Written by Doctor G

The Nasty Secret about Parent Guilt


I work full time, and am the mother of two daughters aged 2 and 6.  My six year old, is in first grade and her buddies have those “Stay At Home Mom’s”  that tend to click together and organize playdates and classes during what are my work hours.  The Moms all get along and thus, the kids have naturally become closer friends. These are the same Moms that get to help out in the classroom and be chaperones field trips. And, their kids LOVE that they get to see their mom all the time, naturally. I don’t know if my daughter cares about it as much as I do.  I hope she doesn’t.  It’s most likely just a guilt thing on my end.

My husband is self employed, but he goes on about his day and they pretty much go about theirs.  He doesn’t take them to the park or sit with them and read or do crafts, or anything that I would think a parent would do with their child, if given that time and opportunity.  When I get home, Emily says “Ooh Mommy’s home!  Mommy, we have to do my homework….I’m hungry….I have papers for you to read….Watch me do this……Can we play a game”

I wish I could be more involved, but honestly working a full time job with 2 kids doesn’t leave me much time or energy to be that Mom.  I am tired when I get home. Most of the time, I just want to sit back and relax…..And hide.  Thus, the guilt that I’m screwing this up!  Which then leads to the arguments my husband and I have about parenting…..etc etc.

Which makes me wonder….Is it just ME?  Is it a MOM-Thing to always want that much more?? Any advice would be appreciated.

Amanda, in IL

Amanda, it’s not just you!

Every parent I know feels guilt. Full time working, full time stay at home, part time each, deployed, divorced, married, single, even grandparents feel guilt about where they put their time, their focus, their energy. What’s more, we all worry we’re screwing this up!

**If you’re reading this and you never feel guilty about any of this, that’s amazing! Please leave a comment below with your secrets!**

The nasty truth about parent-guilt is that it causes more problems than it solves.

What guilt does:

  • Poisons our mood. Guilt makes us irritable, sad, withdrawn… all kinds of things we then take out on our family and co-workers.
  • Distracts us. The time that we are able to be with family, or at work, or with friends, or even take a minute for our selves, we focus on feeling guilty and not on being present and making the most of the time we have.
  • Lessens our self-worth. Guilt causes a lot of negative self-talk, like “I’m a terrible parent” or “Someone else would do this job better.”
  • Leads to poor health. Guilt robs us of sleep, leads to poor eating choices, and adds stress.

What guilt doesn’t do is actually motivate us to change.

I hear your stress, and your desire to feel differently. So you have two choices:

  • Change the stressor, or
  • Change your reaction to the stressor.

Only you can decide if the choices you are making are a good match for your family. If you need to work full-time – for financial reasons, for benefits, for the goals you accomplish in your work, for modeling a great work ethic for your kids, whatever the reasons – then feeling guilty about it is pretty useless.

Only you can decide to stop feeling guilty about the way you spend your time. If you believe your kids need more of your energy, then figure out what changes you can make to have more energy, like a little more sleep, some planned time to yourself – so that you don’t feel like you have to hide – or a clearer to-do list that you share with your husband.

You hit on an important truth, Amanda. A lot of moms choose guilt more often than Dads do. Talk to him about your shared goals for your kids, and see if you can come up with a schedule and a list of kid-responsibilities that you divvy up, so that you know they’re getting what they need without feeling like you have to do it all.

And stop worrying about how your daughter feels about all of these girls whose moms go along for dance class and field trips. Chances are good those moms feel guilty because they don’t model a working-mom life for their girls!

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