of infants and toddlers to go check “Resources for Infant Educarers”, a philosophy/method created by Dr. Emmi Pikler in Budapest and brought to the USA by Magda Gerber. It’s all about raising an infant with true respect for its innate wisdom and inner guidance for its development. It’s amazing and profound. All your doubts about whether you’re doing the right thing around physical development will dissipate. Check it here: http://www.rie.org
Congratulations, beautiful Mamma! We are cheering you on!
Great blog Meghan and great advice for mom’s young and old. We all need time to nourish ourselves and NOT feel guilty. How would we be great mom’s otherwise? Glad all is well for you, Josh and Finn.
I’m not a new mother, but I truly enjoyed reading about “Mommy Guilt” and one not choosing to receive that frame of mine. Your words are very inspiration to me, as I find myself not giving myself quality time as my husband wears a hearing aid and is blind in one eye and often with the hearing aid he still can’t hear me well. Often, I feel like I’m taking care of a adult baby all over again; the house work is over whelming now that I’m not working outside of the home so that I can take care of him. I wish I can say that I’m not harboring “care givers guilt” but I am. Now, I feel that after reading your blog, I’m going to work on making the choice to not feel guilty about leaving him inside the home so that I can go outside a little bit more or leaving him at home when I need to go to the store. Thank you for your inspiration.
Omg! My baby turned 4 months old today. I’m also a new mom that is bombarded with other people’s comments regarding how I should do things with my baby. The feeling of guilt began right after I gave birth why? Because it wasn’t like I wanted, like I had planned, then baby didn’t latch on my breast I almost got post part I’m depression because of that! I have gone through so many emotions. I learned that I should not expect things to be as planned because they’re never the way I expected them to be. Instead I learned to enjoy the moment and be thankful for whatever I go through every single day because I learn, grow and get stronger. I loved this article I can totally relate. This is a reminder for me to stay positive and guilt free because I gotta admit I have to remind myself everyday, I am a little too attached with him. Thank you Meghan !
What a beautiful post layered with so many lessons of parenthood. I have never been so challenged to confront myself as I have in the last 13 months of being a mother. Somehow my daughter has given me the permission to be ME and take care of me because I wouldn’t want any less for her. I want her to be who she wants to be and to treat herself like the precious , amazing being I see her as. We can best shape our children by modeling and so I’m trying to be a present, engaged mama who tries her best, makes mistakes and produces a lot of messiness in the process. Thank you for sharing your journey and encouraging all parents to raise eachother up rather than tear eachother down. xo
Thanks, Meghan, really interesting take on guilt. Made me think of this article I read recently: “Choosing health: embodied neoliberalism, postfeminism, and the ‘do-diet.’”(It’s my first time commenting, not sure if I could post a link, but the article can easily be found by googling the title…I believe it’s from UofT). You should check it out if you haven’t already…your blog is quoted in the article!
Wow, thank you Meghan! As a new mom (my baby was born just a couple weeks after yours) I can totally relate! It is so easy to feel “bad” for the choices we make but then I look at how she is thriving and know that I am doing the best I can.
Hey! That’s totally true! There is not once but a couple times a week I doubt most of it I am doing. I know somewhere I am doing my best. But we all want to get better. But in the process mom guilt comes charging at you and before you know your leading the mom guilt parade.
I guess as you mentioned we need to be happy with ourselves and know that we aren’t even close to perfect so we shall try and bathe our babies in so much of love which we are more than happy giving.
This is a great article. My second baby is 4 months old and even though I am now a mom of 2 I still get comments. I wish people would acknowledge that there are many “right” ways to parents and not one path. Mom guilt is definitely something I struggle with…mostly that now that I have two precious children that neither are getting enough of what they need. So I have to work at this daily by just trying to be as present as possible with both of them. Also, I have a wonderful collection of cloth diapers that so far I have hardly touched for baby number 2 because I already do several loads of laundry every day and right now I just can’t imagine adding more to that pile! Thanks for hosting article :) I read it while my little one nursed to sleep ;)
Absolutely love this, thank you for the inspiration!
What a beautiful post Meghan! You’ve touched upon a real source of suffering for many moms, myself included. And I just love your mom’s perspective that guilt is a choice and that we have agency over our emotions and can simply not feed the ones we want to disavow. I’ve never commented on a blog post but was moved by this piece and just want to thank you for sharing!
Thank you for posting your kind words, Sharon. I’m honoured!
This is an INCREDIBLE POST. I’m hoping to be a mom soon and you’re someone that definitely inspires me nutritionally and in the parental realm. You are living your best life and rocking mother hood!
Thank you for this. I needed to hear this. I still feel the guilt and am struggling to be self assured. But hopefully I can read this and other words and talk and be able to listen to my inner voice once again and do what’s right for me and be me again. From a mum that’s still a work in progress xxx
As a mom of 3, it can get quite overwhelming with mom guilt and what other people think about you and how you’re raising your kids. My friend always has some sort of “advice” about how to raise my kids but it’s annoying and not asked for. I just read this article, https://www.ez.insure/landing/2021/02/getting-past-mom-guilt/ and it was helpful. I have finally come to the age age where I just don’t care what people think or say. I know I am raising my kids to be good people and that’s all that matters to me.
Yasss! thank you!! I love my kids just as much as the next mom, but they are a lot to deal with sometimes and I need a break! What’s worse is getting shunned for making such comments or looks on how I raise them. It is frustrating and makes me feel like a bad mom at the end of the day. I recently read a great article that was so helpful, https://www.ez.insure/landing/2021/02/getting-past-mom-guilt/ . I think all moms should read this and learn that you are doing a great job and get rid of those negative people out of your circle!