Motherhood = Guilt?

After a difficult night involving two extra bodies in our bed and lots of whining (not coming from me) and a rude awakening featuring my 5 year old son's naked butt pressed into my face I put on my bright and happy mommy face and crawled out of bed.

Despite the four day headache which has morphed into a combo migraine/sinus/tension headache I actually felt like I could get stuff done today.

The kids went to bed really late last night but didn't sleep in at all, so it was nice and early. I had writing to do, housework to do, wrap a present for a birthday party, unshelve all the books from our upstairs bookshelf so it could be moved downstairs . . . blah, blah, blah. Typical day, basically. And I was ready to tackle it.

First order of business: breakfast.

T's been having tummy problems so probiotic capsules have made their appearance in our house. Despite the live-culture yogurt and probiotic enhanced bread we've decided to up the ante.

So, I crawl into the kitchen to whip up a batch of banana strawberry smoothie with live culture yogurt and probiotic powder. I pull out the whole grain plus flax seed sweetened with honey bread I made with my daughter yesterday - a recipe that allowed us to practice our math skills with fractions and counting.

I give the baby some homemade dandelion cordial that we also finished making yesterday, packed with Vitamin C.

And when I get it all on the table and survey my work with what should have been pride, I feel . . . GUILT!

What the?

Really. Okay, so when I don't make enough of an effort and I snap at the kids and throw them dry cereal for breakfast I feel guilty for being a bad mom. But when I do make the effort, handle my stress and tiredness and respond to their needs, give them a very healthy, effort-rich breakfast I feel guilty that maybe I'm being too good a mom.
photo courtesy of clix, stock.xchang.com
"Prison" courtesy of Clix

Maybe I shouldn't give my "all" because then they will expect it and not learn independent skills. Maybe I am denying myself in a way that acts as a bad role model for my daughter. Maybe I'm creating false impressions and setting her up for a lifetime of feeling like a failure and my son's up for a lifetime of feeling like no woman can measure up (okay, I know I'm not THAT good).

But the number one reason I felt guilt is because I was about to feel pride. Pride in being a good mother.

We're not supposed to be too proud of it, you know. After all, it's "just" mothering. And if we feel a sense of accomplishment and maybe even brag about it a little then we're making other mothers feel bad while at the same time reinforcing the anti-feminist belief that women can only be mothers.

And yes, I have been told this by a "feminist." A real, working feminist who works with a women's council once informed me that the "back to basics" mothering movement was going to destroy the work of generations of women.

I didn't know I was part of a movement. I just thought I was taking care of my family.

Because you can say what you want about the importance of parenting, but I chose to have children. And with that choice comes responsibilities. I am now responsible for them. I am responsible for keeping them healthy and supporting them. But I am also responsible for raising them, educating them, and preparing them to become citizens of our world. It's not just what I do that will have an impact now, but what they do. My influence on the world and the reach of my ideals has increased exponentially.

So when I felt that pride, and yes, maybe a little tingle of power, I should have been able to embrace it.

Instead I squashed it with inane guilt. Guilt that makes no sense.

As a feminist myself, my only true wish for future generations of women is that they not be saddled with this damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't guilt.

One thing I know is that the guilt I feel for being a "bad" mother sometimes is an internally created feeling. But the guilt I feel for being "too good" a mother is something that's been placed inside of me by the things I've read and been told.

So, out you go guilt. I'll sweep you away with these breadcrumbs. And please don't reappear tommorrow with the next batch of breadcrumbs.

Where does your guilt come from?


  1. Is it not a side effect of the judgement we find ourselves constantly under? I love how you worded this. And you are so right. I spend plenty of time feeling guilty for not being a good mother (spending too much time on line is my worst trait) but I also feel guilty sometimes for being a GOOD mother, because I know someone somewhere will feel that I'm trying to be a good mother JUST TO MAKE THEM FEEL BAD! I'm actually NOT a feminist, but I am pro-female. As are most of the men I know. It's us women who keep each other down.

  2. What a fantastic post. I agree with you I chose to have my children and therefore, I choose to look after them myself and yes, I feel proud that I try and be the best mum I can but, but my life is filled with all sorts of guilt. Guilt is the strongest emotion and therefore the one that always pops to the front of everything.

    Oh and PS can I have the dandilion cordial receipe - pretty please

  3. Ummmm . . . recipe? How about a how to? I didn't really measure anything. Fun in experimentation and all that.
    I'll post it later today!
    And you're so right - guilt is an incredibly strong emotion.

  4. @Luschka Isn't it crazy? To feel guilt for feeling like you're doing a good job - like your work is something to be proud of? If I had overcome a bad night, a headache and a busy day and got some file organising done at the office I would have just felt proud with no guilt, but translate office to home and filing to kids and it's a different story.

  5. I have learned a lot better over the year to stomp out guilt.

    It rears its ugly little head every once in a while but I try to shoo HIM (not her) away.

    I think pride is okay in these circumstances.
    Please don't eat yourself up.

  6. Great piece of writing! Oh, the mommy guilt. I, too, am a victim of the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" mentality. Now that my kids are teenagers, I feel so much remorse for things I could have/should have done differently. Would not having put my youngest in day care when he was three so that I could go to graduate school made him less surly a teenager? But maybe he's surly because I did too much for him while he was growing up. But perhaps he is surly simply by virtue of being a teenager, and through no fault of my own.


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