On Mom Guilt

2.12.2013
Late last night as Kevin and I were getting ready for bed, I asked him a question:

Do you feel like a good parent?

Which of course he asked me to elaborate on.

You see, I have this guilty feeling that plagues me most of the time no matter what choices I make as a mother, and I want to know - is it normal? It can be about the smallest things. For example last night I read Violet her usual four or five bedtime stories, told her Daddy was going to come up, and turned to walk out of the room. As I was walking toward the door she called to me...I kept walking. I knew in my head that it was for the best. If I had turned back around as she wanted, bedtime would have been prolonged, it would have gotten late, and she would have gotten tired and cranky. Rationally, in my head I knew this was all true, but I felt like a bad mother. I felt like I should have gone back, cuddled her, soaked up her sweet little two-year-old goodness. Given her a few more minutes of my time.

I felt guilty. But the really really scary part is that I would have felt guilty going back to her too. I would have felt like I was making her less independent, giving in to her every whim, not teaching her that she can't always get what she wants, making her overly tired for tomorrow. How can I have so much emotion and internal conflict over such small decision as whether or not to leave the room at bed time? And what am I going to do as she gets older and the decisions only get harder?

To answer my question, Kevin said that he is generally pretty certain in his head what the right choices are (at least on small things like bedtime), but that he does, like me, often want to do something else - to go back and cuddle her and give her what she wants. What he said he doesn't feel is guilt. He's confident in his decisions for the most part and so he doesn't feel anything that he would equate with guilt in regard to them. So my question to you is - is the guilt it a mom thing? Is it just a me thing? Does anyone else feel guilty on a regular basis about seemingly insignificant daily parenting decisions? I know it's completely irrational, but I'm not sure how to fix it. I fear that it may just be who I am.

One thing that helps a little is that I tell myself that she is loved, she is cared for, she is safe. She has the big things that are really important, and these little decisions aren't going to matter in the long run. Kevin told me that I can't screw it up, but sometimes I worry that maybe he isn't right. It's such a big responsibility - raising a child.

But of course I wouldn't give it up for the world - mom guilt and all.

21 comments:

  1. I feel guilt every day. You are totally normal. I hope. Because if you aren't normal, neither am I!

    I think guilt is a symptom of wanting to do the best for your baby. If you didn't feel a little guilty, maybe it would mean that you were not considering all options to determine what you think is best.

    We are all doing the best we can and when you feel the guilt coming on, try to be kind to yourself. As long as you are doing the best you can, that is about as amazing a mom you can be!

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  2. I got your guilt covered in spades over here! EVERY DAY. Second guessing. Worrying. Feeling guilty.

    Totally echoing the thoughts in the other comment. All we can do is the best we can, and when we're feeling that we're not doing our best, well, we just have to be kind to ourselves and hope to do better in the future without ripping our insides apart.

    Hang in there Mama!

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  3. I'm not much further along than you in this whole mothering thing (I've got a 4 year old with #2 on the way), but can tell you that I feel guilt each and every day. Sometimes over little things like what you've described where I know I'm making the right decision but still feel badly, other times over things where I made the wrong decision and yet still know deep down that she'll be ok in the end. I think guilt is a typical part of the process. This is a super rough job, but with some fantastic benefits! Guilt just isn't one of them. :(

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  4. I have been dealing with this feeling a lot lately -- but not with my baby, with my teenager.
    And the mister and I could have had the same conversation as you and Kevin, but it would have been back when the middle kiddo was smaller.
    this is what I know about myself: I learn from experience. I have never parented a teenager before and I try to do the 'right' thing but I'm not always sure what the right thing is so I feel guilty, like I'm letting him down.
    with the baby, I've read the parenting books, I've done this raising-a-baby thing with her brothers. I know what will work and what won't(more or less),I'm confident in my decisions. being confident (for me, and it sounds like for you too) is really hard. it takes practice. and belief in yourself that you are good enough. belief that nothing really bad will happen if you get it wrong. trusting yourself as a parent is really hard. but I have seen it and felt it and it feels awesome. I'm sure you will find that belief in yourself too. you are doing an awesome job :)

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  5. I think it's completely normal to feel that way. I feel like that a lot actually. When it's bath time and she's playing and I'm looking on my instagram and then when she's in bed I think, why was I on my phone?...I only had 2 hours to play with her and I didn't really use that time very well. Or when I get home and I'm tired from work and I sit on the couch instead of play with her.

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  6. YES! I feel like as soon as I became a mother the guilt switch was turned on (along with the worry about everything switch) big time. And I know it's not the same for my husband. But you're right, it's all so totally worth it. : )

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  7. Without sounding like a know it all (I hope!) I think some of it is being a first time parent. I definitely felt that way with our first child (every.single.decision seemed so hard!), but now that we are onto number three? Eh, not so much. Part of it is time (ain't nobody got time for that) and part of it is certainly confidence. I read an article recently (that I wish I had bookmarked) which essentially said "too much information is leading us down the rabbit hole of parenting." And I can say I see that being true. Our parents and their parents certainly had to operate much more from a place of instinct than a place of "the internet says" and it was probably healthier for everyone in the end.

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  8. I just refused to stay with my 10 year old who claimed to be scared because I think she's over-reacting - guilt either way. Still.

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  9. You are not alone in feeling the mom guilt. I feel it every single day with every choice and decision I make. I'm always second guessing myself. It drives me nuts. I'm hoping it's something that goes along with being a first time mom and I am not insane;)

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  10. Yep! Mostly at the example you gave to! My husband tells me I need to me tougher and not give in so easily with our eldest....and I know he's right but man, lay on that mummy guilt!

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  11. Yup, I think the guilt just comes with being a mom. I had some of what you're describing already but then we had #2 and OMG the feelings of guilt were overwhelming. I'm constantly struggling between feeling like I'm not giving the first enough attention and not enjoying the sweet newborn moments with #2 enough.

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  12. Echoing what everyone else has already said, I think as mothers we are hard-wired to feel guilt. Part of it is wanting to make the right decision in every regard and weighing all our options.

    I'm only 13.5 months into being a parent, but that's long enough to realize that I have guilt everyday, and it seems so does every other mother!

    The thing that bothers me though? Why doesn't the husband have the guilt? My hubby is a great parent (better father than husband, honestly), but he doesn't feel guilt. Like ever. He doesn't question his decisions or worry that his choices could have been better. He also doesn't make a whole lot of the decisions in the first place (partly because I am a SAHM, partly because of our differing approaches to life). I honestly wonder what the heck he would do if I were gone for a day or a week. Maybe then the guilt would set in because he would be forced to make all the decisions himself?

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  13. Echoing what everyone else has already said, I think as mothers we are hard-wired to feel guilt. Part of it is wanting to make the right decision in every regard and weighing all our options.

    I'm only 13.5 months into being a parent, but that's long enough to realize that I have guilt everyday, and it seems so does every other mother!

    The thing that bothers me though? Why doesn't the husband have the guilt? My hubby is a great parent (better father than husband, honestly), but he doesn't feel guilt. Like ever. He doesn't question his decisions or worry that his choices could have been better. He also doesn't make a whole lot of the decisions in the first place (partly because I am a SAHM, partly because of our differing approaches to life). I honestly wonder what the heck he would do if I were gone for a day or a week. Maybe then the guilt would set in because he would be forced to make all the decisions himself?

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  14. Oh the mom guilt. And is it just me or does the hyper-connected, techie, blog-happy world we live in make it worse? One day I'm reading a blog post by a mom who believes the most important thing she does is not to help her child on the playground or go back for that second cuddle at bedtime, because she is fostering a spirit of independence. The next day, we're reading about a mom who says she cuddles just a bit longer because who knows when her baby will get too old to want to cuddle. We're told not to feel guilty about formula feeding or letting baby cry it out, but then we're bombarded with articles about how essential breast feeding (co-sleeping, attachment parenting, you name it) is.

    Maybe it's just me, but I think the mom guilt might be lessened ever so slightly if we could all just disconnect a little.

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  15. Yes I feel it too. Also I dont think men understand the strive for perfection and balance that women seek. I read one parenting book and my husband insisted that it was silly and whatever came naturally to us was the right thing. I wonder if our moms were as crazy over all the techniques and worrying each decision was gravely affecting us or if like Katie says above that its this techie connectedness thats making us this way.

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  16. I totally understand your feelings. Mom's guilt all the time no matter what I do! It's normal I think! It's part of being a mom :)

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  17. You're not the only one. But I hate feeling like that all the time. There has to be a way to rid ourselves of it.

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  18. I feel the same way, daily. Thank you for sharing. Means a lot! :) It's so sad, but I think what if this were our last moment together.....so then I go back. Love my little one so much.

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  19. I love this post! I've been thinking about mom guilt for a couple of months now, and I'm happy to see I'm not alone. I'd say I have mom guilt in about 80% of decisions I make regarding my little ones. Just little, everyday things. My other question is: does it ever end? I was thinking that once the kids get older it will be easier, but that's not what I'm experiencing with us. So will it get easier once the kids are at school or maybe when they can make their own choices?

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  20. I think you just described my days to a T! I always feel guilty about letting the baby cry, guilty about giving in to my 2 year old, guilty about not giving in. But I will tell you that for the most part I'm pretty confident in my decisions and that's because I get lots of hugs, kisses and I love you mommys and I bet you do too! :)

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