WORKING THROUGH MOM GUILT: What is it? How can I manage it?

Contributed by Kyana Brathwaite, Founder of KB Cals


As a true woman of her word, when I commit to something, I have to do it!


While I still hold myself to this standard, I have since eased up on saying yes to absolutely everything in fear of feeling guilty for not doing it. I have noticed when interacting with fellow womxn, we all have similar experiences surrounding this feeling of guilt and how/where we should direct our energy - and it wears on us. Mom/womxn guilt is the term that is often being used now for these feelings.


The term mom guilt or woman guilt is defined as "... pervasive feeling of not doing enough as a parent, not doing things right, or making decisions that may “mess up” your kids in the long run." (Healthline Mom Guilt) and guilt as "... a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined." (Dictionary.com).


Before my kids were born, I walked around unapologetically seeking what I wanted and what I thought I deserved - just because I was able to do so. I only had one person to live my life for - and that was me. Once I had my kids, that all changed. This idea manifested itself in my being more "motherly," less aggressive, questioning my anger regularly, and willing to "take" more from most than I ever had before.


It took some major losses in my life for me to realize that this idea of who I had to be wasn't serving me. As a result of these ultimate life changes and trauma, I was forced to look at who I was. I wanted to get to know that fearless me once again. The one who unapologetically lived life in a way that was best for her.



Here is an example of how Mom Guilt tends to surface in my life.


My birthday is coming up, and while I know exactly what I want, I first asked my husband if he and the kids wanted/expected me to be home for my birthday or if he had anything planned. Regularly, I take everyone else into account before doing something I want to do for myself.


This is the weight of mom guilt. Would I be letting my family down if I chose to put myself first? Would I be letting my own expectations of motherhood down?

There's an article by Brigid Schulte that I often reflect on in these moments, A Woman's Greatest Enemy? A lack of time to herself. She lands on uninterrupted time as something womxn don't have the luxury of. I would go one step further and add that not having uninterrupted time, having family and societal expectations, seeking approval/permission being ingrained, and the guilt that accompanies wanting to do for ourselves (usually deemed as selfishness), are all a woman’s enemies.


In recognizing these as situations, it has allowed me to process my guilt and see it for what it is - real or imagined (usually imagined). This gives me the opportunity to take a broader view/perspective and I can either manage what I can, delegate tasks, or completely release myself (and others) from my expectations.



Here are a few methods to try when guilt surfaces:


Check in with yourself.

By checking in with yourself regularly, you can recognize what you have capacity for (this is very important to understand and set boundaries around) as well as discerning if you are truly being selfish, or if it's this imagined guilt. (Sometimes, we need to go beyond self-care and be a little selfish).


Ask yourself: “Is what I’m seeking or aiming for exorbitant? If so, by whose standards?”

I’m relatively pragmatic and like most womxn, when planning or making a decision about something, I’ve accounted for all involved and available resources are also taken into consideration.


Lean into the negative emotion.

For many decades, my anger was used against me, so much so that I started to believe that I was mostly the one at fault and needed to “fix” myself. Now, as I lean into and embrace my anger, I better understand its source and know whether my anger is a result of frustration, disappointment, embarrassment, or an expectation that I or someone else set. Getting down to brace tactics with myself frees me from judgement.


Give yourself Grace & Space.

We, womxn, can be extremely judgmental of ourselves. For me, it's usually because I’m not meeting a goal or objective fast enough (according to my own standards). Setting a goal as a woman/mom-trepreneur is very different than having a goal laid out for you. There are so many variables that I’m not aware of until I encounter them (other people who are involved, how technology wants to act on any given day, my energy levels, my moods, etc.) Giving myself the Grace & Space to maneuver around these variables has permitted me to love and accept myself unconditionally.




Kyana Brathwaite is a registered nurse, wife, mom of two wonderful kids, and CEO & Founder of KB CALS – Caring Advocacy & Liaison Services. Inside of her 18+ years in healthcare, much of her time was spent as a RN in the critical and acute care setting. By coordinating a community of support, including medical practitioners, health systems and insurance providers to best fit your needs, KB CALS partners with clients to assist in wayfinding, provider matching, benefit utilization, insurance research, and health and wellness planning. The process is interactive and participatory.


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