How to Discern Between Well-Deserving and Unearned “Mom Guilt”

Guilt. It’s such a complex, complicated emotion.

There are the on-going jokes about “Catholic guilt.” There are some who would make you believe that guilt is completely worthless and should have no place in our modern society.

I think guilt is good and healthy… when it’s rightfully earned. Guilt is a part of our conscience and lets us know when we’ve done wrong. It can help steer us so that we want to do better in the future.

But the key is, it should be felt when we’ve done wrong.

Too often, we heap unnecessary and unearned guilt on ourselves, and that has no place. It’s not helpful. In fact, when used this way, guilt can become a selfish emotion, wherein we only focus on ourselves.

“Oh, I just feel so bad that I couldn’t help. I really wanted to do something.”

“I wish I could be with him more during the day. I know he needs me. I feel terrible.”

These are the kinds of statements and thoughts that we all have when piling on the guilt, but take a moment and think about it: who are these statements REALLY about? The other person, or ourselves?

Sometimes we can get so bogged down in what we think we SHOULD be doing or feeling that we lose sight of the truth. We forget to take a step back and assess the situation for what it truly is.

You really wanted to do something to help; that’s admirable. But you were unable. Did the group suffer because of it? Maybe it created an opportunity for someone else to offer their services. You wished you could have, but it didn’t work out this time. That’s a whole lot different than maliciously lying to get out of it, and certainly not worthy of a guilt bomb.

Sadly, parents – particularly moms – seem to feel an inordinate amount of guilt around everything they do and don’t do.

The combatant for the guilt is confidence. Confidence in knowing that you have and are making the right decisions for you and your family. Your confidence builds when your focus is on listening to your intuition and ignoring all the “shoulds” in your life. You know the ones: “I should be going to the gym more.” “I should be making homemade granola bars in the shape of airplanes.” “I should be scrapbooking every memory.”

The only thing you SHOULD be doing is tuning in to you and your family. What do you desire? What are you called to do? What does your family truly need? Start there, and the rest will take care of itself. No guilt necessary.