Emotional Wellbeing Advice Parenting

Why Mum Guilt Is Good Plus 5 Ways to Fight It

Feeling a case of mum guilt? Hannah Gierhart suggests guilt is a good thing, because it means you actually, enormously care.

I’ve slowly come to the realization that I could always feel guilty about something. Always.

If I stay at home, I feel guilty that I’m not working. If I go to work, I feel guilty that I’m not parenting. We mums feel bad about what we feed our kids, whether we give our kids enough stimulation if they’ve watched too much TV that day. We can feel self-reproach if we take time out for ourselves, think we’re wrong if we express frustration with parenthood, feel we stuff it all up way too often.

It’s a pervasive, ugly thing, this mum guilt – and it needs to stop. Instead of giving in to the never-ending shame cycle, let’s agree to resist the urge to beat ourselves up and get on with the job we’re doing: being incredible mamas!

1. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Of course, I don’t mean to imply that you simply surrender to the feeling that you’ll never do anything right. But if we can understand that feeling guilty about everything is part of the job maybe we can resist the struggle and learn to live without acknowledging that niggling voice that tells us we’re doing it wrong? Mum guilt is a familiar beast to contend with, but we don’t have to spend all our energy wrestling it. Ignore that negative self-talk and keep on keeping on.

2. Know you’re doing a stellar job.

Loving your kids means you want to do well by them and it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the job. Constance Hall suggests that feeling guilt is a good sign, as it shows that you care about the babes you’re in charge of. Her suggestion? ‘Embrace your guilt, feel grateful that you have it, forgive yourself and go on being an amazing mum.’

3. Look at the big picture.

The things you feel guilty about now can become ridiculously small in the grand scheme of raising kids. That extra hour of screen time they had today is probably not going to stunt their development into adolescents. A scrappy dinner rather than a well-planned, nutritionally balanced one isn’t going to make your kids become crippled with scurvy. What I’m trying to say is that the things we feel racked with guilt about become insignificant in the broad arc of parenthood. What does matter is the love they feel and the love you have for yourself; the small details of each day pale in comparison.

4. Encourage mums around you.

If every mum struggles with mum guilt, then every mum around you will be batting off negative thoughts about their parenting efforts… constantly. Help to fight mum guilt by acknowledging the excellent efforts of the mums you encounter – it’s a game changer! If we can start to celebrate the wonderful moments, we’ll combat the less wonderful ones. Let’s replace the guilt-talk with pep talk!

5. Relax.

Look after yourself. The worse you feel, the worse the guilt becomes. If you’re operating at a lower capacity, you’ll feel like everything you do isn’t good enough. Take time out for yourself and enjoy the things that bring you sanity and happiness. You’ll feel more energized as a mum, and being in a healthier place will help you beat those annoying doubts and get on with your joyous job.

So, let’s fight mum guilt by celebrating the job we and the other mums around us do. It’s a role that’s big enough without having to resist the guilt that plagues us constantly. We’re good mums for feeling guilt, and even better mums when we don’t let it stop us!


Avatar of Hannah Macauley-Giehart

Hannah Macauley-Gierhart is a mother, writer, teacher, editor, and fiction reader. The joyous bedlam of raising young kids sees her writing at strange hours, drinking lots of tea, and loving the chaos that fuels good prose.

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