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Mom Guilt is Real. How Do You Overcome it?

Don’t let mom guilt get the better of you. Understand what’s driving you mad.   

I first lashed out at my daughter when she was an infant and again when she was older. That’s how guilt rears its ugly state for me personally. I know exactly what to say so it will hurt most and inflict my stress on her - her being both my source of utmost joy and guilt - two fully-charged emotions knotted up in a complicated mess. A leave-behind brochure on guilt and emotional management during prenatal classes would be helpful. You’re prepped to change diapers and burp your child however you don’t know how to cope with the emotions that come along with parenting.   

Mom guilt creates an underlying source of anxiety that gets under your skin and consumes you from within. It is the mismatch between expectations and reality, a feeling that you’re failing or falling short of expectations, that creates an unhealthy obsession of whether we’re good enough as mothers. You’re not alone if you feel this way. In Singapore, a survey conducted by Focus on the Family last year found that four in five mothers experience mom guiltwhich manifests in many forms. 

Here’s a coaching approach to deepen your understanding of what guilt looks like for you. By learning how mom guilt shows up and examining the motivation behind it, you’d be in a better place to shift your perspective and manage your coexistence with mom guilt. Dig out your journal and start tracking details with the guide below. 

When does guilt show up for you?   

Being aware of the factors that trigger guilt will help you manage your reaction and accompanying emotion. By tracking specific moments over the course of the day, you will be able to identify what these triggers have in common. 

  • Record the specific moments when guilt sits on your shoulder over a duration of 1-2 weeks. Be as specific as you can and jot it down in a point form. 
  • What were you doing? Were you’re toggling between tasks, planning something for yourself or when you’re physically away from your kid/s? 
  • Who were you with eg. your kids, husband? 
  • When does this occur? At the start, middle or end of the day? Does it creep up when your energy levels dip? 
  • Rate the intensity from a scale of 1 (slightly guilty) to 10 (massively guilty)
  • Add up the points at the end for each day and look out for thought patterns here. 

What does mom guilt feel like? 

Recognising the underlying reasons for your emotions will help you identify ways to shift the negative mindset around guilt.  

  • Create an inventory of emotions for each moment  
  • List your feelings associated with guilt, whether it’s anger, sadness, helplessness, shame, sadness and more.
  • Examine the root cause of the emotion: I felt ___(insert emotion)____ because _______________. 
  • What were you reacting to? The loss of a life you once knew? 

What is mom guilt costing you?  

Notice when you feed the guilt and let it overwhelm you. Channel your focus on what matters and “Marie Kondo” your headspace. 

  • Look out for the phrase, “I should be __(doing this)__ instead of __(doing that)__.” Ask yourself, who’s telling you to do that and what for? 
  • Prioritise for one. Be decisive about the choice you make - pick either one that serves the kid, your husband, or one that serves you. Make the choice and live with it otherwise you’ll end up torn between two minds and end up losing the moment to be truly present, whether you’re with your child, with your besties on a night off, or simply curled up by yourself.   

 Don’t let mom guilt get in the way of being an imperfect parent.