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Mom guilt - when is it helpful or unhelpful? 

I've been thinking and talking a lot about mum guilt over the last couple of weeks.


This has partially been brought on by own own feelings of mum guilt which have been triggered by me working longer hours over the last few weeks. 


When guilt can be helpful 

Some of this guilt has been helpful. That is, it has made me reflect on how I can make changes to be the mum that I want to be more often. I'm human and being that mum all of the time isn't possible. 


AND it is important for me to notice when I'm not being the mum I want in moments where I become impatient with my son or struggle to play enthusiastically because I feel exhausted. This gives me a reminder to make sure I get the rest and breaks that I need to be able to be present with him in the way that I want and that he needs.


When do you find mum guilt helpful? 


Caution and the idea of "helpful" mum guilt

That said, it is important to be really aware that there is a fine line between helpful guilt and using mum guilt as a rod to beat ourselves with. It is not always immediately obvious.


To help with this awareness, it is important for us to be really aware of the expectations that we have of ourselves as parents. 


  • Do you expect yourself to be calm and present all of the time?

  • Do you feel that you must constantly go above and beyond to give everything to your child? 

  • Do you expect yourself to be perfect and superhuman?

  • Are your expectations for yourself impossible to achieve? 


When mum guilt is unhelpful

If you find that you are expecting yourself to achieve the impossible as a mum, it is time to look at your mum guilt differently. 


Trying to be the "perfect" mum

It can help by thinking about your own "perfect mother myth. " We all have one and this myth is built upon the expectations of ourselves, the people around us and our wider society. 


You might find yourself trying to become someone you are not in an attempt to become this mythical creature.


For example, I will never be a domestic goddess. Cleaning and cooking are not in my zone of genius. A long time ago, I had to let go of some of my fantasies of making homemade pureed baby food or having a completely organised home for my wellbeing. 


At this point, you might be asking but "Isn't my child's wellbeing more important than my own?"


There is a balance to be found here but we also need to make sure that we don't just keep giving and giving without considering and meeting our own needs. If we don't put on our own oxygen mask first, it affects how we show up with our child. 


Some of these questions might help you to reflect on the importance of meeting your own needs:


  • How do you feel when you are depleted?

  • How do you respond to your child?

  • Do you lose your patience more easily?

  • Feel resentment towards them?

  • Shut down your emotions to protect yourself so that you don't really connect with them?   If challenging feelings are coming up for you, should yourself some compassion.  

  • What would you say to someone you love who is having a similar experience?


Anger and mum guilt 

Dr Sophie Brock, a sociologist who studies motherhood, talks about how we feel mum guilt when we are unable to live up to the impossible standards that we have set for ourselves as a mother. 


She then highlights how mums often try to overcompensate for not feeling good enough by doing more. We often let our boundaries slip and we we tend to give more and more. This leaves us feeling depleted, exhausted and overwhelmed which can cause us to feel resentful or to try to do even more. 


Then we're triggered (usually by our kids) and we feel the rage. Which goes against how we think we should feel as loving caring mothers. This leads us back to feeling like we are not enough and the cycle continues. 


Breaking the cycle of mum guilt

Breaking the cycle of mum guilt can be a process. We may have to let go of a number of old stories that are not helping us. 


For example, we may need to let go of the idea that anger or guilt are bad and must be avoided. 


As Dr Brock highlights, these emotions are neutral until we give them a meaning. Part of our journey is being able to be with and feel these emotions and decide  if they are helpful or not in any given moment. This is important because we will feel what we feel unless we try to numb out with food,  alcohol, screens, shopping,etc.  


However, this is the moment where we have a choice (even if we feel like we don't). That choice is to take action in response to how we feel. 


You might make a change to get more of your needs met so that you can be calmer and more patient with your child. (While also showing yourself compassion)


Or you might need to reframe how you are thinking about yourself or the situation if mum guilt is unhelpful. 


You may need to learn to show yourself more compassion or think about the impact on you and your child if you keep sacrificing for their sake. You might also need to develop stronger boundaries so you can say no more often and make your to do list more manageable and less overwhelming. 


How I can help

We will be exploring self compassion, boundaries, unhelpful thought patterns and mum guilt in more depth in my new programme Finding Calm for Mums starting at the end of April.


For more information or to book your space, visit


For more intensive one on one work, I will still be offering my one to one packages for the next couple of months. These include 6 online transformational coaching sessions with me. You can book here:


To talk about which support option might be best for you, reply to this message and we can arrange a time to talk. 

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