Do you suffer from mom guilt and blame yourself for everything that goes wrong? Learn 7 reasons we shouldn’t blame ourselves for everything — and how to stop.
I knew I should’ve put a jacket on him, I thought. My son had caught a cold, leaving him miserable for a few days. But while the causes of his cold were many—from sick kids at school to not washing his hands well—I still focused on how I could’ve been the one to blame.
Even if the reason he’d caught a cold was not washing his hands well, you bet I still would’ve felt guilty. (I should’ve had him wash his hands for 20 seconds.)
We’ve all felt it, even as early as when we were still pregnant. We worried about all the things that could go wrong, then blame ourselves when they do.
In a way, we even feel “safe” with mom guilt. If we can blame ourselves first, we buffer the potential backlash from others (whether said outright or imagined in our heads).
How to stop feeling “mom guilt”
By getting a better handle on mom guilt, we can lift the burden and become better attuned to our kids. We learn to be more pleasant and carefree, setting an example of how to handle obstacles (like not blaming ourselves).
If you feel compelled to blame yourself for everything, you’re not alone, mama. And thankfully, you’re not stuck pointing the finger at yourself each time something goes wrong, either. Take a look at these seven ways to release the feeling mom guilt:
1. Ask yourself if it’s really that bad
We inflate things much bigger than they are when things go wrong, don’t you think? You feel horrible that your child fell and got a nasty cut on her knee, but in hindsight… it’s just a cut.
Because here’s the funny thing about our problems: the world continues to move regardless of them. If you’re bogged down with blame, remind yourself that you’re doing all right, and will continue to move forward regardless of what happens.
Ask yourself whether your far-flung predictions will actually come true. This reminds you that your imagination can be way off track and blown out of proportion. Instead, look at what has happened in the past and realize that things have always worked out somehow.
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2. You did what you thought was best at that point
Rarely do we think, “I’m going to leave my son’s jacket at home so that he gets sick.” We usually think, “It seems warm enough,” or we just forgot to bring the darn thing.
You have your child’s best intentions, but may not have the foresight (or the ability to predict the future!) to see how your decisions affect her until later.
You did what you thought was best, normal or regular at that time with the right intentions in mind. Hindsight is always clearer, regardless of the result.
3. We all make mistakes
All the blame won’t erase one crucial fact: We’ve made mistakes and will continue to do so. No one is perfect, but we blame ourselves as if we should’ve been.
The best part about mistakes is that they build resilience and become our best teachers. That day you yelled at your child was painful for both of you, but it was also when you learned to spot your triggers so these arguments don’t happen as often.
When things go wrong and you feel the pull to blame yourself, learn your lesson instead. Analyze the situation and think about ways you could prevent it next time, or what you would do differently.
4. You don’t give yourself enough credit
We’re so quick to point out all the ways we’re failing that we forget the many more ways we’re doing well. And not only well, but above and beyond.
Look through the last few days and you’ll see all the good you’ve done, both big and small. Waking up early so your child has breakfast on the table, or holding him tight as he cries even though you had a million things to do.
These are your wins, the successes that don’t always get the credit they deserve. Don’t let blame—the one blame out of many wins—take that away from you.
5. You can’t change the past
My family and I were riding the train when it lurched to a stop, flinging my son straight into the handle bar in front of him. His tooth bled and, later, began to turn a light shade of gray. While he felt no pain besides the initial impact, his tooth was dead, all in a split-second.
I initially thought, What if I had held him on my lap, or made sure he sat all the way back?
But I also realized that I couldn’t do about it after the fact. Worry becomes unhealthy when we can’t change the circumstances but continue to mull about it as if we can.
Unfortunate events happen, and sometimes for no good reason other than they do. Don’t find blame where there isn’t any, or replay “If only I had done this” or “I should’ve done that” in your mind.
6. Replace blame with action
As you’ve seen by now, blaming ourselves is hardly productive. We feel worse about ourselves and are paralyzed into inaction because we keep replaying the event over and over.
The better course of action? Do something proactive.
What can you do to change the circumstances from this moment? Don’t mope or blame—instead, make a list of what you can do and get started. You can’t undo having lost your temper with your child, but you can apologize and be more present the next time you’re with her.
7. Your child doesn’t love you any less
Much is said about a parent’s unconditional love, and I would say the same is true about a child’s love for her parents.
Kids can be some of the most forgiving people. We make mistakes and even blame ourselves, but they continue to love us with no hesitation. Your child isn’t sitting in her room right now blaming you for everything. Even if she were upset, I guarantee she doesn’t love you any less.
As I say in my book, You Are Enough:
“The next time you find yourself losing sleep and blaming yourself, stop. It’s not the end of the world—and more important, your kids won’t love you any less.”
Because at the end of the day, she’ll hold you as tightly as she did before you allowed blame to take take over.
Mom guilt is real. Blaming ourselves prevents us from enjoying motherhood and sets unrealistic expectations of ourselves. It’s not exactly what you’d want to model, especially when dads don’t feel nearly as guilty as we do.
Thankfully, we can stop feeling guilty all the time. Ask yourself if what you’re blaming yourself for is really that bad. Remind yourself that you had acted in the way you thought was best at that point, and that we all make mistakes and will continue to do so.
Then, give yourself more credit than you currently do, and remember that you can’t change the past. Replace mom guilt with action, and reassure yourself that your child won’t love you any less.
We’ll still make mistakes, no doubt. But rather than blame ourselves, we can acknowledge what happened, take action, and learn our lesson.
Like bringing my son’s jacket even when I didn’t think he needed it.
Get more tips:
- Be Kind to Yourself
- The Working Mom Pep Talk: What Do You Tell Yourself to Keep Going?
- These Are the Things Your Kids Will Remember About You
- How to Be a Good Mom (Even When You Feel Discouraged)
- Anger Management for Moms: 7 Patterns That Keep You Feeling Angry
Don’t forget: Sign up for the Motherhood Motivation 5-Day Challenge: