Guilt in Mothers: How to Get Rid of This Burden

Guilt in mothers is increasingly present and prevents them from enjoying motherhood. Find out where it comes from and how to deal with it.
Guilt in Mothers: How to Get Rid of This Burden
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 22 October, 2022

When you become a mother, a world of emotions you never knew before opens up. You begin to experience unconditional love and unstoppable strength, but, unfortunately, a series of negative emotions also appear that can cause a lot of pain. Guilt in mothers is one of the most widespread and harmful phenomena associated with motherhood. Therefore, we want to help you understand why it happens and how to combat it.

Guilt is a powerful emotion that produces strong psychological wear and tear. Its incessant presence makes us feel uncomfortable, inadequate, and invalid, affects our self-esteem, and paralyzes us.

As long as guilt is present, not only will we not be able to enjoy motherhood, but we won’t be able to exercise it by giving the best of ourselves. So, for our sake and that of our children, how about starting to let go of that heavy burden?

Madre sintiendo culpa por malcriar a su hijo.

What makes you feel guilty?

Probably, since you became a mother, guilt has become part of your daily life and appears at every opportunity it finds. Therefore, any decision you have to make, any daily situation, can produce the appearance of guilt:

  • Not breastfeeding your baby
  • Feeling exhausted, frustrated, or cranky because of the excessive demands of breastfeeding
  • Sleeping with your baby and “spoiling” them, or not sleeping with them and leaving them alone in their own bed
  • Going back to work or quitting your job to care for your child
  • Being too hard or too soft in your child’s upbringing

You may have thought at some point that the guilt you feel is justified, as you’re making bad decisions. However, you should know that this is an emotion shared by practically all mothers in the world, regardless of the path they take. And it’s a subjective state that doesn’t really depend on the context.

Where does guilt in mothers come from?

If guilt in mothers is so common, it’s logical to deduce that there are common causes in all cases. And knowing these factors that give rise to guilt can help you understand what’s happening and take action.

Expectations

The idealized image of motherhood that’s still maintained today contributes, to a large extent, to the appearance of this discomfort in women. Society, relatives, and even women themselves set standards that are impossible to meet.

No mother is perfect, but she’s always loving, understanding, and patient and applies parenting advice to perfection. If you demand too much of yourself, you give way to guilt, as, like any human being, you will make mistakes.

Misunderstood motherhood

On the other hand, guilt in mothers arises from the misconception they have about their role in their children’s lives. Many of them think that they’re absolutely responsible for their children’s well-being. Thus, they feel guilty if their children get sick, get poor grades, have few friends, or are unhappy in any way.

Keep in mind that you can’t control everything that happens in your child’s life. There are many factors and conditions that are out of your hands and your only job is to love, accept, and educate them in the best possible way. In spite of this, they’ll still face adverse situations, as these are part of life and won’t be your fault.

Positive beliefs about guilt

Often, guilt is maintained because we have positive beliefs about it. For example, we may think that by feeling guilty, we’re better people, better mothers, more involved with our children, and more concerned about them.

Madre abrazando a su hijo sin sentir culpa.

The reality is that guilt is a useless emotion that generates great discomfort and doesn’t help us to find any solution. Don’t feel guilty, take responsibility; this simple change of perspective will help you to release emotional weight and to know that modifying what you consider appropriate for the situation to improve is in your hands.

Guilt in mothers can be managed

The fact that most mothers suffer guilt in their daily lives doesn’t imply that this is normal or healthy. It’s neither necessary nor healthy to experience motherhood with feelings of guilt. So, start working on yourself to manage it as soon as possible.

Start by reviewing your beliefs, your expectations, and your idea of motherhood, and try to adjust it to a more realistic view. Be compassionate with yourself and enjoy your motherhood: You’re doing just fine!

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