Mom Guilt: There’s Always Something You Could Feel Bad About

Even before I became a mother, I had my fair share of guilt. I felt guilty for texting instead of calling to catch up with friends. I felt guilty for throwing cardboard in the trash can because I was too lazy to take it out to the recycling bin. I felt guilty for drinking three glasses of wine on a Tuesday. And then throwing the bottle in the trash can. Suffice it to say, I was no stranger to the feeling. After all, I grew up in the Catholic church, of which guilt is a founding principle.

But as soon as those two blue lines showed up on the pregnancy test, I discovered a new kind of superguilt: pregnancy guilt. As I came to quickly realize, pregnancy in and of itself, is basically a huge guilt fest. In the first trimester, I felt guilty for mourning the loss of my nightly glass of Cab, for wondering when I would no longer feel nauseous all day, for being kind of a little bit bored because 40 weeks is a long damn time. I mean I was growing a human, so shouldn’t I feel amazed and blessed and in awe of my body’s ability to grow said human like every minute of every day?

Then the second trimester came, and with it, a whole new set of guilt-inducing changes. I felt guilty for wishing I looked pregnant instead of like I ate a few too many burritos (patience, my dear!) I felt guilty because I would’ve given my right arm for a rainbow roll with copious amounts of wasabi and soy sauce. I felt guilty because I finally took a few sips of wine and it was a total freakin letdown.

Then the third trimester rolled around and the guilt was at a fever pitch. I felt guilty for pretty much everything: being annoyed with strangers’ well-meaning questions about my due date/the gender/my sleep patterns/the name we picked, etc. Wishing repeatedly that babies only required seven months of gestation. Eating another chocolate cupcake. Buying one more overpriced maternity outfit, because four horizontally striped spandex shirts and one pair of worn out maternity jeggings does not a wardrobe make.

Then I gave birth to the aforementioned tiny human and something happened: 1) I was suddenly responsible for an entire person and 2) I felt guilty about pretty much everything having to do with that person.  Translation: Mom Guilt. The kind that makes Catholic guilt/pregnancy guilt/too-much-wine guilt look like child’s play.

It’s the type of guilt that always comes with a flip side; something you could be doing differently or better for your child. Recommended amount of tummy time or a happy baby who’s not screaming because his face is buried in the carpet? Tylenol for a teething baby or any amount of natural remedies that don’t seem to squash the pain nearly as well? Independent playtime or total one-on-one attention? Daycare or staying home? Pile of laundry or playing with the baby? Cloth or disposable? Bottle or breast?  

We make a million choices a day for our babies and, if we’re honest with ourselves, there’s probably always something we could be doing to potentially screw them up.  But something tells me that a little less tummy time than our pediatricians recommend isn’t one of those things.

I don’t have a remedy for mom guilt and I’m not sure that any mother is really immune to it. I consider myself to be a pretty relaxed, easygoing mom, but I’m certain there will always be a tiny voice inside my head asking if there was a different or better way, even when my child is grown. Being responsible for a person’s childhood is a huge responsibility and it would be impossible to navigate those years without a little second-guessing.

There is always something you could feel guilty about. But try not to. Your child(ren) are loved, fed however you so choose, usually clothed and generally happy. They also have short memories and they’ll forgive you for making them wear any number of clever, cheeky onesies that were on sale at Carters. If you’re doing the best you know how, then that’s good enough. Tomorrow is a different day with a whole new set of choices. 

Save the guilt for the teenage years when your daughter starts dating the kid with the Harley.

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Melissa Mowry

Melissa Mowry is a stay at home mom to 3 year old Chase and the slightly younger guy, Sam. She is the main voice behind One Mother to Another, which she started in July 2014 as a way to connect with other moms who felt just as lonely as she did some days. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Adam, and they live in their home state of Rhode Island. Melissa's work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Coffee + Crumbs and Mamapedia, among others. Her book, One Mother to Another: This Is Just Between Us is for sale on Amazon.
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13 Responses to Mom Guilt: There’s Always Something You Could Feel Bad About

  1. Amanda July 8, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    So first of all, you are an amazing writer, I laughed, cried, and finally shuddered thinking of the boy with the Harley. I literally felt like I was reading my own thoughts over the last year. Which then turned to me sitting here sobbing- no longer about being guilty about a sunburn (??) but feeling so closely connected to other Mamas feeling the same way. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. shawnaseyontherocks July 8, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    I love this. I love you. I started blogging after giving birth but didn’t stick with it. I was literally thinking this morning how it would be great to start again (this of course brought on by the fact that I got 5 different suggestions from 5 different people about how to cute Oliver’s constipation. Lol. Keep em coming kid. Looks like you’re off to a great start. 🙂

  3. Jennifer Marsh July 9, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Oh mama guilt! My nine year old is very dramatic and is always saying his arm or leg is broken after he falls. We’ve done numerous doctors visits just to be told he’s fine. So when he fell last Saturday and started crying that his arm was broken we didn’t believe him. After an hour of him asking to go to the doctor i took him to the emergency room. His elbow was broken straight through and needed surgery to have screws put in to set it. I felt so guilty. Gotta love mama guilt.

  4. Nyanza October 9, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    Thabj you for writing this. I’m a first time mom in her late thirties and I am always feeling guilty about something, every day it seems. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one!

  5. Sahara October 10, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    I’m almost 20 weeks pregnant with my first, and I was talking to my mother last night. I still haven’t made copies of my wedding pictures for her to put up and frame (The wedding was last winter) and I said, “I’m going to totally suck at the baby picture-giving thing.” The thing where your baby gets a picture and it’s all cute and organized and you hand them out to everyone. I joked with her, “Just one more thing for me to suck at!”

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