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Family & Parenting
August 21, 2023
Five Ways to Conquer Mom Guilt

Angel Dacanay

Person in a beige knit sweater holding onto a baby that is wrapped in a beige blanket

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Overcoming the Guilt and Shame of Motherhood

When I took my eldest child to daycare for the first time, I felt so guilty and thought I was abandoning him so I could go to work. I thought I was not a good mother because I should take care of my child – because a good mother does not prioritize work over their child. When he gets a cold or flu, I blame myself and think maybe I didn’t dress him warm enough or feed him enough nutritious food, so now he’s sick. I even thought maybe I spoiled him, and that’s why he was still sleeping in my room until age 4.

When my second child was born, I felt the same maternal guilt. This time,  I was working and finishing my graduate degree simultaneously. I didn’t have time to clean the house, cook, do the laundry, and take care of my newborn all by myself. My mother and mother-in-law helped in taking care of my second child. My house was always messy; I always ordered takeout, the laundry was piling up, etc. I couldn’t help but think that I was a bad mother all over again.

People telling me how things should be done did not help at all. My guilt worsened when I compared myself to other mothers around me, and I even started comparing myself to my own mom. My mom could juggle all her responsibilities without any problems. She’d go to work, finish her chores, and care for 4 children all at once. I started to think that maybe motherhood wasn’t suitable for me. It wasn’t until later in my motherhood journey that I could label what I was experiencing as “mommy guilt,” and I wasn’t the only one experiencing it. It is more common and debilitating than I thought.

Maternal or “mom guilt” felt by mothers is influenced by societal expectations on how mothers should take care of their children or when they take time away from their role as a mother. This mom guilt is one significant factor that causes parental burnout, anxiety, and/or depression in most mothers with young children. Mothers often struggle to ask for help, and this affects their mental health because of the myths of motherhood that we try to live up to.

Five ways we can overcome mom guilt:

  1. Self-compassion and self-care: Be kind to yourself. Start having self-talk and reminder that there is no specific right way to raise your child. Recognize what you need to do for your mental health (e.g., self-care) so that you can take care of your child. Self-care is not optional, and you don’t have to feel guilty about caring for yourself. It’s like when we’re on a plane, and we’re told pre-flight that we must put on our oxygen mask first before we can help others. Or fill up your own bucket before we fill up others because we can’t fill up from an empty bucket. 
  2. Identify support: Surround yourself with people who understand and support you. Talking about your experiences and feelings can help address the feeling of loneliness. Join support groups online or in person, or ask for professional help.
  3. Set realistic expectations: Accept the situation and reality that you cannot always be present at home to be with your child. We also need time for ourselves for our own mental health. Or for those working moms, it is understandable that not all mothers can afford to stay at home, and some of us need to work. Reflect as much as you can on why you need to work. This can be a positive reminder that you take on several hats, not just for your family but also for yourself. It gives you a stronger sense of identity and connection outside the home. Whether you stay home or work, you do what is best for you and your family. 
  4. Identify the source of guilt: What causes your guilt? Awareness of where it comes from will help you better understand them. Culture, values, and beliefs influence the guilt we feel. 
  5. Recognize irrational thoughts: Once you have identified the source or trigger of your guilt, you can challenge those beliefs and try to reframe them. 


Motherhood can be a daunting experience. It involves a lot of changes in our priorities and lifestyle, especially for new mothers. It can be emotionally, physically, and mentally demanding. There is no rule book that tells you the right way to be a mother. We do things differently; we don’t need to compare notes and label each other’s way of parenting. It is normal to feel sad, tired, and overwhelmed. We can ask for help, and there are several ways to cope or deal with our struggles as mothers.  

One way is connecting with a Shift Collab therapist! Click here to browse our team, or take our matching quiz to get an instant therapist match

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