My kids once waited alone at school for an hour because I wasn’t there to get them. Talk about mom guilt. This was years ago, but my stomach still feels sick when I share that. I share that whole store here, (plus a podcast episode on it here) but I was out of town on a work trip, my flights got changed, and I didn’t relay that information to everyone. I told the babysitter the kids would walk home, but the kids were confused and didn’t know to walk home without me. When the school called I was in the air, my ex’s phone was off, and my dad (the emergency contact) wasn’t in the loop. The school didn’t know to call the babysitter.
Everything was fine, my kids were okay, and I apologized profusely and felt terrible, but that was one instance where I felt intense mom guilt. I sometimes feel mom guilt still… when I’m running late, when I’m working instead of being present, or when I worry I’m giving them too much screen time.
I know I’m not alone in these feelings, but I wanted to share some things to think about to help cope with guilt as a mom or a dad.
Balance Isn’t Real
Think about listening to an orchestra. First you hear the strings weaving through their music, then they get quieter, and the wind instruments come in, then the boom of the drums, then the brass comes in. The instruments don’t all play at the same time at the same volume. Sometimes the strings are louder, other times its the brass. The same is true for life.
During the day, my work is the loudest part of my life. My kids are at school or remote learning, and I’m giving as much of my attention as I can to my work. When my kids are home, at night or on weekends, they are the loudest. Life is like an orchestra, not balanced but loud and soft at different times. And that’s okay!
If your guilt comes from the fact that you are unable to balance work, kids, spouse, friends, laundry, life, etc. at the same time, know that that’s impossible! And that’s not the reality of how anything in our life works, not just kids.
You’re Not Alone
Sometimes the best thing for mom or dad guilt is just to simply realize that you’re not alone. The best moms out there feel guilty. Stay-at-home moms feel guilty for working, or for not being present enough, or for wishing for time alone. Working moms feel guilty for being away from their kids, or for not being present enough when they are with them, or for wishing for time alone.
Some of the best conversations I had as a new mom, and continue to have as a not new mom, are the ones where I feel seen. The ones where I feel like I can relate, and that I’m not the only mom out there who has made a mistake like leaving their kids at school, or yelling about something that didn’t really matter, or who has cried alone in the bathroom.
You’re not alone in your guilt, we all feel it!
Change the Story
In order to cope with mom or dad guilt, you need to work on changing the narrative. Instead of thinking, “I made this huge mistake, I feel terrible, I’ll never forgive myself,” think, “I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.” You need to give yourself the grace you’d give a friend, and just simply work to make yourself feel good about the job you’re doing as a parent.
You’re allowed to work and to have interests and to miss a karate class every now and again. To make a mistake and work to be better. You’re allowed to take time for yourself. To have other parts of your life be louder than your kids sometimes. That’s okay! Instead of feeling guilty, change the story. Remind yourself that you’re showing your kids what it takes to succeed, work hard, and perceiver. To grow and be better and love themselves.
It’s really hard to cope with guilt as a parent, but the more you try to work through it, the easier it’ll eventually be. Your kids will always be #1, you’ll always love them more than anything else, and you’ll always work to be the best you can be for them. Taking time for you, for work, for friends, for your spouse, etc. won’t change that.
Have you ever felt mom or dad guilt? How do you cope?
P.S. This is one of many topics I tackle in my 21-Day Challenge to Find Your Compass. If you’re interested in learning more, I have another one coming up soon! Learn more HERE!