Mommy Guilt — Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?

posted by Andrea | 03/13/2012

{sound asleep in her wrap… which means I have both hand to work!}

I have a ton of friends and family members with babies right now… seriously, a ton! 

Some of them stay at home with their kids, some of them work outside the home, and some of them work FROM home… like me.

However, I find it interesting that many of my mom friends and relatives say they feel guilty…

The moms who are “JUST” stay at home moms say they feel guilty because they quit their jobs and aren’t helping to support their families.

The moms who work outside the home feel guilty because they send their kids to daycare every day and aren’t around to see all the special moments and milestones.

The moms who work from home feel guilty because they are always forced to choose between work and family… and there is always more they could do for both.

No matter what kind of mom you are, I have a feeling you’ve probably felt guilty for one of these 3 reasons before. I know I have… and I’ve only been doing this for a few months.

The sad thing is that even if you don’t feel “mommy guilt” right away, someone will eventually make a rude comment, a snide remark, or even just infer that they wouldn’t make the parenting choices you’ve made.

You know it’s true!

Even though I’ve had a handful of rude comments and snide remarks already, I honestly feel like I’ve made the best decision for our family… and I feel like my friends and relatives have made the best decisions for their families.

I couldn’t imagine working outside the home every day. I think I would have a nervous breakdown from the stress of getting my fussy baby out the door each day and then coming home at night, only to make dinner, work on my huge list of household chores, and prepare for the next day — all while still dealing with a fussy baby. Kudos to all the moms out there who can do that though!

But at the same time, I think I would get a bit depressed if I stayed home with Nora but didn’t have my blog and virtual assistant work as an “outlet”. Yes, my work makes me busier; yes, sometimes it’s stressful to manage a full time job and a full time family; yes, sometimes I just want to quit everything — but at the same time, I LOVE being busy and trying to figure out the best way to manage everything on my plate {I know, I’m sick!}

So like I mentioned earlier, I feel that by working from home with Nora, I’ve made the best decision for our family… but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel that mommy guilt.

Oh believe me, I do! 

Some people think I’m making myself too busy, trying to do everything I do… but it’s only been 3 months, I’m still trying to figure everything out and get back in my groove. I’m not going to throw in the towel yet. Give me a few more months and I’ll have everything running smoothly again {let’s hope!!}

Others think that Nora’s lack of a schedule is because I’m home all day and don’t wake her up at a specific time for daycare. I’ve been told that if she went to daycare, they would get her on a schedule ASAP, which would then make my life easier. But why would I want to pay for daycare if I don’t have to?

Some tell me I’m being too relaxed with her, others say I’m too ridged. Some say I need to pay more attention to Nora and less to my work; others say the direct opposit — after all, I shouldn’t “spoil her with so much attention”.

It seems that moms just can’t win!  We are always doing something wrong… or so they say.

And while I obviously don’t have a ton of motherhood experience, I’d have to argue just the opposite. Often times, it seems moms are the ones doing it right… whatever “it” is.

You see, I never babysat, I never chose to be around babies, I never even changed a diaper before Nora was born… so I pretty much had no idea what I was doing! But after just 3 months, I can comfort her, get her to stop crying, and get her to smile faster than anyone.

She is still alive, she’s healthy, she’s growing, she’s sleeping more, and she’s cuter than ever… so I must be doing something right. {Obviously Dave is part of the equation too… but I’m talking about moms here!} She eats, she sleeps, and she gets tons of love and attention even though I also spend a fair amount of my days focused on work.

I suspect many moms can say the same thing — whether we stay at home, work from home, or work outside the home — we all love our kids, and are making the best choices we can for our families.

So why do we let ourselves feel this mommy guilt? 

And I know it’s not just me.

Besides just being confident in our own choices and knowing we are doing what’s best for our families, is there a way to push that mommy guilt aside?

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36 comments

  1. Monique

    03/13/2012

    The guilt never goes away. I have drawn the conclusion that it is healthy guilt. My baby is now 16 years old and not a day goes by that I do not think about what if I had done this or that. What you are doing is the best job in the world and it will never feel like you are “doing it right”. When she becomes a teenager and she still respects you, you will think (but not 100%) you have done a decent job. Just feel the guilt, let it inspire you and move on! You ARE doing a great job however you are doing it!

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  2. dorothy

    03/13/2012

    I wish the “mommy wars” would just stop! It’s ridiculous that you are getting comments about what you do or don’t do. It’s your baby, it’s your choice. Women should stop criticizing each other and just SUPPORT each other for the choices they make.

    You’ll learn to get a thick skin regarding parenting. Everyone has an opinion and they are FAR to willing to share it.

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  3. Sarah

    03/13/2012

    I just wrote a post on this last week and have an entire blog devoted just to mom issues. It is so hard to turn down the chatter of everyone else’s opinions, especially when you are a brand new mom. You are trying to figure everything out and don’t quiet have your stride yet. Try your best to do what you know is right for your family and every time you hear someone else’s opinion, remember it’s just that an opinion. Trust yourself, you will rock it!!

    http://www.sarahfinks.com/mommy-guilt-how-to-get-out-from-underneath-it/

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  4. Shannon

    03/13/2012

    When my girls were little, I worked full-time. I felt guilty for not being with them.
    I quit working altogether when they were older. I felt guilty for not bringing in an income.
    When I went back to work part-time, I felt guilty for not contributing enough with the housework.

    Guilt is very powerful and can take us places that we don’t really need our minds to go.

    Looking at my girls now, I’m very proud of the young women they’ve become. Motherhood (and parenthood) is all about doing what you think may work and if it doesn’t work, try something else.

    Just seeing your pictures and seeing the smile on Nora’s face says to me that you’re doing a wonderful job.

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  5. Amber

    03/13/2012

    My heart is deeply saddened to hear the riducule you have faced. However; I believe we are created uniquely and perfectly in the image of God. Mommies know what is best for their children and they are each so different. It takes time to learn your child. There is no set rules how to do anything. Great mommies are the ones that care and meet the needs of their children! Keep doing what you are doing!

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  6. Cheryl

    03/13/2012

    I think every mom out there has heard critical remarks from all sides. I think every child, every family is unique. It is funny that some of the harshest critics when my kids were younger (“You are too strict with them”, “you shouldn’t force them to try new foods”) now offer the the most compliments, (“your kids are so well behaved”,” your kids are willing to try new things”) yet somehow don’t see that being more strict when they were young, led to the well behaved young ladies they are becoming!!

    Try to block all the negative comments and continue doing what you feel is best for your beautiful baby and your family. Three months is still so new. She is learning how all this works too!! Eventually a schedule will happen and it will be one that works best for your family. There is no right or wrong. When (if) you add to your family, it will all change again! :)

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  7. Lea

    03/13/2012

    Hi I am a stay at home mom who also ranches so I guess I have a couple jobs too. I think you hit the nail on the head that if our children are happy, loved, and all needs are met no matter if one works at home, or out of the home, one is doing the job correctly. I too have felt the guilt you are talking about but we all have the choice to listen to it or stop our thoughts in there tracks and not go to that place. I remind myself that my life isnt exactly the same as anyone elses and that is OK. Im living the dream I had as a small child, with a few differences, but I’m happy, my children are happy, and so is my husband. Listening to others remarks and letting them sit in our hearts can only damage our self love and make us unhappy. My favorite saying is “If momma aint happy no ones happy.” I try to ignore bad remarks and only block those that continue to say bad things out of my life. They obviously doubt their abilities in parenting and feel the need to put it on those who are questioning their own mother abilities. And if those comments get real bad for me I sit down and turn on the daytime talk shows and pretty soon I feel a ton better, then I sit and thank God for giving me the amazing life I have and all the amazing blessings and lessons he has given me. Then I pray for those on the all those talk shows that they find faith, comfort, and guidance from him as I have. There are always those out there that may say something that hits a nearve but it only hits a nerve when we let it too. God Bless and keep keeping happy and doing what you have to, to keep yourself as well as your family happy, loved, and cared for. :)

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  8. Lea

    03/13/2012

    There is a way but it takes a great deal of self confidence and love. We have to block it out, put up a wall and ignore the comments that strike a cord in us. Ask yourself for one second the question, then sit back and do what you did. List the possitives. Your child is loved, cared for, and happy. It only takes one comment to slap one on the face but 100 compliments to gain that pat on the back, back. If the answer is answered with more possitives than it is just a comment that can be washed from our minds. Literally go wash your hands and picture the guilt going down the drain. We all do things differently based on how we were raised and letting others remarks beat us down is not fair. Know that you are not alone I have felt these same feelings of mommy guilt but I now look around to see if Im happy and if my family is happy. If they are then I dont have to worry about the comment. I think we question it ouselves because we want the best for our children and feel like maybe we arent doing enough, like the neighbor seems to be. Think of it as the people who continue to say those remarks probably have the same guilt rolling around in their head too, they are just passing it on and not dealing with it themselves. God Bless and when things get real bad and you feel like the guilt is over taking you, turn on the daytime talk shows. Those always make me feel like Im the best mom out there. Then I sit and thank God for what I have and pray for those children who are miserable. I hope this helps, mommy guilt is no fun!!!!

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  9. Catherine

    03/13/2012

    I have an 18 month old… and I truly tink that when she was born… “mommy guilt” was born too!! I’m a working mom. I live in Canada and was fortunate enough to be able to take 8 months of parental leave (I shared the full year we get with my husband who took 4 months!)

    In the past 18 months I felt guilty for many different reasons…For wanting so badly to go back to work on the days my baby was fussy! For going to work when my baby girl was sick (even if she was home with daddy!). For having a few too many appointments/meetings in one week and missing a few bed times! For being late at work because we had a rough morning… For forgetting to give my daughter water with dinner! Guilt is just always around!

    After a while I just decided to accept the feeling.. and just do the best I can.. That’s all I can do really! And I also realized that the best thing I could do for my kid was to trust myself and be happy. And that for me, means having a happy professional life outside of home and balance it with family life!

    Oh and just so you know… Our daughter was home with one of us for the first year of her life… We didn’t really try to have her on a specific schedule.. In the first few months, we just followed her schedule.. At 2 months, she would go to bed at 10pm… and as time went by… and as she became more active during the day… her bed time slowly went from 10pm to 9pm to 8pm to now 7pm.. And we didn’t decide that, she did on her own!! She’s now been going to bed everynight at around 7pm.. As for naps… she was never very big on that either.. I just couldn’t get her to nap at regular times! But she was a happy kid and slept trough the night so I never worried about it… and now that she is in daycare, she gets a 2 hour nap every afternoon! So there is hope!!

    Just keep doing what feels right!

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  10. Terri

    03/13/2012

    I’ve been at home with my children since day one, and now they are in college I’m still home and available to be “mom” when they need me. Of course these days they don’t need me as much, but they are still learning and need direction at times. I’ve NEVER regretted one minute of being a stay at home mom, it hasn’t always been easy and I’ve heard my fair share of negative comments. You have to do what your heart tells you to do and what works best for you and your family. There is not a rule book for being a parent and mistakes will be made, do the best you can and I say, spoil that baby!

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  11. Christina @ Northern Cheapskate

    03/13/2012

    I’m also a work-at-home mom… and here are my thoughts on the topic of “mommy guilt.”

    1) Guilt only works if you let it.

    2) If you’re happy doing what you’re doing, then who cares what anyone else thinks? If you’re happy, you’ll be a BETTER mom!

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  12. Dee@ Small House Life

    03/13/2012

    Weeeeelll.. as a mom of grown kids, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it gets worse!

    How is that possible?

    Because as they grow, it’s easy to regret, beat your self up, feel guilty.. just fill in the blank here.. about what you did or didn’t do right in their childhood (defined as the whole time until they leave home)

    So as not to leave on a completely negative note, I’ll share what my sister advised me to do all along. Which I have wholeheartedly embraced in the last few years resulting in close relationships with my grown kids.

    “It’s all about the relationship”

    That’s it..

    Everything else is second.

    Because with the bond of a strong relationship, we can influence our children and matter to them in a way that’s not possible if we parent by “You’ll do it cuz I said so”

    dee

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  13. Tabitha

    03/13/2012

    I love what you wrote about today. I’m learning though (I’ve only been a mom for 15 months), that the reason I feel guilty is I allow the enemy to steal my joy! I’ve been given so much grace from our heavenly Father that sometimes I forget about grace! As parents will we make mistakes of course, but if we focus on the things we are good at, give ourselves grace (as Crystal at moneysavingmom.com suggests often), wrap ourselves around encouraging people we might just have less guilt. We are all making the best decisions, we possibly can with the information we have on hand at that time. So to answer your question, “Why do we allow ourselves to have mommy guilt.” For me, sometimes I lack giving myself grace and trusting that the Lord knows my heart and He knows the needs for my family! :)

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  14. Lisa

    03/13/2012

    Andrea, all I have to say is AMEN. OK, I guess that’s not ALL I have to say. Everyone always thinks they know how to do it better than you, huh? Not all advice we moms get from other moms and grandmas is bad, but they need to remember that if we need/want advice, we’ll ask. And if we DON’T ask, THEY should ask if we want advice/suggestions before spilling their wisdom.

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  15. Lindsay

    03/13/2012

    Dear Andrea,

    First of all thank you so much for sharing all you do about your life with a new born. I am about to have my first baby and it really helps to read about someone else’s experience. It must be so frustrating to hear the rude comments and opinions… but like you said, everyone is different and everyone is going to have a slightly different parenting style, and no matter how much we might think our way is the “best,” we can’t put that on any one else. I just wish everyone thought like that… including myself. I am often very judgmental of how mothers treat their children, internally. It can be hard not to be sometimes! But I just wanted to say keep doing what you’re doing because YOU know YOU the best. It seems to me like you are doing a fabulous job.

    As for the guilt, I’m sure you do this already but just pray. I am already starting to have mommy guilt and I haven’t even given birth yet!! I don’t know what I’m going to do, whether work or not or do part time, and everyone does have their opinions about what is right. But I’m going to try to take my own advice and do what is right for me, the baby and my husband. I was reading a Dr. Dobson book last night and he mentioned that being a mother of a newborn(and probably in general) is the most important job in the world. Reading that made me relax. It’s such a huge responsibility and privilege and I hope I can make the most of it. But I know I will be running to Jesus every day for help with feeling guilty or just anything negative. And I know He will be there to help. One verse that helps me sometimes with others’ opinions is Galatians 1:10:

    Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

    Focus on Him! :)

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  16. Susan Wenner Jackson

    03/13/2012

    Andrea,

    First of all, that baby of yours is ADORABLE.

    Second of all, you need to read my blog! It’s WorkingMomsAgainstGuilt.com. Welcome to the club.

    I’m a work-at-home mom myself, though I was a work-at-the-office mom before that. Moms seem to be hard-wired to feel guilty, and society doesn’t exactly help matters. The best you can do is remind yourself that you’re doing what you feel is best for you and your family. Let that become your MANTRA!

    Thanks for sharing — great post.

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  17. Bonnie

    03/13/2012

    I think you are doing a wonderful thing being home with your daughter. There are always people making judgements about you, but that is something that we just have to ‘turn off’ or ‘tune out’. I know that is easier said than done but once you can do it, it is wonderful.
    Also, Nora has the most beautiful blue eyes!

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  18. Paulette

    03/13/2012

    The guilt is always there. Even when they become adults. Nora is BEAUTIFUL. Hang in there, sweet Mommie, and thanks for sharing your feelings and difficulties with all the other Mommies out there!

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  19. Suzanne

    03/13/2012

    You seem to be doing just fine. She’s healthy, warm, fed, dry and happy.
    What more could you want?
    Enjoy every minute of her. She’ll be grown before you know it.

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  20. Laurel

    03/13/2012

    I agree with all of these ladies. . Think of all of the mistakes we have all made. If people weren’t resilient we’d all be in the nut house, every one of us because there is no perfect situation or perfect parent. As the mother of four, I have had major mom guilt about anything and everything. When things go bad, I feel guilty, when things go well, I feel guilty. I will make up stuff to worry about too! But, you know what? I do think it’s a mom thing. The guys never feel guilty like we do. You’re doing just fine, Andrea. It’s too bad people have made nefative comments to you. I don’t remember people doing that, but could be I just didn’t pick up on it. Ignore them and put your energy somewhere else. Nora is a cutie!

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  21. Kris

    03/13/2012

    Aw, your little one is adorable!

    A long time ago I made the decision to not let what others think bother me. The guilt is there all on its own without any help from others so why let them add to it. My Aunts have a saying that I love – “I’m a good enough Mother”. Their children are all becoming productive members of society so I try not to worry too much. Most of us are just trying to do what’s best for our kids and that’s all our kids really want from us.

    As for a schedule…she will get there and daycare isn’t some magic potion that fixes everything. There are in fact cranky babies at daycare centers. (I worked at a daycare center prior to having my kids so it’s not meant as a negative comment. I liked my job and the little ones I took care of.)

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  22. Kaui @ Thrifty Military Mommy

    03/13/2012

    You’re totally right, as long as that baby is loved and fed you are a good mommy. I struggled for years with my first because I was constantly told by others that I was doing something wrong. until it dawned on me that she was my baby, no one else knew here like I did (and still do). People can be really awful when it comes to children and I honestly think that it’s because of how they were raised and how they felt that their parents did wrong. So when they see others doing something they hated being done to them when they were children they feel the need to speak up.

    I do still feel guilt at times for not working outside the house and contributing financially to our family, but at the same time I know that I personally would feel more guilt having to drop my kids of at a daycare. I also know that I would be really stressed out with working outside the home on top of everything else I have to get done. I think I have enough stress to deal with, thank you!

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  23. Cathy E.

    03/13/2012

    My kids are now 16, 12 and 10, but when they were little I read a great article titled something like “Being a Good Enough Mom.” It was really great article for me to read, because it brought home the point that we don’t have to be perfect, or do certain things in certain ways to be a good mom, we do need to be good enough. Good enough to love, clothe and feed our kids, keep things somewhat orderly, and keep things running in a reasonably smooth manner. But life happens, things get messy and the unexpected comes up. Focusing on being good enough helps keep us from stressing over meeting others expectations. If we are good enough for our own children, that’s what matters. Quite frankly, no one knows our personal situation, and we don’t know theirs, so if we can all agree to support motherhood, in all it’s good enough forms, we’ll be doing each other a wonderful favor. And yes, the guilt still creeps in now and then, but I remind myself that I’m doing the best I can at this particular moment in time, with what I have, and that is always good enough.

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  24. Angela Ayaz

    03/14/2012

    Great article. Which wrap are you wearing in the photo, it looks super comfy for Nora.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Angela — it’s a Moby Wrap

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  25. Lauri E.

    03/14/2012

    I can not stand the fact that people feel like they can and should criticize and kind of tell you what to do. I am a mother to 3 kids, 2 are grown. I do not understand why on earth anyone would have a baby and not take care of it and love it!! Nobody and I mean nobody loves your baby like you do. I truly believe that daycare (just think of the name) and pre-school are horrible ideas. My oldest 2 children are in their 20′s and are both doing wonderful. They never went to daycare or preschool. They were both valedictorians when they graduated high school. Please do not let anyone tell you to put poor Nora in “daycare”. Thanks for letting me rant.

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    Stephanie Reply:

    Lauri,

    Congratulations on being the best mommy ever. Did you read the other comments? The whole point of the article was to keep opinions to yourself and not ‘push’ your ideas on anyone else. I’m a stay at home mom. It works for my family. My best friend puts her kids in “horrible” daycare (as you stated), and they are wonderful, well-behaved children. Be careful of the way you say things.

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  26. Tamara

    03/14/2012

    I am a working mom with three kids. You are right about one thing, no matter what decision you make, you will get criticized and you will feel guilty. Is it right? No. But I’ve learned to ignore people who try to put guilt on me for not mothering “the right way”.

    I wouldn’t let the lack of a “schedule” get to you. You’ll get your routine going and it will work out. I would have loved not returning to work after 8-12 weeks so our routine could stay “as is”, but it didn’t happen.

    As long as you nurture and love your child(ren) and make the decisions that are best for your family that’s all that matters.

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  27. caberk

    03/15/2012

    Thank you so much for writing this. I work full time outside the house with a job I love but I always feel guilty because they say “your kids are only young once…” “you never get this time back…” “pretty soon they won’t need you & you wasted you’re time working” 1) they are wrong because they don’t know me, my situation or what things would be like otherwise 2) it’s nice to know I’m not alone & that people struggle no matter what their situation is. I think that makes us good moms :)
    BTW- I love your hair in the pic holding nora. Is it a lot of work? Is your hair curly or do you make it do that? Looks fun & easy!
    Thanks again for the blog!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks :)
    Yes, my hair is curly — and NO it is not a lot of work. I take a shower at night, sleep on it wet, and spend approximately 3 minutes doing my hair when I wake up. I’m not saying it always looks great — but I hardly spend any time on it… ever!
    I actually did an entire post all about my hair — you can read it here :)

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  28. Val

    03/15/2012

    Let your heart and intuition guide you; you will always know what is best for your child and your home. People will always have their opinions and you just have to filter out the “noise”. Look at that beautiful, healthy child of yours… you are doing a fantastic job, no doubt.

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  29. Holly

    03/16/2012

    I love your blog! I am an unorganized mess so I am fascinated by all that you do! You are right about the mommy guilt. I heard a saying,”the only thing deeper than a Mother’s love is her guilt.”. It is a personal decision for everyone and as long as you feel right about what younare doung, then that is all that matters. No matter what, it will never be enough it seems but children benefit from families full of love. You are awesome and your family is beautiful!

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  30. Weekend Reading: March 17, 2012

    03/17/2012

    [...] Mommy Guilt — Why Do We Do This To Ourselves? | Simple Organized Living [...]

  31. Southern Gal

    03/17/2012

    Sweet baby and I love her name. My granddaughter’s name is Nora.
    I experienced mommy guilt while working when our daughter was born. We weren’t supposed to have any children and then to have that miracle and not be able to spend time with her was killing me. My mom was keeping her so it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t me. So I quit work when she was 18 months old. Then I’ve experienced the mommy guilt for not bringing in any income. Now three kids and one granddaughter later I’m experiencing mommy guilt for doing a little sewing because I love it and it helps with the money just a little. I have been through all three of the mommy guilts! And I don’t know how to avoid it other than lay it down and ask the Lord to make my days productive no matter where I am ministering at the time. That’s all I can do. (I didn’t mention the guilt of not doing enough in church or the homeschool group or whatever else there is to feel guilty about. )

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  32. Catherine

    03/17/2012

    You have hit the nail on the head. Wise words. I have no idea over how to get over the guilt entirely though. Just realising that everyone else feels pretty much the same generally helps me. By the way, that first picture of Baby Nora holding on to your top just kills me! Ah, I miss those sweet little baby ways… As for the schedule? Man, expecting a baby to be on a schedule within the 3 month mark is having high expectations!

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  33. Jen @ Dear Mommy Brain

    04/03/2012

    If you learn the secret to getting past mommy guilt, please pass it on! I wish I could stay home with my daughter, but our financial situation just doesn’t allow for it. Sigh.

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