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Ask a group of 10 mamas to define or describe mom guilt and you will likely get 10 different responses. We all associate feelings of guilt with different parenting situations that are as unique as we are. It ranges from feeling guilty about snapping at your children when you're run down, feeding them sugary snacks or leaving for an overnight work trip.

We feel guilt for big and small things, for things we did and didn't do and everything in between.

As a coach helping new moms adjust to motherhood, it's a big topic and one that repeatedly comes up. While it's not always labeled as mom guilt, those feelings of overwhelm, balancing what we're focusing our time on, or feeling bad that we haven't had a date night or a girls' night out in months, it usually circles back to guilt.

Guilt, when not addressed, can be quite a consuming feeling. It can become a bad habit, one that grows over time until soon you second-guess everything that you do for fear of feeling guilty afterward.

While I could certainly share my own experiences with guilt, I know they may not encompass the wide spectrum of mom guilt. So I asked some of my friends, colleagues and fellow moms to help me share stories of mom guilt, and I was surprised at some of the answers.

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Here's what they had to say:

When do you experience mom guilt?

1. When I'm trying to blend work and life

"I have a job that has a lot of flexibility so I am around a lot more than other full-time jobs but a lot of the time I never feel like I am fully present. I am always taking phone calls and worrying about clients. It's hard to push that out of mind and focus fully on the kids."

2. When I lose my temper

"I lose my temper with my daughter all the time, and it's usually because I'm tired. When I don't parent with grace and instead react out of anger or frustration, I feel terrible, especially because it probably could have been prevented if I had gone to bed earlier the night before."

3. When I have to travel for work

"Two weeks ago I was out of town for a work conference and found out our 1-year-old had fallen down the stairs the night before and was taken to the hospital via ambulance. He was completely fine (just had an ear infection), but I felt guilty that I wasn't there.

"I kept thinking if I had been there I would have been an extra pair of hands and my husband wouldn't have been so stressed trying to get everyone ready for bed. I felt guilty that my husband had to go through that terrifying experience alone. I felt guilty that I couldn't be there for several more days to hold my baby and have physical proof he was okay."

4. When I had a hard time with breastfeeding

"I was unable to exclusively breastfeed my babies past four months. My milk supply couldn't keep up, and truthfully, I wasn't willing to be attached to my pump and eat all kinds of supplements to try to increase my milk. So we just started using formula. With my first born, I cried over this many times. I was disappointed and felt guilty that I wasn't giving her breast milk. But eventually I came to appreciate the conveniences of formula, and my guilt subsided.

"I was surprised when my son was born and we made the switch to formula again that [the guilt] crept back up. I remember bottle-feeding my newborn and feeling like I had to tell everyone in the room that the bottle was breast milk. Why is that?! Why do we need to slip it into the conversation that we're giving our kid breast milk or justify why we're not? When I stopped producing enough, that was disappointing but to be honest, I didn't love breastfeeding and felt a little relieved that it was over, and that made me feel guilty too. Why didn't I love something I was literally designed to do? Did I give up too easily? And would I have loved it if I had had a normal supply? I wrestled with these questions a lot."

5. When I feel like I'm working too much

"Luckily, I do not have to do morning drop off (that's my husband's realm). Avoiding the daycare drop off has been huge in terms of avoiding mom guilt on a regular basis. I typically do not feel guilty while I'm at work because I get a fair amount of fulfillment from my work, which I think makes me a better mom at the end of the day.

"However, I feel very guilty when my work bleeds into what should be time with my family (evenings and weekends). This happened a lot last school year (new school districts and new preps = 55-60 hour work weeks). I felt very guilty having to tell my son I couldn't play or couldn't go to the zoo with him and his dad on a Sunday because I had to work."

How do you move past the guilt?

It happens to the best of us, and it happens pretty frequently. Feeling guilty over certain circumstances, behavior and decisions is a part of parenting. So how do you move past those feelings of mom guilt? What can you think or do instead?

These were some of my favorite tips:

1. Be grateful

"Instead of feeling bad about yourself for something you can't control, try to be grateful. For example, write out gratitude l that you can afford formula and that formula even exists."

2. Talk about it, normalize it

"Talk about your experience when it comes up in conversation to normalize it—for yourself and for any other moms who might be listening. If someone says something offensive or insensitive, give them the benefit of the doubt."

3. Keep busy

"Keeping busy at work or during work travel is the best way to distract yourself and keep your mind off of feeling guilty."

4. Forgive yourself

"Accidents will happen whether you are there all the time or not, no matter how careful you are. The same thing could have happened even if you hadn't been away and both parents had been looking out for the kids' safety. It's okay to let yourself off the hook.

"If you lose your patience with your little one and resort to harsh words or actions, make a point to apologize and ask for forgiveness as soon as possible. Talk about why you both got upset, and after you hug it out, your guilt will probably have melted away."

5. Set boundaries

"Try setting stronger work boundaries so you can be more present at home. Especially if you don't work a traditional 9-5 job, that flexibility can lead to never being fully present. Find the boundaries that work for you so you can focus on family or work and not both all of the time."

6. Ask yourself some questions

If you feel overcome with mom guilt, try asking yourself:

  • Is your child thriving and happy? (yes)
  • Do theyknow they have a mom who loves them? (yes)
  • Are they learning new lessons/skills at daycare that you maybe wouldn't have even thought to teach them? (yes)

Then, what a lucky kid!

Remember you are not alone

If I can teach you one thing about guilt, it's that whether you feel guilty or not, is completely up to you. You may say, "she made me feel so guilty when she said…" or "hearing her talk about the privilege she has in staying home with her kids made me feel so guilty."

But it's not true. She didn't make you feel guilty. You thought that what she does or how she mothers was better, and that thought created the guilty feeling. Or you felt like you are doing a disservice to your family.

Knowing that, being aware of that, is so powerful.

I hope that by reading these honest stories from other moms who are doing the best that they can, you realize that we all feel it. We all experience mom guilt.

Share your stories, talk about it, normalize it, or challenge yourself with some of those amazing questions about whether your kid is happy, healthy and knows he is loved.

I bet you can talk yourself down off that ledge or pick yourself up out of those feelings of guilt. We all get through them and we get better and stronger every time that we do. Don't avoid the situations that "make you feel guilty". Walk head-on into them knowing you're not alone and knowing you have the tools to get past it.

Many thanks to these amazing women who were willing to share their stories:

  • Brooke Lehenbauer - Stay-at-home mom & part-time family photographer, Mom to a girl and a boy (3 yo and 7 months)
  • Jackie - Sales/Account Management, Mom to 3 kiddos (5, 3 and 1)
  • Lauren Karas - High school teacher, Mom to 3 yo boy and one on the way!
  • MC - Realtor, Mom to 2 boys (4 1/2 and 2 yo)

Originally posted on The Mother Nurture.

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


This article was sponsored by Lovevery. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Working a full day while pregnant can feel exhausting, particularly when you add a long commute to and from work to your day. And if recent research into pregnancy and commuting is any indication, employers may want to look twice at flexible and remote working situations if they want to attract and keep employees with growing families.

There are so many benefits to remote work for pretty much everyone, but there's a major benefit to pregnant employees. Cutting commutes can result in healthier pregnancies.

Now, don't be alarmed if you travel a short or moderate distance to work every day, but a new study, which appears in Economics & Human Biology, suggests that pregnant women who commute at least 50 miles are at greater risk of delivering low birth weight babies or experiencing restricted fetal growth.

This risk seems to increase for every additional 10 miles traveled, but due to the way the working world is currently structured, many mamas do have to commit to long commutes during pregnancy. Motherly co-founder Jill Koziol was one of them.

"I distinctly remember being pregnant with my first daughter and commuting two hours a day as a consultant in Washington, D.C. It was hard on my growing body, leading me to seek chiropractic care, and toward the end of my pregnancy, made me nervous to be so far from home and the hospital—but, that's the reality for many mamas," says Koziol.

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While a long commute lead Koziol to seek chiropractic care, this new research suggests these journeys to and from work can actually decrease a mother's odds of getting proper prenatal care—moms with long commutes appear less likely to visit a doctor for a first trimester checkup or even throughout their pregnancies, probably because they are just so crunched for time (and tired).

It's important to remember that a long commute certainly doesn't mean you'll run into pregnancy complications, that's just the trend researchers observed in this particular population of pregnant commuters from New Jersey in 2014 and 2015. The average commute was 64 miles, and the commuters spent an average of 78 minutes traveling to work.

While most pregnant women make between 10 and 15 medical visits through their pregnancies, the moms in this sample attended 11 visits on average, and 15% did not make it to a first-trimester appointment at all.

Long commutes impact prenatal care 

"The finding that low birth weight might be associated with a source of stress like long-distance commuting is somewhat expected, since chronic strain has been found to be linked to adverse birth outcomes," says Muzhe Yang, Associate Professor of Economics at Lehigh University and co-author of the study. "However, it was surprising to find an association with under-use of prenatal care among pregnant women commuting long-distance."

The idea that stress may be behind this link probably doesn't shock many people. After all, we've all heard that pregnant women should avoid stress whenever possible — just like we all know this isn't always an option. We live in a society where stress and burnout are huge concerns, and these findings may add another layer to the ongoing conversation about the importance of workplace flexibility.

Remote work could benefit pregnant employees and employers 

The ability to work remotely, either full or part-time, is majorly attractive to most employees — but for new and expectant moms, it can be imperative. Contending with a daily commute can just make it that much harder for a pregnant woman to carve out time for her own health. It can force a mother who is placed on bed rest to start her maternity leave well before she delivers. It can be a factor in a new mom choosing to leave her job altogether.

This is bad news for employers because retaining talented, skilled workers helps minimize the costs associated with employee turnover.

And yes, commuting can be bad for expecting mothers, making a stressful time that much more stressful, and potentially contributing to the outcomes as outlined in this study.

Of course, not every pregnant woman has the ability to work remotely, and these findings may not even refer to expectant moms who have shorter commutes. But for those of us who can essentially get our jobs done from anywhere, should remote work be an option? Some employers are saying yes.

Motherly is  on the cutting edge of an important trend 

Modern companies appear more and more tapped into the value of workplace flexibility—take Bumble, for example. Founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd reportedly began rethinking her own company's policies during her own pregnancy.

Meanwhile, at Motherly, Koziol and her co-founder, Liz Tenety, have created a company that is 100% remote. "With a growing team of more than 30, we've found that we are on the cutting edge of an important trend for workplaces. Research shows that companies with a substantial remote workforce have a higher percentage of women in leadership roles, which amounts to roughly four times as many women in CEO/founding roles than S&P 500 office-based companies."

Remote work is good for Motherly's employees and its bottom line—and no one has to commute, pregnant or otherwise.

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Two things happened the moment I left for maternity leave: My colleagues began counting down the days until I returned to work, anxiously awaiting a few baby photos and the possibility of a visit to the office with my new bundle of joy, and I began feeling the weight of every single one of those precious days, knowing that my time at home was finite.

The person who walked (okay wobbled…) out of that office hours before her baby was born was very different than the one who came back.

Leaving my baby to come back to work was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Luckily, I have amazing colleagues who made my transition back at work feel nearly seamless, and their efforts helped me realize that it's the small things that add up to make a big difference.

Here's what they did that helped me:

Let your colleague know she was missed. Leading up to my leave, I struggled with thinking I was replaceable, and that as soon as I left no one would even notice I was gone. While those worries lessened after my baby was born, it meant a lot to come back and be reminded that even though the wheels kept turning while I was out, the company still looked to me as the best person to do my job.

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Give her space while she is on leave. While you do want to let your teammate know she is missed, don't obstruct her maternity leave by sharing unnecessary work information or office drama. Those weeks at home are sacred (and often unpaid), and while it can be nice to hear what is going on in the outside world, nothing can make a new mom feel more distracted than hearing about situations at work that may make her anxious to go back.

Make her first day back feel special. Whether it's texting a note of encouragement, leaving pictures of her baby on her desk, or coordinating a team breakfast, these little things make a mom feel special and supported. At the very least, make sure her desk is clean and the way she left it before she went on leave.

Be open to a flexible schedule. While not every job allows for a flexible schedule, many do, and one can really help a new mom make the transition back. If you are lucky enough to work for an organization that embraces flexibility, support your co-worker who needs to exercise that benefit for a season of life. She isn't any less committed to her job, and chances are she will be your biggest advocate when you need some flexibility too.

It's okay to ask about her baby. Take a minute or two to ask your colleague about her baby on a regular basis. While your co-worker's baby might be low on your totem pole, recognize that the new mom back at work likely can't think of anything else but her baby.

Respect her right to pump. Chances are your colleague is going to make regular trips to a private room so she can feed her baby. I was upfront about my need (and right) to pump with my colleagues and I let my team know that my calendar would be blocked twice a day for pumping sessions. While my team was respectful, that is not always the case for new moms. Many women sacrifice pumping sessions to make time for "urgent" meetings and last-minute requests. Even though occasionally moving a session is fine, doing so on a consistent basis will result in a drop of milk supply for that mama. So, if it is urgent, ask her if she doesn't mind taking a call from the pumping room. If it must be done in-person, apologize and don't make it a habit.

Empower her to be a mom first. One of the best things we can do as colleagues is support all parents as they put their families first. When mom needs to leave early to go to take her baby to an appointment, wish her well rather than asking her when she is going to be back online. A team member who feels content and fulfilled at home is going to bring so much more to the workplace than one who feels burdened with guilt.

Invite her to join team events. While recognizing her role as mom is her top priority, chances are she can use a break—and maybe a cocktail too. Even if your colleague declines the invitation to join after-work happy hours, continue inviting her along. Motherhood is all about balance, and while most nights she is probably vying to get home and cuddle her baby before bedtime, I guarantee you she is looking forward to a happy hour with colleagues too.

These little things add up, and the more we are self-aware of how we treat new moms, the more likely we are to keep that mom in the workplace and make her feel validated in her role at home and at work. Many of these apply to dads too, and it is equally important for fathers and partners to feel supported and encouraged in their roles.

At the end of the day, nothing teaches you how to give grace more than motherhood, and returning to work will undoubtedly present you with opportunities to exercise that grace both with yourself and with your well-intentioned colleagues.

I remind myself often that we don't know what we don't know, so don't be afraid to be vulnerable with your colleagues and let them know how they can best support you during your transition back to work.

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Earlier this month country singer Granger Smith shared some unthinkably tragic news: His son, River Kelly Smith, had died at just 3 years old. Soon after we learned that the little boy had drowned.

Now, Smith and his family have opened up about their loss in an emotional YouTube video memorializing River and thanking medical staff for all the efforts made in his final hours.

In the video Smith and his wife, Amber, explained that, like Bode Miller's daughter, little River's drowning did happen in a home swimming pool. Smith says he and the kids were outside that day. The singer and his oldest, daughter London, age 7, were doing gymnastics. River and his 5-year-old brother Lincoln were having a water gun fight.

"I remember thinking, I was looking at London, as she was doing gymnastics and I thought, 'Soak up this moment because it's not going to last forever,'" Smith explains in the video. Soon, that moment turned to panic. "Somewhere between 30 seconds and three minutes, we don't know, Amber and I are inside our pool gate doing CPR on our son."

"We had an incredible boy for three years"

In the video, the Smiths explain that they "feel very blessed" to have had River in their lives for "just over a thousand days."

It is heartbreaking, but the Smiths say they don't want pity or to wallow in sorrow and are trying to cherish the moments that they did have with River and figure out where they will go from here.

"It has only been two weeks but it has been a journey," says Smith.

In an Instagram post, Smith explained why he and Amber are choosing to share the details of River's death publicly:

"I've been dark on social media, but I still have a full understanding of the responsibility placed upon me as a public figure. I can choose to snuff that influence, or instead use my platform (in relevancy big or small) towards what I believe is right. I believe I'm obligated on certain levels to include you guys in my current journey, as I've been involved either personally or musically in yours," the 39-year-old singer wrote of the tragedy he and his family have suffered.

The circumstances around River's death are all too common 

A new report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission asserts that child drownings are on the rise. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children aged 1 to 4. According to the report, fatal drownings spiked in 2016, with 389 reported deaths of children under 15 and 74% of these fatalities occurring in children under 5.

This news highlights the need for more awareness and vigilance. And by sharing this data—and some things parents should keep in mind as we head into the summer—the report (and the Smith's video) may save lives.

Fatal drownings commonly occur during the summer and at residential locations. This makes a lot of sense: It's easy to feel a false sense of security in your own home (or a close friend's home), but the absence of a qualified lifeguard could lead to some devastating scenarios. That's why the team behind this report is urging everyone to sign the Pool Safety Pledge—because by familiarizing yourself with the dangers and the best way to avert them, you could potentially save a child from this tragic fate.

Water safety for parents 

On top of learning how to keep your child safe yourself, you may also want to equip your little one with swimming skills. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a great time to start swimming lessons is earlier than you may think: The organization suggests that children as young as a year old can benefit from lessons.

The AAP also warns parents or guardians to always supervise children in pools, ensure an adult is within arm's reach of inexperienced swimmers, and consider avoiding things like inflatable floaties (which are not replacements for life jackets and may give parents a false sense of security). Parents who have pools in their homes should consider installing a fence of at least 4 feet around the pool, keeping rescue equipment close at hand, and have drains and suctions updated regularly. You can find a full list of tips from the AAP here.

The prospect of losing a child to drowning is harrowing, so it's of utmost importance that we all learn as much as we can about prevention as we head into the summer. We hope this report has the power to keep kids everywhere safe in the water.

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It's important that kids have both male and female role models to help dispel harmful stereotypes and reinforce their understanding of the fundamental uniqueness and equality of each person. At the heart of this is personalism and it encourages kids to emulate what's best in people who come from a wide range of backgrounds with different personalities and physical attributes.

For a long time, female representation in television and movies lagged far behind male representation, making it harder to find suitable role models that are worthy of admiration. Thankfully, there are now a growing number of great female role models on television and in movies that all kids can admire and emulate.

Of course, what constitutes a role model is subjective. As parents, my wife and I look for role models that reinforce the lessons that we teach our kids and display behavior that corresponds with an approach to life that aligns with our understanding of morality, human flourishing and a life of joy.

Role models show that strength and compassion are not opposites. They prove that women can pursue and achieve excellence, while still valuing relationships and other people. They teach kids that real courage is not bravado or a lust for recklessness, but perseverance and determination in the face of serious obstacles to achieving what is right and just.

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Here are seven fictional role models that can inspire kids of all ages.

1. Wonder Woman

In the DC universe's most acclaimed film, Wonder Woman declares, "I'm willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves." Upon fully realizing the implications of free will and the human capacity for both goodness and evil, she concludes that "only love can truly save the world."

In response, she says, "So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be." When she realizes the brokenness of the world and human person, she responds not with cynicism (as so many do), but with a renewed commitment to love and building a better world.

Wonder Woman is recommended for kids age 7+ and has a PG-13 rating.

2. Moana

Moana breaks the "curse of the good girl" by breaking from conventions out of love for her people. She loves and respects her parents, but her sense of mission or call leads her to heroically undertake an adventure to save the world. She has a strong sense of identity, which is linked to who she is unique as a person and her duties. She is wholly comfortable in her own skin, indifferent to the superficial. She displays courage and compassion and refuses to turn back in the face of difficulties, even when Maui wants to give up. And it is her empathy and compassion that ultimately brings out the best in Maui and saves the world.

Moana is recommended for kids ages 4+ and has a PG rating.

3. Katniss Everdeen

In the Hunger Games series, Katniss Everdeen is willing to risk her own life to save her sister in a selfless act of love. Throughout the films, she refuses to surrender her integrity and ultimately has the wisdom and will to do what is necessary so that the revolution will succeed and serve all.

The Hunger Games is recommended for kids age 12+ and has a PG-13 rating.

4. Mulan

The Disney character Mulan is a great role model because she does what is right and courageous, despite serious social pressures and strictures. Her sense of morality extends beyond legalism and conformity. She also has a real sense of authenticity.

She knows that being herself would break her family's heart—she's sensitive to that, but ultimately willing to put the good of her family above their immediate desires. While there is pressure to focus on her physical appearance and manners to win a husband, she thinks that men should be more interested in having a girl with a brain who speaks her mind. And it is her courage and her wits that ultimately save the day.

Mulan is recommended for kids ages 5+ and has a G rating.

5. Hermione

In the Harry Potter series, Hermione is daring and courageous, brilliant and hardworking, compassionate and caring. In our society, many with innate intelligence (or those with affluent backgrounds who imagine they are inherently intellectually superior) take pride in their intelligence and treat it as though it is an accomplishment they have earned. This can lead to hubris and a lax work ethic.

Hermione is naturally gifted and it takes her some time to be confident without looking down on others who are less intellectually gifted or engaged. But she is always hard-working; she utilizes her intellectual gifts to reach her potential. And she uses these gifts to serve others.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is recommended for kids age 7+ and has a PG rating.

6. Rey

Star Wars has a number of strong female characters with many admirable traits, including Leia Organa and Jyn Erso. In the latest trilogy, we are introduced to Rey. Rey is fierce and fearless. She is her own knight in shining armor. She refuses to selfishly sell BB-8. She resists the temptation of the amoral pursuit of power. Instead, she holds fast to her sense of what is right and never surrenders her integrity.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is recommended for kids age 10+, and has a PG-13 rating.

7. Doc McStuffins

The Disney Junior character Doc McStuffins is smart, considerate, and caring. She communicates her feelings and encourages others to do so, as well. She also has fun and can be silly. In our culture, there is too often a failure to treat kids in a way that is appropriate for their age and stage of development.

On the one hand, adults too often strip kids of their joy, energy, and silly fun, trying to turn them into boring, bourgeois adults. On the other hand, they infantilize kids, failing to give them space to try new things, make mistakes, assume responsibilities, and achieve accomplishments that they are fully capable of making. Doc shows that kids can be really serious and responsible when curing toys or helping others, while still having fun and being a kid.

Doc McStuffins is recommended for kids ages 2-7.

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