It’s an experience with extreme highs and super-low lows. In other words, a relentless roller coaster of emotions.

These peaks and valleys can make motherhood simultaneously feel like the most wonderful experience in the entire world and also one of the hardest.

From the moment you conceive (or decide to adopt, foster, or become a parent via surrogacy), the prospect of raising a child brings simultaneous joy and pressure — an overwhelming combination that often results in the dreaded mom guilt.

But here’s the thing: Mom guilt may be incredibly common, but it’s not something you have to just accept.

Once you recognize it for what it is and what it’s not (translation: reality), you can identify strategies to manage the symptoms better and give yourself some much-needed grace as you navigate the complicated journey that is motherhood.

Mom Guilt Defined

Are my kids on their iPads too much? Am I doing enough tummy time with my baby? Am I feeding my toddler too many chicken nuggets and not enough carrots? Can my baby tell when I’m bored and not tuned into them? Am I completely failing at this whole “mom” thing?

If you’re a mother, chances are some of these questions are running through your mind on repeat. These questions lead to doubt, wondering if what you’re doing and giving is enough. But, where does all this pressure come from?

A lot of it stems from how you thought motherhood would feel before it actually happened. Ask yourself:

  • What kind of mom did I expect I would be?
  • How did I expect motherhood to feel?
  • How have those expectations lined up with my life now? And how have they not?

When your answers don’t match up with our reality, anxiety can set in. But it’s important to recognize that those expectations don’t define you. Often, we compare ourselves to our mother, the other mothers in our family or friend circle — even the mothers we see doing everything “perfectly” on social media.

But do those expectations jive with your values? By acknowledging your expectations and being realistic about where they came from, you can identify your values and feel more comfortable with the kind of parenting that works for you.

How to Alleviate Mom Guilt

While most mothers experience some level of mom guilt during pregnancy, postpartum, or as their children get older, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms.

    • Practice Self Care
      Think back to how you used to prioritize yourself before kids. Whether it was through exercise, going out with friends, date nights with your partner, or time spent alone, making time for those experiences can be incredibly restorative — even if your life looks different now.

      Think about ways to tap into those same feelings, but in a mom-friendly way. For example, time spent with friends might be a brunch date or a long walk instead of a night out on the town. However it looks to you, making time for yourself can make a big difference.
    • Ask For Help
      I get it — taking time to focus on you can be difficult when you have kids to take care of 24/7. But trust me when I say that the people around you (your partner, your friends, your family) want to help, so don’t be afraid to ask.

      Calling in help to better manage your life and be the best parent you can be is a sign of strength, not weakness. As the mother, you know what will best serve your family, so do whatever you need to do to get the help you need and set that plan into motion.
    • Step Away from the Social Media
      When you’re constantly being bombarded with videos and photos of the Instagram-worthy parts of motherhood, comparing yourself to others is inevitable.

      This non-stop exposure to other people’s lives has created an epidemic of should-ing — the activities we should be doing with our kids, how we should be feeling about parenting, what our family life should look like. The pressure is too much — and, frankly, it’s not reality. So, take a break from the mom guilt breeding ground that is Instagram and Facebook. Something tells me your mental health will thank you.

At the end of the day, there’s no magic bullet for mom guilt.

When you feel it creeping up (and chances are it will), don’t panic and remember: You’re doing the best you can, and that effort is not only good enough but exactly what your family needs.

If going back to work and investing in childcare is the best choice for you and your family, trust that and know that your kids will benefit from new interactions and experiences.

If formula feeding makes the most sense for you (for absolutely any reason at all), feel confident in your decision. You know what’s best for your baby and for you.

If ordering pizza once a week instead of cooking lets you off the hook and creates a fun experience for your family, embrace the junk food and enjoy every second of it.

If getting down on the floor and playing with your kids for 2 hours isn’t working for you, rest easy knowing the time you spend talking to them, caring for them, and just being there is making a huge impact.

So, even when the mom guilt creeps in, and you can feel the doubt and anxiety coming on, remember that to your child, you are everything they need.

As long as they feel safe and loved, they’re doing just fine. And so are you, mama.  


If you find yourself in need of extra support or could just use someone to talk to, finding an experienced perinatal therapist can help. My door is always open and I’d love to connect, so give me a call or send me an email anytime

I also recommend the Postpartum Support International Directory to search for an experienced perinatal clinician close to you.