The Traps of Mom’s Guilt
Laavanya K Sridhar

Laavanya K Sridhar

Jun 10Motherhood

The Traps of Mom’s Guilt

What is mom's guilt?

Mom guilt means that pervasive feeling of not doing enough as a parent, not doing things right, or making decisions that may “mess up” your kids in the long run. Mom guilt may be temporary or for a longer-term. It is that dread or weight on your shoulders that you need to be the “perfect mom” and second guess every decision of your moves as a mother.

Mom guilt is the shoulds, the supposed to’s, and the other moms are… that whisper inside your head as you wade through your day. Mom guilt has many origins, from personal insecurities to outside pressures from family, friends, social media and other resources.

The Covid-19 pandemic has left working parents, and in particular, mothers, having to find solutions for education and child care. Work-life balance has gone for a toss and the guilt of the same gnaws at your soul. Screen time might have consumed you and your children.

In a 2016 study of 255 parents, working moms may feel more guilt associated with work interfering with family than working dads do. Of course, each family’s experiences are unique. Working on letting go of this guilt should be at the top of your long to-do list. It eats away at you, disrupts your sleep, affects your mood, and gets in the way of being present. It might even change who you are.


What can all this internalized guilt lead to?

It is true that, like any other guilt, a tiny dose of mom guilt can be productive. It can help you get that push to steer clear of unproductive habits or plan your day to have enough time for your family without work bleeding into them.

But when mom guilt starts to make you question yourself, your abilities as a mother, taking a toll on your self perception, it is time to take action. The triggers can be anything, ranging from an offhand comment from a neighbour, posts of the celebrity “supermoms” on social media, your child facing obstacles in learning something or even your insecurities to name a few.

For example, say a working mom decides to formula feed her infant from the get-go for a variety of personal and valid reasons. Then a “well-meaning” friend makes a social media post about the profound connection she has with her breastfeeding baby, complete with the extensive medical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding. If the working mom is already just trying to do the best she can and has some sadness to begin with about her decision to formula feed, posts like these can feel like an attack targeted specifically to her.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with sharing these types of personal triumphs, as long as you don’t shame others for not doing the same. When these feelings pop up, mom guilt may be becoming a more all-encompassing issue in your life that needs to be addressed.

Sometimes mom guilt is so pervasive that it inhibits your ability to parent, or function. If you feel your mom guilt is creating high levels of anxiety, it’s worth bringing it up to your doctor or mental health professional, as it may indicate a more serious mental health condition such as postpartum anxiety or depression. For many moms, it’s a matter of stopping the subconscious comparisons and regaining confidence in your own decisions for your family.

Experiencing mom guilt for quite some time may likely evolve into some sorts of the following :

  • It can tend to alter your normal pattern (pattern unique to every individual) of how you think and feel emotions
  • You might start losing sight of the bigger picture - E.g. Spending time and building a bond with your baby might not be the first choice when compared to perfecting a day’s work
  • Attempting to check off until the end of the list which might often result you feeling overworked and fatigued
  • A mother might become obsessed with being a perfect mom / parent - this in turn might put pressure on the kids as well (“I do so much for the kids, why can’t they see how important this is” - the mom might be neglecting the child’s needs or wishes here )

What can I do to stop struggling with mom guilt?

The first step is to identify that you have mom guilt. It is always okay to consult a mental health provider even if you doubt having “mom guilt''. Every person who has a child goes through the same, it’s ok to feel so. It’s not your fault.

The following steps might help you guide you .

1. Get ready to ask for help when needed

Many moms try to make it on their own, in spite of having a support network. Societal portrayal of mothers being superhuman and not any less doesn't help. We need to normalise asking for help and being ready to accept some when offered.

2. Take a moment and get in touch with your emotion

Take a minute to think back on the basics of ‘Why am i experiencing this guilt?’. It might stem from various factors like constantly being compared with a fellow moms in close proximity, childhood factors, need or obsession to excel in everything, pressure from your friend circle , and the list can go on.

Make a note of your current mental health scenario - the emotions you are experiencing and how you are handling them. It is absolutely normal and humane to experience negative emotions from time to time and motherhood is definitely not an exception. It all depends how you handle them, with or without kids.

3. Start planning to reduce daily workload and frustrations

Listing your priorities, self expectations and values helps a lot in guilt free planning of everyday activities and makes it easy to keep a check on the guilt feeling. It will also help you identify and challenge your negative thoughts and feelings.

4. Learn healthy ways to express and communicate such emptiness


6. Instead of persevering to match societies' expectations to be a perfect mom, try learning more about your and your kid's current needs and prioritise them.

7. Never hesitate to reach out for help from trained mental health practitioners.

The Takeaway

It literally takes a village to raise a child. There is no exaggeration. There might be times when it is frustrating and you may feel taken for granted. Your family is your own, be open to them and receptive. Trust your decisions and gut feelings. Every family is different and so are their needs. Remember, your life is precious, so is your peace of mind. Leaving mom guilt unattended can even affect your bond with the child and may in turn impact how they perceive parenthood. Seek help and comfort when you need it. Talk to your partner and ask for their help. Join mom support groups and help out each other.

Mistakes happen, learn from each. You are amazing the way you are. Love your kids in your way. If you feel you can improve your parenting, please feel free to do it. Every mother is priceless, every family is precious. Don’t let guilt steal it all away.

Disclaimer: This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

Proactive For Her is a digital clinic for women, offering accessible, personalised, and confidential healthcare solutions. We offer out-patient care, diagnostic services and programs for various health concerns of Indian women, across their lifetime - from puberty to pregnancy to menopause.