Why is mom guilt a thing? Why do moms beat themselves up for normal everyday things? Society definitely puts a lot of pressure on the mom to do everything right, yet the definition of “right” varies by person, and so we can NEVER please everyone.
I thought it might be fun to compile some things that moms may feel guilty for and express how silly it is for us to judge ourselves against each other. We need to come together and lift each other up, rather than judge each other harshly. There is no parenting manual, and we are all just doing our best. What is best for us, may not work for someone else. We all have our own set of circumstances, and nobody else knows or understands how these things impact the decisions we make.
Moms are guilted by others for their parenting choices constantly. If you are a working mom, you feel guilty for not staying home. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you feel guilty for not contributing financially to the home. It is basically a no-win situation. How do you come to terms with the pressure each side faces? Why are moms judged so harshly?
Let’s talk about food. There is so much pressure on moms to feed our kids healthy meals. When we are pressed for time and stop for a quick meal at a fast food place, we feel guilty. How ridiculous is that?! Why should we feel guilty for feeding our kids a quick meal on the road in order to fit everything into our day?
Then, there are school lunches. You can pay the money to feed your child the lunch provided at school, which is supposed to be a healthy and balanced meal. However, I happen to know one of my kids is a very picky eater. I know if I buy him the school lunch he will likely not eat and throw most of it in the trash. So, I pack him a cold lunch every day. However, when you pack a cold lunch, the school district has some rules you must follow. For instance, we are not allowed to pack the kids “soda” for lunch. But I can send them a sugary juice drink, and that is okay? I don’t understand why the school feels like they can tell me what I can give my child to drink. Isn’t it my job to parent this child? The school is responsible for educating. Why are they able to give me rules about the food I give my kid? But, because these rules exist, I feel mom guilt. I feel mom guilt for not giving my kid something I know he would drink and be hydrated. He is so fussy that he sometimes becomes dehydrated and constipated due to lack of fluid. There are days that I give him a root beer to prevent him from feeling ill. I sometimes use root beer as a bribe. Again, enter the mom guilt for bribing my child with soda. I also feel guilty for being annoyed with these “rules” set up at school. Honestly, I understand why they exist. But, my child has a different circumstance from another child, and I need to parent him accordingly.
Mom guilt over food extends to the supper table. I feel guilty that I cannot seem to make anything that the entire family likes to eat. Every time I cook, I know that somebody will not want to eat. It is brutal. Sometimes, I just make what I want to eat. The mom guilt on these days is a bit overwhelming. Am I selfish? I know the kids are going to complain. But, after a long day, I should be able to enjoy the food too. But, mom guilt prevents me from truly enjoying things too often. I know some parents will make more than one meal to please everyone. I am not that parent. I do let the kids make themselves a sandwich if they don’t like what I cook. And, then I feel guilty because they likely had a sandwich at lunch, and now are having another for supper. The guilt surrounding food is never-ending.
And, let’s be honest, the food guilt starts at infancy. Are you a breastfeeding mom? You are taking away the opportunity for the father to feed the baby and bond. Are you a formula-feeding mom? Is formula as healthy for the baby as nature’s perfect breast milk? There will probably be guilt no matter what you choose. Why are we so judgmental? Why can’t we just support each other?
I also feel mom guilt over having more than one child. Why? Because, the kids all want my attention, and inevitably, one will feel like they aren’t getting enough attention, and therefore, the other is the “favorite.” Having a favorite child is real. Let’s just admit it. We ALL have a favorite if there is more than one child. Why is that so taboo? We are supposed to say, “I don’t have a favorite, you are all my favorite.” But…are they really? Of course not. To be fair, each day presents an opportunity for the favorite to change. The favorite is not always the same. Which is why it is okay. Each kid has their moments when they are the favorite. But, alas, mom guilt exists over the fact that we naturally prefer one kid over the other at times.
Then, add in the guilt that is reserved for adoptive moms. Holidays, when you want to celebrate with your family, but there is the nagging feeling of guilt that your children have a birth mom out there who is likely thinking of them and feeling sad, while you are having a wonderful day with them. I don’t know about other adoptive moms, but my mom guilt associated with adoption comes and goes regularly. But then, when I am adamant that I will not feel guilty for being this child’s mom, I then feel more guilty for wondering if I am being selfish for only thinking of my own feelings. Oh, the circle of mom guilt here is a vicious one, friends.
I feel mom guilt when I haven’t cleaned up the clutter in the house and my kids have a friend over. Why? What if this kid comes from one of those perfect looking homes, with no clutter or dust? What if they look at our house and think less of us because we have clutter and dust? What if this changes their opinion of my child? I am just not the kind of mom that cleans constantly. Our home is a “lived-in” home. It isn’t immaculate, but it isn’t filthy. We have clutter, pet hair, and dust. Most of the time, I am fine with our house. But when we have guests, I worry if my children are being judged on my “mom failure” to keep the house perfect. Mom guilt. It does not stop.
Mom guilt about technology is another area of guilt. Does my child spend too much time staring at the glowing screens? How much time is too much time? Should we be allowing them to play video games or watch videos? What about sending them outside to play instead? Should I force my kid to go outside when they just want to relax inside? At what age should we buy our kids a smartphone? Let’s face it, all the other kids have a smartphone, according to what they say. Even some kindergarteners have their own phones! So, why doesn’t my fifth grader have a phone yet? Should I feel guilty for not letting him have something that many of his friends have? Should I feel guilty that when I am busy feeding pets or cooking dinner, and they ask if they can play video games I mutter, “I don’t care,” rather than trying to make them read a book or play outside? I don’t know if I should feel guilty or not, but I often do. Why? Why do I feel guilty that I am not one of the parents who doesn’t even allow my kids to watch television? Why do we think one way is better than the other? While not having a television works great for some, it would not work for me. Why do I feel like I am not as good of a parent because I allow video games and television?
I also feel guilty about whether I can pay for my kid’s college education. I know some parents that do not save for their kids’ college tuition at all. They feel like they pay for things until age 18, and that is enough. Some feel like their responsibility to their child extends until they have completed all of their education, including paying for their child’s college tuition. Is one of these ways better than the other? What if your child doesn’t go to college immediately, are you still going to pay for the education if they wait for five years to begin? Are you responsible for paying for the education at all? If I do pay, I am being extra? While if I choose to have them pay themselves, am I being a bad parent? Why do I feel guilty about whether or not I can pay for college? Why are we judging each other over this decision? Shouldn’t this be an individual family choice? Why is this a source of mom guilt?
Photos. I have more photos of my younger kid than my older. My older child makes me feel incredibly guilty that this is the case. To be fair, I have several photo albums of my oldest child. She was born before digital cameras and smartphones. I had to actually develop film to have photos of her. I didn’t know if the picture was good or bad until I already paid for the pictures! Did she blink? Was the photo blurry? It didn’t matter, I had to pay for it to find out. And because the camera was a separate item, not part of the phone we carry always, we were not able to document every random moment. And yet, I still have many albums of her, because I love photos. My youngest son came to us after we had digital cameras and smartphones. It is incredibly easy to photograph him multiple times daily. I do not have to pay to develop film, and I can see the picture immediately! It is a whole new time! Therefore, because the camera is now part of our phone, which we now carry everywhere, I have a whole lot of photos of my youngest. If I printed them and put them in albums, it would surpass the number of albums I have of my oldest. And she is sensitive to this, thinking it is a reflection of love. This brings me incredible mom guilt. But that is part of having kids with a big age gap, that reflects a major change in technological advances during the time. Why do I allow myself to feel guilt over this? Mom guilt is everywhere.
I also feel some guilt over what my children wear to school. Am I buying them clothing that is considered “cool” or am I being too cheap? I am not a parent that buys clothing based on brand names. I am thrifty. I love a good sale. I worry that maybe I am impacting their childhood negatively. I never had “cool” clothing as a child. My family couldn’t afford the brand name stuff. I remember being particularly sensitive that I never had brand name shoes. Because of this, I do buy the kids brand name shoes once they begin school. But I worry that maybe I should buy the expensive sweatshirt, rather than the fun one. I feel guilty that my thrifty nature could cause my kids to be picked on. And then, I get frustrated. Why is this a reason to feel guilty? Why are we teaching our children that the more expensive something is, the better? I can tell you that the fun sweatshirt is just as warm as the plain, expensive sweatshirt. But someone somewhere deemed the plain, expensive sweatshirt to be the “cool” one, and that is just the way it is. And so, this is a source of mom guilt.
As a mom, I crave some downtime. I want to have time to relax too. But when I take a moment for myself, I feel guilty. If I take a half-hour to read a book, I feel guilty. I should be interacting with my kids. But why? My parents didn’t entertain me every waking moment, and I turned out just fine. So why do I feel guilty that I don’t spend every single moment devoted to my kids? Society has changed so much, and we are so mean to each other.
I could go on and on about things I feel guilty about as a mother. I am sure most of you reading could add to this as well.
Mom guilt is brutal. We judge ourselves too harshly, and we need to stop. We are all doing our best with what we have. Let’s support each other rather than promote the culture of mom guilt.