mommy guilt culture (I’ve opted out)

January 7, 2016

Dear PMG* poster on Facebook who wrote this:

“I am going to admit to something…
Off tomorrow from work and strongly considering not telling my live in nanny. Leaving at my usual 6:30am but going to the gym, then treating myself to breakfast, getting hair colored and blown out, going for a massage and then meeting up with a friend for a late lunch 
Feel like a bad mom (have 5 month old twins)”

My thoughts:

1) YES OF COURSE you have permission to go take the day for yourself.  Seriously, do you think your 5 month olds are going to know that you did that!?

2) I am happy that you got some validation, but sad that this is even a post, and one with 2000+ likes, at that.  I greatly dislike that our culture seems to support the idea that a woman with young children should never ever take any time to do anything for herself and that by doing so it is something deviant or really outside the norm in any way.

3) I feel bad that you cannot tell your nanny (or . . . your partner) that you are tired and want a day off!  I truly hope that — considering you have baby twins! — your nanny would tell you to please please enjoy some much-needed rest and rejuvenation.  If not, I am not sure it sounds like a great relationship.

4) You are SO NOT a bad mom.  But you might become one if you continue to propagate the idea that women who take time to rest are doing something that requires a confession.

5) I think you should sleep in later than 6:30 am.

6) To be fair, I might have had similar thoughts back in my pump-output-obsessed days.  And you may be quite sleep deprived and hormonally motivated.  So please understand that I mean all of this in a supportive way.


* Physician Mommy Group, an enormous Facebook group comprised of, well, physician mothers


  • Reply nicoleandmaggie March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    I think we actually have TWO posts on this topic (one on opting out of the Mommy Guilt complex and one specifically commenting on a forum post where women were slagging on someone for leaving her kid in daycare or maybe with a nanny when she had time off from work, which I seriously would never have thought of as an issue). I would link, but we’ve gotten to the point in our blog history that it’s getting really hard to find old posts. I think one of them even got kind of heated in the comment section, but it was probably like 4 or 5 years ago back before I successfully cold-turkeyed on the mommy forums.

    No seriously, if it weren’t for the internet it would never have occurred to me that anybody would think this was an issue ever. I mean, I’d thought you were supposed to keep schedules consistent for your kid and feel guilty when you deviated (which I also think is probably not really a big deal). Plus, if you’re paying for childcare why on earth would you feel guilty for using it? It must be the patriarchy and that stupid maternal guilt complex.

  • Reply Sara B. March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Every time I see one of these posts ("Am I a bad mom for going to the gym while my kid is in childcare?") I try to respond with a hearty (but nice) "stop being crazy! Take time for yourself! I do it all the time!" I’m totally with you on this, and am always saddened a little. I do think there’s a bit of self-sacrificing competitiveness that goes on with some moms, and it’s really unfortunate. Hope you responded just like this on the thread! ( I am still a member but have unsubscribed and have to go to the page to read occasionally because it was taking over my feed.)

    Now, if only I could get my husband to take some time for himself. He does all our solo evenings and weekends (sometimes 1 or 2 evenings a week, not quite every other weekend) without help, and he’s perfectly capable, but he probably needs some respite when my evenings are busier. I don’t think he would feel guilty, but I also don’t think he’d know what to do with himself. I’ve offered; he shrugs. Boy needs a hobby. I feel more guilty about that than anything else, really.

  • Reply Lee Becknell March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    I am a better mother when I take time for myself and I have time away from A. It’s just how it is. I honestly feel like if I was around him 24/7, I would be sort of miserable. And I do feel guilty about it. But as I’m typing this, I realize that I feel guilty for feeling this way but not so much for acting on it.

  • Reply beth March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    There is way too much guilt in modern parenting. Food choices, childcare choices, entertainment choices, etc, etc. So many judgements and so many ways to feel guilty. The older my kids get the more and more I realize that so many of these things are not worth sweating. I will confess that I have been guilty of feeling guilt over ridiculous things many times but I am recovering from this affliction.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

      Yep, me too. Definitely have not enjoyed a guilt-free parenting journey. But I have gotten much better about things like taking breaks and hiring help and just being okay with it all!

  • Reply nicoleandmaggie March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    After I stopped being afraid that DC1 would die (lingering infertility trauma), I’ve enjoyed a pretty guilt-free parenting journey. My kids are amazing so we must be doing something right, or more likely, what we do (within the realms of non-abusive, loving parenting) doesn’t matter that much. We have so many posts on this topic. Maybe I should dig one up… what’s a good one… this one is pretty popular:

    So I’m a little bit sympathetic to the women who feel guilt for no good reason because they’re getting it from the culture, but I’m not that sympathetic when they spread it like a guilt contagion. I seriously don’t feel that guilt, and it is not because I’m a bad mother. It’s because my mother was a working mother who didn’t feel mommy guilt and my sister and I turned out great, and her mother was a working mother who didn’t feel mommy guilt and their 7 kids turned out fine, and so on. I never had that guilt-stricken role-model so it was a huge surprise to go on mommy fora and see the bizarre things that people agonize over.

  • Reply Erica March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    I would not be a good mom if I didn’t take time for myself to do the things I enjoy, and I definitely don’t feel guilty about it! I’m currently on a short work trip to Minneapolis and I’m enjoying EVERY minute of sleeping in a hotel alone, eating where and when I want, and shopping at the Mall of America because I can! The only thing I feel guilty about is that Dan is back home solo parenting and we’ve had a naughty 3 year old on our hands lately. But when I go home I’ll be refreshed and ready to deal with him. I rarely feel mom guilt directed at not being there for my kid, but I do feel guilt when I leave a lot of solo parenting on Dan.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

      MALL OF AMERICA! I’ve never been but sounds so much fun.

      I don’t often have a chance to feel spouse guilt b/c . . . well, Josh works more than me! But I probably would if things were reversed.

  • Reply omdg March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Probably doesn’t apply to you, but any thoughts on wife-guilt (mommy-guilt’s second cousin)? As in, I feel terrible for working late and asking my husband to cook and clean and take care of the kids. Etc. I hear this a lot too, and I am pretty much as over wife-guilt as I am mommy-guilt.

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