How To Cure Your Mother’s Guilt

(Last Updated On: August 7, 2018)

Mother’s guilt is something that every mother experiences at some point. It’s also common for this guilt to intensify once a mum returns to work or even in the process of contemplating returning to work. This guilt is rampant among working mums and something I grappled with when I returned to my corporate career after becoming a mum.

As a new mum, I used to feel guilty leaving my husband to look after our baby on the weekend when I wanted to go and do something by myself. Even though I hardly ever did this and my husband was more than happy to take charge of the parenting for a few hours, I still felt guilty asking and taking the time out. I found though that the more I asked and took time for myself, the less guilty I felt and the more I enjoyed time to myself.

When my paid maternity leave ran out, I also felt guilty. Guilty for not financially contributing to the household. I felt guilty for relying on my husband to shoulder the entire financial burden of our family. This is part of what drove me back to work. I didn’t want to scrimp and save as a stay at home mum and I was missing my career.

Then of course, I felt guilty leaving my son in daycare. Even though I knew he was being taken care of. Eventually he enjoyed himself so much he hated being picked up at the end of the day.

And because I returned to work part time, I felt guilty for the time I wasn’t at work. For when I was unavailable due to sick or carers leave on my work days and when I was unavailable for a late afternoon meeting or on one of my days at home.

When I first became a mum I was warned about all the guilt I would inevitably feel. No one ever shared with me the secret to overcoming the guilt. Most women I knew just accepted that feeling guilty was part and parcel of being a mum, especially a working mum.

I also know of mums who feel guilty spending time with their children when they know there is a long list of household chores that need attending to. On the flipside, some mums feel guilty doing household chores instead of playing with their children. Or they feel guilty taking a nap instead of doing household chores, even though they are sleep deprived and desperately tired.

I found out how common guilt is among working mums when I asked 300 working mums in Australia about their fears about returning to work in 2015. There are so many reasons to feel guilty, the most common being putting our children in daycare when we return to work, regardless of your reason to return to work (financial or career investment).

The more I thought about guilt, the more I realised there IS an antidote to it. In fact, there are a few since guilt is a complex emotion.

how to cure mother's guilt

Be present

I realised that being present is the antidote to mummy guilt. If you are truly in the present moment, you cannot think about anything else. For example, if you are playing with your children and are truly present in that moment you can’t think about the chores and feel guilty about not doing them. When I asked 300 working mums in Australia what advice they would give other working mums, being focused at home and at work was a common theme.

Don’t make assumptions

When I felt guilty about not contributing to the household financially I assumed my husband had an issue with this. He didn’t. (I did though). It’s easy to make assumptions about other people’s feelings (your partner, child, colleagues) and then make ourselves feel guilty about feelings which may not even exist.


They say practice makes perfect and that certainly can be applied to doing things that you feel guilty about. The more you practice activities that trigger your mummy guilt with presence and without assumptions, the more comfortable you will feel. Whether it be returning to work, leaving your child at daycare or taking time for yourself. Or all three!

How have you overcome your mummy guilt? Let me know in the comments below.

Kim is a blogger who provides free resources and personalised online mentoring options for new mums thinking of returning to work or coporate mamas. Check out her blog at Undercover Mum.

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  • My boys are 9 and 12 and I still feel guilty about leaving them to go to work! I feel bad that I can’t pick them up from school, or run them their lunch if they forget it. I feel bad when they can’t stay for after school programs. It’s rough.

    • Hi Rachel. Thanks for reading the post and leaving a comment. I’m sorry to hear that you are still struggling with guilt. I hope you’ve found something in this post useful. I’d also be happy to have a chat with you about it if you like. My contact email is on my website.

  • I like your 3 ways to stop feeling guilty. We all can feel guilty about every choice we make whether we decide to go back to work and put the kids into daycare or stay at home and not contribute financially. It is so crazy when we think about it.

  • Mother’s guilt is the worst. These are such great tips though. We don’t have to feel this way, but we do.

    • It’s definitely not a nice feeling Reesa, which inspired me to write about it. I hope my suggestions have you feeling the guilt less and less over time.

  • Mommy guilt is real but you also need to be yourself as well. You can’t let your new baby take over who you are and what you want to do in life. These are good pointers and I’m sure a lot of mommies will benefit from them!

  • I had the good fortune of being able to be a stay at home mom for the first few years of my kids life. When I went to work there was guilt, but boy was it easier.

  • I have a lot of mother guilt as a mom who works from home. I feel like I am always behind on work or that there are household chores to be done or that my kids are not getting as much attention from me as they should. All of this overwhelms me sometimes.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Becca. I hope you find some of my suggestions useful. When I feel overwhelmed I stop and ask myself – what must I do right now? What is the most important thing to be doing in this moment? It helps me to focus and reduces the overwhelm.

  • Mom guilt is absolutely the worst. I have had to check myself on it multiple times because I can let myself get really low sometimes!

  • Sometimes it is not about us leaving them. Sometimes it’s little accidents, like if our baby or toddler fell or bump his noggin, or had an accident when cutting his nails. All of those just breaks my heart. Babies bounch back pretty fast especially if they’re healthy, but Lord, those cries, I just want to bear all the pain for him.

    • Yvonne you are right. There are so many circumstances that can trigger mother’s guilt. We need to remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can and won’t always get it perfect.

  • I’m a work at home mom, but when my daughter turned two I had to put her in school so I could get a full day of work in. The guilt definitely ate away at me which was ridiculous since me working makes her life better…. Ahhhhh motherhood!

    • Thanks for sharing CourtneyLynne. When I first became a working mother I had to remind myself of WHY I returned to work, especially on emotional day care drop off days (and there were a lot!).

  • Oh the guilt is real, isn’t it. Even when I feel like things are going really well that guilt will creep in. These are great suggestions, especially about being present. I like that!

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