How to Reduce Your Mom Guilt and Still Love Your Kids

Do you suffer from mom guilt, even when you spend as much time as possible with your kids? Try out these three tactics so you can be a less stressed, more content mom. 

How to Reduce Your Mom Guilt and Still Love Your Kids. (Photo: White woman and baby sitting on a furry beanbag.)

The last time my husband and I had a date night, my eighteen-month-old (nicknamed Little Bird) roamed his grandparents’ house, looking for us in every room. He called out “Mama. Mama” in this tiny little voice.

Thanks for the stab through the heart, kid.

Mom guilt is so real. Sometimes it’s deserved, sometimes it isn’t, and sometimes it doesn’t matter because your kids love you so much that they’re distraught if you leave for a split second, much less the entire evening. Yet we’re told to “take time for ourselves” and make sure you have “me time.” Good luck being able to minimize the mom guilt and still carry out self-care.

On top of the self-care piece, mom guilt actually hurts rather than helps our parenting. If we’re constantly paralyzed by feeling inadequate, then we can’t fully appreciate the times we are present.

As the Queen of Guilt – mom and all other types – perhaps it’s ridiculous of me to write this article. But because of my tendency to run right into Guilt City, no stops ahead, I’ve had to deal with it straight-on for the sake of my mental and emotional health. Taking these steps has helped me reduce my anxiety significantly. Hopefully, they’ll help you too.

Let go of your pride

I know my kids love me. Often to the point where it’s a little smothering.

But they’re also extremely lucky that they have a lot of other people they love and who love them back. The list includes my husband (of course), my parents, his parents and many of our friends.

So why do I feel guilty leaving my kids? For the same reason I wanted to dominate every group project in school – because I think I can do a “better” job. Now, some of them make different childcare decisions than I would, whether they’re more lenient about screentime or less involved in play. But often, they’re not worse decisions. Just different.

In many cases, it’s better that my children spend time with a variety of people. I didn’t have a relationship with my grandparents because they lived so far away. The fact that my kids can stay with my parents is a huge blessing for everyone.

The more I let go of my belief that my kids are always better off with me, the less pressure I put on myself and the more freedom they have to build relationships with a variety of adults.

Sneaking in “me time”

I’m not a fan of deception. In fact, I’m painfully honest.

But I’ve realized my habit of announcing when I’m going to take time for myself is absurd. Previously, I would tell the kids when I was going to lay down for a nap or go for a run. Of course, they’d often decide they needed me that second, leaving me to never get done what I intended to.

Now, I’ve started taking a cue from my husband, who often takes a very long time to get his clothes from downstairs. Or hides in the kitchen with his phone. It’s not that the kids don’t know where he is – my four-year-old figures it out pretty easily. But my husband doesn’t make a big, self-flagulating deal about it.

Now, when I go take a nap on weekend mornings, I ensure my younger son is distracted first. Switching off caregiving responsibilities with my husband then goes so much smoother. When I go running on Sunday afternoons, it’s during Little Bird’s naps and when my older son and husband are watching football. I say where I’m going, but it’s a simple statement, not a whole production. Because I’m not making a big deal about it, my kids don’t make as big of a deal about it either.

Remember “It will get done.”

To state it lightly, I’m an ambitious person. I can definitely get a bad case of mom guilt when I start thinking of all of the things I want to get done that I haven’t. I’ve found two solutions to this issue.

First, figure out what you actually want to do versus what you think you “should” do. Swapping “want” for “should” can make a world of difference.

For the things you genuinely want to do, remember that they will get done eventually. If something is important enough and you didn’t get to it today, it will still be there tomorrow. You will fold the laundry or tend the garden or read the book to your kids for the zillionth time – just not this second. Or maybe you don’t even have to be the one who does it. Maybe your husband or your mom or even the kids will do it (depending on what it is, of course).

Remembering that I’m capable of only doing one thing at a time and that whatever task I’m thinking about will (eventually) get done has kept me from running around like a chicken with my head cut off a number of times.

Guilt and I go way back, far before I became a mom. But little voices crying “mommy!” have forced me to face it head-on. And I think I’ve become a better mom and better person for it.

If you feel like the whole weight of the household is on your shoulders, check out How Moms Can Reduce the Mental Load that Leaves Us Sick and Tired. For more thoughts on parenting and life, follow us on Facebook

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