Authentic parenting – part 4: combating guilt

Mommy guilt is so pervasive, so ever-present in most of our lives, and at the same time dealt with in the way we deal with shameful secrets - hidden and never really discussed.

Our guilt exposes our most vulnerable places, our doubts and fears and worry. Mommy guilt stems from the unending questions about whether we’re doing enough, doing it right, being too selfish or too indulgent. We want validation that comes from discussing our fears and worry and guilt, but discussing it also opens us up to the horrifying possibility that someone we trust and love may judge us, or tell us how screwed up we are.

So we don’t talk about it.

We feel guilty when our kids cry for comfort but we can’t handle one more moment of non-nutritive nursing, or rocking, or singing or bouncing. We feel guilty when another parent questions our decisions. We feel guilty when our kids beg for candy and we say no, or when we give them candy to quiet them. We feel guilty when we lose our cool and yell. We feel guilty when we lock ourselves in the bathroom to get 5 uninterrupted minutes of peace or when we volunteer to load the dishwasher to feel like we’ve finally accomplished something in the day. We feel guilty for staying home and not contributing financially. We feel guilty for leaving our kids and going to work. We we guilty when our kids don’t possess the maturity of adulthood or when their childhood seems cut short. We feel guilty.

We are afraid our kids will be damaged by our choices as parents, or damaged by those moments when we set sett parenthood aside for a moment and did what we needed to do to meet our needs as people. We worry that we’re not doing everything right and that be extension our kids won’t be successful, healthy, happy. We worry that we’re making mistakes and don’t even know it. So we look for advice, experience, someone to tell us what we “should” do.

Sometimes that advice undermines our parenting, makes us question our choices and beliefs. When the guilt and worry and fear doesn’t make us second-guess ourselves, the “should statements” we hear from others certainly do.

I try to create a more closed-system of parenting. I have figured out what kind of parenting is most natural to me, and it’s my own version of authentic parenting. I limit the outside input and make decisions based on what’s best for me and my babe, regardless of what I “should” do. I certainly read and hear parenting ideas and advice, but I try to only let concepts seep in and not “shoulds”. 

Should = guilt.

I feel like the more I embrace my own authentic parenting, the more true to myself I become, the better parent I can be and the less I deal with parenting guilt. I am not doing everything right. I might even be screwing up. I struggle with what to do about sleep and feeding and naps and teaching the Pie everything. I struggle with ideas about childcare and working. But I am making decisions based on my truth, rather than on someone else’s experience, and I encounter less guilt because of it.

How do you combat the mommy guilt?

Does combating guilt help you be a more authentic parent, which in turn helps you combat the guilt? Is it an upward spiral?


  1. If I let myself stop and think about it, I could be guilty forever. Guilty that I am not made to be a SAHM (I get bored too easily); guilty that I can't and won't hold my son every time he cries or fusses; guilty that I don't play with him enough, or play with him too much and don't stimulate him enough...guilty, guilty guilty. But I choose not to live that way. I have to remind myself that every action I take concerning my son is based in love, whether it jives with what I "should/should not" do according to the public. It may not be the ideal course, but I am doing the best that I can with what knowledge and abilities I have available. Children can sense those intentions and they will reflect them back to you, even if you don't feel you are doing enough.

    P.S. I was once told that feeling guilt/doubt in small amounts is good; it indicates concern and care about your actions. This also helps bring me out of my guilt spiral, when I becom bogged down.

  2. Great post. Very insightful, as usual.

    ps--how goes the packing/ moving??

  3. Pamela - so well said! I had a little moment when I read:

    Children can sense those intentions and they will reflect them back to you, even if you don't feel you are doing enough.

    I guess this is really what we hope - that our kids can somehow, someday see our intentions, even if we didn't make them reality. And what's better is if we can let go of feeling like our intentions are failures when we don't follow every intention through to completion.


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