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.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.


Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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