My husband and I welcomed our first baby boy, Carter, into the world on January 31, 2015. As you can imagine, we were filled with a flood of emotions: excitement, anxiety, gratitude, uncertainty, relief and even fear. But there’s one emotion I was not prepared to battle. I started feeling it the day my child was born, and, unfortunately, I believe I’ll fight it for the rest of my life:
What Is Mom Guilt?
Mom guilt is the thought that the thousands of choices you have to make that affect these little lives God entrusts you with are probably wrong. It’s the loud voice in your head telling you everyone else has this parenting thing figured out and you don’t.
You know that feeling, don’t you? When I had Carter, I had been a mom all of five minutes and already knew it all too well! Mom guilt is that feeling in your gut that says:
- You’ve done something wrong.
- You’re not doing enough.
- You could have done it better.
- How could you do that to your baby?
What Causes Mom Guilt?
I don’t think anyone is immune to mom guilt, and I don’t think you ever fully graduate out of it either. I’ll be honest: When I first became a mom, I felt like a poser. I felt like maybe I was the babysitter, and I just kept waiting for the real mom to come home, swoop in, and take over with confidence, certainty and all of the right answers.
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If that’s you right now, watch this two-minute video about a time when I was at my lowest feeling this way—and the five words I discovered that make all the difference.
Unfortunately, many things make that guilt flare up for moms. But the one that seems to do it the most is “working mom guilt” or the guilt you get when you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom. The mom guilt gets you regardless of the path you choose.
If you stay home with your kids, you feel guilty for not working outside the home and contributing to the family income. If you work outside the home, you feel guilty for hiring childcare instead of being a stay-at-home mom.
You feel guilty for enjoying your job while your baby is being cared for by someone else (“Who, by the way,” says the guilt, “is probably doing a better job than you.”) And then you feel guilty that, on Tuesday at 9 a.m., you’re wishing it was Friday at 5 p.m. because all you really want is to be home with your child.
Other times, you feel guilty for missing bedtime prayers because you’re working late on a project, or for leaving the office early because your baby is sick.
The working mom guilt never stops—whether you’re at home or at the office.
When I went back to work after having Carter, God reminded me of something that’s helped me shake the mom guilt a little bit. When I was feeling guilty about leaving my son at daycare one day, I felt God say to me, “Remember, what you’re doing is important.”
I felt immediate relief as I rested in that truth.
Because you know what? It’s true. What I’m doing is important. The work I do, the message I share, and the lives I impact are so important. And I know the same is true in your life—it might just look a little different from mine.
Three Ways to Deal With Mom Guilt
Since that day, when God spoke to me so clearly, I’ve been able to deal with this kind of guilt a bit better. Here are some practical ways you can deal with it too:
1. Do what’s important to you.
It would be really hard for me to leave my sons to do something I didn’t believe in. But, in my daily life, I practice the same thing I teach to all of you: I only spend my time on things that are important to me. So, when I focus on the importance of what I’m doing, I keep the mom guilt from distracting me from living out the life God has called me to.
2. Don’t get caught up in comparisons.
Your values and how you spend your time are just that: yours. It won’t look the same for someone else because we all have different priorities, and that’s okay.
My friend Rachel Cruze says, “When we start comparing ourselves to other people, we’re playing a game we’ll never win.”
So, when everyone around me is working 70–80 hours a week, I remind myself again: What I’m doing is important. When I don’t answer emails at night because I’m being present with my family, when I leave the office on time to go for a run, or when I take a week off to go on vacation and rest, I choose to not feel guilty.
My family, my exercise, my rest, my hobbies—those things are important to me and my family. And I won’t make you feel guilty for choosing to do something different.
3. Ignore the haters.
I know we’ve all been wounded by the judgement of another woman at one time or another. And, of course, it’s not always obvious.
Sometimes it’s the scowl on another woman’s face when she hears that you’re taking off work for a weeklong vacation. Or it’s the tone in another woman’s voice when she asks where your baby’s hat is “in this weather.”
In those situations, you can’t control what someone else thinks of you. But you can control how you feel about yourself. You might be tempted to give in to the guilt. But instead of listening to those whispers of self-doubt, listen to the voice of God. Because His voice will never condemn you or shame you.
Let Go of the Mom Guilt
We all have to come to terms with this very real fact of life: Not everyone will like us. And that’s okay! I know, as women, we are so relational—and so much of what we do every day is because we want to be well-liked by everyone. But we need to stop putting pressure on ourselves to achieve this impossible standard.
I love how my friend Tony says, “I’m always driving to somewhere I love. When I’m driving to work, I’m driving to a place that I love. When I’m driving home, I am driving to a place that I love.”
Why not adapt that mentality? Wherever you’re going, keep your eyes focused on where you’re going. Don’t look through the rearview mirror and feel guilty about what you’re momentarily leaving behind. Wherever you are, be there.
That’s exactly how I’m able to be fully present and guilt-free at work and fully present and guilt-free at home.
So, the next time you’ve got mom guilt nagging at you, remind yourself that what you’re doing is important. It’s important not only for you but for everyone else in your life too.