Mother and Baby

18 ridiculous reasons we have mum-guilt other than going to work

Section: Mental Health

Over the past few years, lesser-known parenting issues such as mum-guilt and mum-shaming have been brought to light thanks to some honest mummy bloggers like Tova Leigh, and celebrities such as Pink, Jessica Alba, Serena Williams, and Jennifer Garner.

Reading their candid revelations about feeling horrible for leaving their kids to go to work, and how they have been handling their guilt trips, has provided working mums everywhere with a little solace in the knowledge that we are not alone.

Although guilt about going to work seems to be the most popular type of mummy-guilt there is, don’t be fooled; mothers are magnificent multi-taskers and the list of things we can feel guilty about in addition to going to work can be endless. As the strange little hormonal over-thinkers that we are, we can feel guilty for all the times we are not super-mum.

We spoke to 18 guilt-ridden mums who tell us about the daily guilt trips they go on and all the things they feel bad about when it comes to their kids.

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1. “I feel guilty for leaving them at daycare”

“Every time I drop the twins off at daycare, they look at me with their big googly eyes which can dramatically well-up on demand, and I feel like the master abandoner. In addition to the fear that I’m neglecting them, I start getting paranoid about something happening when I’m not there – like if they get a bump or a graze – and I’ll never know the extent of the pain they’ve endured. That thought scares me daily. Also, what if they catch something from another kid? I understand that this is the real life and I can’t keep them quarantined but I can’t help feeling panicky and guilty every day.”
Estelle, 33, mother of 2
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2. “I feel bad when I raise my voice”

“My parents used to shout at us – there were five of us so it was understandable – and we all turned out completely fine, but I hate it when I have to raise my voice to my little one. She’s a Tasmanian devil, always climbing up on things, and the other day I shouted at her to get down from the back of the sofa. She cried, I cried. It wasn’t pretty. Will I ever get over it? Stay tuned.”
Christianna, 37, mother of 1
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3. “I’m riddled with guilt about hating my pregnancy”

 “All of the pregnancy symptoms. I had them. Swollen? Check. Sick every day? Check. Sciatica? Check. Pain everywhere? Check. Those were just about the nine longest months of my life and I can’t relate to women who glow and enjoy their pregnancies. The moment my daughter was born and that flood of warm love washed over me, guilt hit me like a punch in the face for all the horrible things I thought and said about pregnancy. I didn’t even want my pregnancy pooch to go down after birth because I thought of it as some sort of penance for my sins.”
Casey, 36, mother of 1
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4. “I feel ungrateful for wanting another baby”

“I loved the whole experience of birth and having a newborn baby so much that I immediately became broody and wanted another child sooner rather than later. At the same time, that made me feel so ungrateful for my perfect little bundle of joy, like I’m saying that he’s not enough for me and I need another one. Is that crazy? I’m crazy, right?”
Rina, 30, mother of 1
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5. “I feel like I’m not teaching them enough”

“I have three kids, and one with special needs. My days start at 5am and end at around midnight, with no weekends off. They are fed, clean, warm, and happy, and yet, I have inordinate feelings of guilt that I should be teaching them more than I am. We do arts and crafts but maybe I’m not being creative enough for them? We read, but maybe I should get more informational books? If I’m ever enjoying the rare silence, I find myself thinking that I should be using that moment to teach them more about nature and the world. The guilty feelings never stop.”
Beth, 34, mother of 3
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6. “I feel bad for choosing the wrong father for my child.”

“My relationship was doomed from the start but, young and in love as I was, I didn’t want to accept that and didn’t feel that I had the strength to end it. Having a child miraculously gives you more strength than you’ve ever thought possible and, unfortunately, I had to get away from the father of my child for both our sakes. Although I’m proud that I could make that decision for us, I forever feel guilty that I chose the wrong father for my child and that she is now being raised without a father.”
Michaela, 38, mother of 1
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7. “I feel horrible for fighting in front of the kids”

“When I was pregnant with my first, my husband and I would say how we would never, ever argue in front of the children. Fast forward four kids later, and that idea has pretty much gone out of the window. I mean, we don’t physically fight or curse, but we have a few tense words every so often, mainly about house chores and errands, and the kids happen to be there. They don’t seem to think much of it but I keep worrying that I’ve damaged them beyond repair. I’ve cried about it many times.”

Ella, 35, mother of 4
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8. “I feel bad for not enjoying the baby’s first few months”

“My vagina was so sore after I gave birth – I’m still wondering why nobody talks about this –and I was bleeding and in pain for a good six weeks postpartum. I also kept getting ill, I wasn’t sleeping and I generally felt horrible. Those first few weeks went by in a haze of me crying and complaining and when I look back on photographs of my baby during that time, I hardly recognize her and I am haunted by my own inadequacy to appreciate those first few months that I will never get back. I feel like I’m overcompensating now, though.”

Beatrice, 27, mother of 1
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9. “I feel guilty about being an older mother”

“Becoming a mother at 40, I can’t help but think that when my daughter goes off to college – something I know will come around so fast – I’ll be at retirement age. I enjoyed my life pre-motherhood and chose to become an older mother, but now I feel bad about it. I’m sure other mothers will get, ‘wow, which one of you is the mother and which is the daughter?’ but that won’t be an issue for me since I’ll be practically geriatric by then. I hope my daughter doesn’t resent me for it.”

Tina, 40, mother of 1
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10. “I hate myself for not giving my child a sibling”

“There are many reasons that I decided to only have one child. Firstly, my pregnancy was horrible, I was hospitalized so many times throughout that I vowed I would never do that to myself again. In addition, I’m not even sure that I could have another child at this age. At first, I was quite proud to say that I would only have one child but as time goes by I keep thinking about when I’m old or dead, my child will be all alone with no brothers and sisters and that makes me feel so sad and guilty.”

Kirsty, 48, mother of 1
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11. “I feel bad for putting on a 1-hour Youtube video so I can get some peace”

“Sometimes I need a break so bad that I literally put my toddler in her highchair, prop the iPad in front of her and click on the first video I see that has ‘Kid’s songs’ and ‘1-hour’ in the title. She sits there watching it completely hypnotized and I sit on the couch looking at her, sipping on my coffee, just basking in my guilt.”

Meg, 34, mother of 1
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12. “I feel guilty when I give her store-bought baby food”

“We’ve always made a point about making baby food with organic produce but sometimes if we’ve been too busy, we’ve had to buy readymade baby-food from the supermarket. I know my fears are irrational but I literally feel like I’m giving my child poison or something, and that I’m a horrible mother because if I would have just organized my time a little better I could have prepared dinner for her. I always blame myself for everything. I know that in a few years she’s going to be eating junk food of her own accord so why am I acting like this?”

Georgia, 39, mother of 1
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13. “I feel bad when I have to change the baby’s schedule”

“My baby has a pretty strict schedule that she’s happy with, from the time she wakes up, to when she eats, when she sleeps, and bedtime. Whenever I have to change this for whatever reason, to work around errands, events, or outings etc., it really unsettles her and she ends up acting up and can even be downright miserable. This makes me feel awful for upending her programme. When I see other mothers able to do it all and I can’t even change things up for one day it makes me wonder if I’m doing it all wrong.”

Lorraine, 38, mother of 1
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14. “I feel like any discomfort my baby is in is all my fault”

“From the moment she was born, whenever she would cry, I would always feel it was due to something I was or wasn’t doing. I recently read somewhere, ‘sometimes babies cry; that’s just what they do,’ and that made me feel a little bit better because up until recently I would have horrible guilt anytime she was in any discomfort. From colic to a nappy rash, to a runny nose or anything out of the norm, I felt that maybe I could or should have done something better or different to have avoided it.”

Fairouz, 29, mother of 1
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15. “I always feel guilty when I’m on my mobile phone”

“I know that kids do as we do and not as we say and if that’s the case, then my child is about to start scrolling through Instagram for hours on end as soon as she is able to. Most days I grab my phone first thing in the morning to check my messages and social media – a habit I’m trying to stop – other times, after doing everything I have to do, I just want to sit on the couch and scroll through my phone. My child is already fixated on the phone and wants to play with it all the time. This is all my fault.”

Ashley, 31, mother of 1
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16. “I feel bad when my baby is bored”

“I don’t think that I provide my child with enough entertainment, but not through lack of trying. He’s eight months old and I sometimes get the feeling that he’s bored. He has many toys and age-appropriate soft books and I play with him as much as I can, but then I run out of ideas and energy and end up leaving him in his playpen a lot of the time. I feel that maybe he’s bored and that I’m a bad mum for not being able to amuse him more.”

Veronique, 28, mother of 1
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17. “I have guilt if I eat better than my kids do”

“Maybe once a month I’ll go out to dinner with friends or have a date-night with my husband, and I’ll end up feeling bad that I’ve had a whale of a time and enjoyed a fancy dinner whereas my kids have had to stay home and eat leftovers or something. I understand that all these thoughts are illogical and that I’m allowed to have fun without them, but I can’t explain the guilty feelings.”

Michelle, 42, mother of 3
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18. “I always question whether I’m making enough effort; I feel like I should be doing more”

“I don’t have any qualms about whether I’m a good mum or not; I know that I am, but sometimes I feel that I could somehow be doing more, or that I should try to go that extra mile. For instance, for a recent school mother-daughter event, we shopped for a dress and accessories and had a lovely time. When we turned up at the event, other mothers had brought bouquets of flowers for their daughters and I came empty handed because it didn’t even cross my mind to bring anything for her, and then of course I had terrible guilt for days.”

Cherry, 39, mother of 4

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  • Author: Kat de Naoum Kat de Naoum
  • Job Title: Freelance Writer

Kat is a freelance writer based in the UK and Greece. She has written for many publications, and, as an advocate for female empowerment, loves to write about women’s issues, and helping fellow mothers feel supported and less alone.

She has birthed one child and written two books. She can read and write and tends to spend most of her (non-parenting) time doing that, as well as taking care of her several pets.

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