I don’t believe in ‘mum guilt’ (and why you shouldn’t either)

I don’t get mum guilt. There, I said it.

I don’t feel guilty for the choices I have made as a parent.  I refuse to give in to mum guilt.

Here are some things that I don’t feel guilty for:

  • I don’t feel guilty for returning to work when my daughter was a few weeks old.
  • I don’t feel guilty for taking her to work with me.
  • I don’t feel guilty for keeping her out late now and then.
  • I don’t feel guilty that she rolled off the bed the other week.
  • I don’t feel guilty that she caught the sun a little bit at the park.

The fact that I don’t feel guilty doesn’t make me a bad parent or mean that I don’t care. Although I don’t feel guilty about these things, I do reflect on them and ask myself if I can/should do them any differently:

  • I was unhappy doing nothing while my daughter slept. I enjoy working. A happy mum = a happy baby!
  • It’s fine to take my daughter to work with me.  She actually loves it – she is just as happy playing with her toys in my office as she is at home.
  • Life goes on with baby in tow!  If we were at home every time Lilly wanted to sleep we’d never go anywhere or do anything!
  • I didn’t realise she could move that far yet. Accidents happen.  She is a baby and I’m sure there will be many, many more falls to come. I’ve got a barrier around the bed now.
  • She did have sunscreen on, but perhaps not enough. She wasn’t badly burnt, just a little red. She’ll wear more sunscreen every day now, even if we aren’t out in the sun for long.
    Dear mum guilt, you're a bitch

Mum guilt or self-reflection?

I often wonder if people get ‘guilt’ confused with ‘self-reflection’.  Self reflection is a good thing.  It can help us grow and improve. But just because we might do things differently next time doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for how they played out the first time around. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Guilt is defined as ‘the fact of having committed a specified or implied offence or crime.’  This implies that there is a right way to parent; but who is responsible for deciding what is the ‘right’ way to parent anyway?

It seems to me that most ‘mum guilt’ centres around an expectation of what a mother ‘should’ look like.  Most parents would agree that raising children is the the most important job in the world.  If this is the case, why do we let people who don’t know us, who have never lived a day in our shoes, or better yet, have never raised a child themselves, have any say in how we raise our children? Why do we let ourselves feel guilty because of unattainable and, in any case, conflicting, expectations from society?

Have you noticed that there are always two sides to every ‘mum guilt’ trip:

  • I feel guilty because I didn’t play with the kids
  • I feel guilty because I spent all day playing with the kids and didn’t clean/work/make dinner
  • I feel guilty because I want to return to work
  • I feel guilty because I don’t work so we have to do without some luxuries
  • I feel guilty because I have my kids take-away food
  • I feel guilty because I never let them have take-away food
  • I feel guilty because I would like some time to myself
  • I feel guilty because I went out with my friends instead of staying home with the family
  • I feel guilty because I don’t feel guilty

… and on it goes.

Let’s stop.

I refuse to give in to society’s expectations as to how I should raise my daughter.  Being a parent is tough enough without the weight of the world looking in.  No one is perfect. We’re all on the same roller coaster; learning every day and doing the best we can.

Let go of mum guilt

The one piece of advice I would give to mothers it to let go of the guilt. Stop comparing yourself to others. Just do you.  You don’t need to justify your parenting decisions to anyone else and you certainly don’t need to feel guilty for them.

If you feel guilty because you’ve made a choice you aren’t happy with, change it! Don’t let feeling guilty let you off the hook from making change. If you feel guilty because you’ve made a choice that goes against what society tells you you should do, let it go.  Look at your kids. Are they happy and healthy? Do you provide them with love, comfort, security and fun? If the answer is yes, I doubt you have much to feel guilty about.

37 Responses

  1. I agree! Guilt is a useless wasted emotion. Reflecting, changing and growing from our experiences is so much more useful! Well said 🙂 Katie x

  2. Brilliant! Love it. Although maybe we can come up with something a bit more jazzy … I’ll work on it!

  3. I love this. I think making the decision to stop feeling guilty is similar in taking a leap of faith. You have to trust that what you’re doing is the best you can do and that even if you slip up or put your needs first, there’s no need to feel guilty for it. #GlobalBlogging

    1. I agree Harriet. Guilt is a wasted emotion in this context. It does no one any good.

  4. This is so true! It’s so easy to get lost in what we don’t do with our children. We all need to focus on the things we do with them. 🙂

  5. YES! We have to let go of mum guilt otherwise it can take over everything, Time we banished the mum guilt! #StayClassyMama

  6. You’re right, it’s the way you look at things. You can either be positive or negative. This really helped me 🙂

  7. This is great. I think we all seem to be drowning in mum guilt and totally agree that it is all self imposed based on what we think society thinks we should be doing. I like your point about reflection. We do all need to learn from our actions and maybe make changes as we are going along, but you’re so right – why feel guilty when we’re all just doing our best? Thanks for linking with #DreamTeam x

  8. I love and appreciate the sentiment behind this post, I just wish I was able to do it. For me the guilt has got ever worse as my eldest child has got older…he’s almost 4 now and he’s started to tell me that he hates it when I work, he doesn’t want me to, I’m “always working instead of playing with him” (I know I’m not, but it doesnt stop me from feeling guilty)…it’s really difficult to rationalise against it. I know hes just a kid and one day he’ll understand, but in the meantime it makes me feel as though Im choosing work over him which makes me feel awful. #sharingthebloglove

    1. That’s really tough. I feel for you. I replied to another comment here that I’d love to share some techniques for dealing with the guilt. If you have any tips, please share. Or, if you’ve written about it I’d love to share that too. Thanks Hayley.

  9. There is definitely two sides to mum guilt and although I know this I still feel it. I allow myself to feel it and then tell myself it is ok because I am doing the best that I can. But I definitely still feel it! #sharingthebloglove

    1. At least you tell yourself it’s ok and don’t get hung up on it! Thanks for reading and for being so honest with your comment ????

  10. I love this. It’s time to start doing what feels right for ourselves and our families and not feeling bad about it. I look forward to bed time each night – like, a lot. Do I feel guilty about that? HELL NO. #StayClassyMama

  11. This post is EXACTLY what I’m striving for. I’m sharing this all over. I think every single home/family/life is different and works in different ways. Do what works for you and forget about what anyone thinks. Especially if you’re trying hard to eat better, live better, and teach your kids how to be functioning members of society. There is no “normal” so why do we feel bad if we do things differently than others? Love love love this post!!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment Jessica. I’m glad you can relate to this ❤❤

  12. I am the worst for feeling the mum guilt, I even feel guilty about feeling guilty! I love this though, I’m going to try really hard to not feel so guilty from now on…..not sure how this will go! #sharingthebloglove

  13. Hear, Hear (or is it Here, here?). Guilt is a wasted emotion, as you can’t do anything about it anyway, it’s done. Change what you need to, or own it. #Stayclassymama

  14. I love your pragmatism! We don’t achieve anything from guilt, it’s such a negative emotion and a drain on our energy. For me it’s easier said than done though – it’s such a hard one to kick! I’ve always been bad for it and I think becoming a mum has made it much worse. I try to combat it by recognising all the ‘great mum’ things I do, which does help but even then I often feel the sneaky guilt coming back in. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Thanks Katy. I was actually expecting a lot of back lash at this post. After I published it I thought it would have been far more helpful to give people tips to combat mum guilt, but in all honesty, I’m not the best person to give advice on that. Recognising the good things is a good place to start!

  15. Great post Lucy – I’ve just recently written a post on mum guilt for another website, it’s yet to be published but when it is I’ll share it. I think you are so right about self refection and absolutely about letting go and ignoring what we think society thinks we should be. We just need to be ourselves and love ourselves a bit more! #SharingtheBlogLove xx

  16. I am so with you on this. I don’t think I’ve ever felt any guilt when it involves N. I’ve looked after him well, he’s a well rounded boy, and any decisions I’ve made for a reason. The one sad thing is that his dad never does anything with us-he’s always working. We’ve had 1 holiday with him in 6 years. But that’s his loss ( as well as N’s and I’m not the one who can make that happen).
    Too many people feel guilty for no reason at all. #sharingthebloglove

    1. GOOD ON YOU! And good on you for saying that too – it’s safe here, haha. That is sad about his dad, but like you say, you can’t MAKE it happen, so you shouldn’t feel guilty for it. Thank you for your comment xx

  17. This is fab – you are so right to look at a solutions based approach to life and not ruminate on things. As long as we’re learning from our mistakes that’s the main thing. Babies rolling off beds is almost a rite of passage anyway ???? Xx

  18. Yes I agree – there is far too much Mum Guilt floating about the place! Make your choices, for the right reasons and just trust your instincts. Sometimes we’ve just got to get on with life the best we can, no time for guilt #stayclassymama

  19. I feel guilty about a lot of aspects in my life and this is definitely worse since being a mum. I know that it isn’t a good emotion to have and that it is counterproductive. Its’ definitely something that I need to work on! Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x

    1. Thanks Laura. I know stopping with the guilt may not be as easy as I make it sound. Good luck with your journey x

  20. Great post, I had so much ‘Mum Guilt’ with my first, I still do really but like you say, he’s happy and healthy and that’s all that matters! #sharingthebloglove

  21. YES!!!!! My only mum guilt is that i’ve had to return to work and be away from Ben – but i needed some me time to be who I am as Lianne. However work were lucky enough to let me work a full week over 4 days so I only spend two days away from Ben which makes me happy! #sharingthebloglove

  22. Fab post and agree that too many of us mums suffer from this affliction. I don’t know many dads who worry half as much as women do about the things they do or don’t do for their kids or careers. I don’t know where it comes from either – is it society making us feel like we have to live up to certain standards? Where do these standards come from? Do we always feel like we have to compare ourselves to others and is this ingrained somehow? Either way, I agree with you. Guilt achieves nothing. I do try to reflect on when I feel bad about something. It’s never normally guilt though. It’s more because I expected a certain outcome that don’t work out, or because I lost my patience or didn’t like an emotion that came up when dealing with a stroppy toddler. I love the way you said it’s more about reflecting, as you’re so right. By reflecting on what we don’t like about ourselves or our situation, we can take the action we need to put it right. Another fab post my lovely, Ruth x

    1. I don’t know many dads who worry as much either. It’s something my husband and I talk about a lot. I’m almost certain that it comes from society’s expectations and other people being so judgemental about everyone else. It’s sad really. I really do think a lot of it is reflection that people label as guilt because they’re so used to hearing the word slung about. Thank you once again for your lovely, thought-out comment xx

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