What if mom guilt is good?

Perhaps mom guilt is a sign that you are a caring and aware mother.

What if mom guilt is good?

There's a universal five letter word that is known among all mothers—GUILT.

It's so common that we now think it's “normal” in our role as mothers.

Guilt can steal moments that are meant for relaxation—they leave you feeling like scum and make you do some wacky things.

Last week my husband and I took our boys to the beach to run around the tide pools. There were a ton of other families there with kiddos so we all had fun mingling and enjoying the fresh air. I wish I could have been more in the moment that day, but I was too worried that people would see the rash on my baby's chest. They’d see it and automatically think I was a bad mom. Right?


I actually struck up a conversation with another mom and asked her what she thought about said rash. Now I don't know if that was crossing communal lines or anything (because I'm all for transparency), but when we got back to the car my husband was like, “that was weird”. (Me = ?.)

I've done some soul searching when it comes to mom guilt, and here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Anxiety and mom guilt are like sisters. They’re different but very similar.

I've noticed that like anxiety, mom guilt is often highest when your thoughts have time to wander. You know those calm-after-the-storm kinds of moments—i.e. after yelling at your children and now you’ve tucked everyone in bed and finally have time to relax.

Anxiety and mom guilt have a lot in common—overwhelming thoughts and emotions, negative and distorted thinking and questions of the unknown. Sometimes my overwhelming thoughts look like this—was I on my phone too much today depriving my children of enough eye contact or attention? Was I too harsh in that punishment? Do I really have a close relationship with my children—will they want to be my friend when they're older? Will they turn out okay? And if they don't turn out okay, will it be my fault?

Yes, friends, this is a rabbit hole that you and I could dig forever.

2. Maybe we can shift our perspective on guilt.

So the question arises—are we doomed to feelings of guilt just because we bore children? Maybe this is a result of feeling responsible for raising good humans and maybe we can look at guilt differently.

To look at it differently we must take our shame out of the equation. Brene Brown, Ph.D. who has studied shame for the past thirteen years, describes shame as, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging and that something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

There you have it! Our need for connection with our children is so great that we might even question if we're worthy of this love and if we're going to screw it up. But of course we’re going to mess up from time to time! We’re human. The good news is—so are our children. They need to see us make mistakes, and then learn how to pick up the pieces and ask for forgiveness by watching us model that ourselves.

3. Guilt can be helpful.

Based on her research, Brene Brown and other shame researchers have found a profound difference between shame and guilt. Brown says, “I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful—it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up to our values and feeling psychological discomfort.”

In redefining mom guilt, let's look at it as a sign that you are a caring and aware mother.

When feelings of guilt arise, exam yourself without judgment and make corrective changes. When guilt, however, is a response to feeling like you're not perfect—please tell yourself a new story.

You can’t and shouldn’t be perfect.

No one wants perfection because that's nauseating. Your people want real love and acceptance. I have a feeling that if you’re reading this then your family probably already knows you love them more than the moon, stars and Netflix combined.

So mothers—let's take the shame out of our guilt and give ourselves (and each other) a healthy does of empathy for doing the hardest job in the world, and crushing it, no less. Let’s remind ourselves to have the courage and compassion it takes to live our best lives, which includes connecting with our families by being vulnerable and honest.

Join Motherly

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Tenth & Pine: Gender-neutral and butter-soft basics for littles + bigs

In 2016, after a stage four endometriosis diagnosis and a 10 year battle with infertility, Tenth & Pine founder Kerynn got her miracle baby, Ezra Jade. As a SAHM with a Masters in Business, she wanted to create a brand that focused on premium quality, function, comfort, and simplicity.

She sought out premium, all natural fabrics and factories that shared her core values, practicing environmentally friendly manufacturing methods with fair and safe working conditions for employees. As a result, her made in the USA, gender-neutral designs check all the boxes. The sustainable, organic basics are perfect for everyday wear, family photos and any adventure in between.

Lucy Lue Organics: Sustainably and ethically-produced modern baby clothes

This family-owned and operated business was started by a mama who wanted out of corporate America after the birth of her son. Thoughtfully designed to mix-and-match, Lucy Lue's sustainably and ethically produced collection of modern organic baby clothes only uses fabrics that are "environmentally friendly from seed to seam." Their gorgeous, earthy tones and comfy, minimalist styles make the perfect addition to first wardrobes from birth through the first years.

Sontakey: Simple bracelets that speak your mind

Sontakey has been such a hit in the Motherly Shop that we knew it was time to expand the line. And since these beautiful mantra bands look so stunning stacked, more options = more fun.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less

Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.


I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

Keep reading Show less

As a mom, I say the phrase 'let me just…' to my kids more times a day than I can count.

Yes, I can help you log into your class, let me just send this email.
Yes, I can play with you, let me just make one more call.
Yes, I can get you a snack, let me just empty the dishwasher.

I say it a lot at work, too.

Yes, I can write that article, let me just clear my inbox.
Yes, I can clear my inbox, let me just finish this meeting.
Yes, I can attend that meeting, let me just get this project out the door.

The problem is that every 'let me just' is followed by another 'let me just'... and by the time they're all done, the day is over, and I didn't do most of the things I intended—and I feel pretty bad about myself because of it.

I wasn't present with my kids today.
I didn't meet that deadline.
I couldn't muster the energy to cook dinner.
The house is a mess. I am a mess. The world is a mess.

It's okay, I tell myself. Let me just try again tomorrow.

But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and the list of things I didn't get to or didn't do well bears down on my shoulders and my heart, and all I can think is, "I am failing."

And I think that maybe I'm not alone.

Keep reading Show less
Work + Money