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6 Tips To Cope With Parent Guilt

Hey fellow parents, that means parents of infants, toddlers, teenagers, adults, and anything else inbetween - maybe an astronaut, princess or dinosaur!

Do you sometimes feel like you’re not doing enough for your child/children? Do you feel guilty about having to leave your child and go to work? Do you look at other parents who seem to have it all together and wish that were you? Does it all just feel impossible to manage?

You’re NOT alone.

Mothers sitting in the kitchen with baby in hand, looking at a computer

Parenting can be hard, and parent guilt can make it even harder. Most of us, if not all of us, have experienced it at some point in our lives. It doesn’t feel good either.

What is parent guilt, you ask?

Parent guilt is when a parent feels torn between their responsibilities as a parent and something else that is competing for their attention, such as work or other personal interests. There may be a constant tension between parental and professional/personal roles. It can be hard to manage all the things at times and we aren’t meant to do it all alone. Unfortunately, it can feel that way at times no matter how much support you get. Life may just feel heavy and external sources of stress don’t help us feel better.

It may be helpful to identify if you are feeling parental guilt or not. Here are some characteristics that you may relate to:

  • Feeling like you’re never fully in either parental mode or work mode.

  • Feeling like you’re always doing something wrong.

  • Always having a long to-do list but feeling like you’re only able to do the bare minimum to get by.

  • Feeling as though you’re juggling one too many things.

  • Not being able to enjoy time with your children.

  • Stressing over work and the status of your company/career

  • Not having any time for yourself

  • Not being able to do any hobbies or activities you enjoy.

  • Experiencing anxiety or depression

  • Having trouble sleeping or eating

  • Feeling tired and stressed all the time.

  • Straining your relationships at home, at work, and with friends

If any of the above characteristics feel relatable, oh goodness, have I been there - and guess what, it’s okay! I’m not perfect and I don’t expect you to be. Your children don’t expect that of you either. It’s more important to keep listening to your children and show them that you are present when able.

I can talk about all the ways parental guilt is caused and how it may impact us but I also wonder if that’s the part we already know from experience. Maybe we can focus on how to cope with the guilt and find ways to combat it instead.

I think we first need to remember we’re human. It’s hard to manage ourselves at times and we are expected to manage ourselves and other humans. That’s crazy to me! When did I take the course that made me an expert in all things parenting? Oh, that’s right I didn’t, and you didn’t either. I guess we can stop the act now…

We have to be able to keep things attainable for ourselves, even if our children think they run the world. I mean, don’t they though?

In all seriousness, it’s a hard job to live up to. The hardest I’ve had thus far. It will continue to be hard, but it’s also amazing.

I hope some of these tips are helpful in breaking away from those parental expectations and regaining our freedom to just be us, in all the messiness we call life.

Try to start here with these few reminders:

1.Keep things in perspective and make goals attainable.

It’s important to understand what you are feeling guilty about and why you feel this way. Try to make sure you are keeping the expectations you place on yourself in perspective and realistic.  

2. Remember there is no one “right” way to do things. We are unique.

Often parents place too much weight on doing everything, doing it all the "right" way, and/or doing it perfectly. The reality is, there is not one right way to do something. Having perfection as your standard is setting yourself up to fail... and then feel guilty.

3. Stop comparing yourself to others – especially on social media.

It’s harder being a parent today since comparison is everywhere, especially with the rise of social media. Try to avoid looking at and comparing yourself to what others are doing by setting boundaries. It’s not a fair or accurate comparison and it’s not how you measure yourself as a parent or what is best for your child.

4. Remember life isn’t perfect.

Just as you need to accept that you are not perfect. Your child needs to know and understand that their parent, and life more generally, is not perfect either. This will make it easier for them to realize and accept their own imperfections one day. Plus, it is important for their own physical and emotional development as well as their resilience.

5. Practice self-compassion.

Try to remember that the reason you feel guilty is because you care, which is the most important thing. Achieving the balance of caring while also being realistic and keeping perspective is a fine art. It may take some time and discipline, but it can help manage that parental guilt.

6. Identify Your Support & ask for help.

Make a list of everyone you feel is a support network. Be creative with your support system and remember, no one is a mind reader, so try not to assume that your needs are obvious to those around you. It may be worth your time to connect with other parents to help each other out. You know the saying; it takes a village.

I want to also remind you to breathe. You’re doing what you have the capacity for and maybe that’s enough right now.

Sometimes life can get away from us and if you feel like you are struggling to cope or keeping to yourself, mom guilt can feel very isolating and lead to even more mental health problems, so it’s important to seek help if you start feeling overwhelmed. Although it’s not technically a diagnosis, the heaviness and impact that guilt can have on overall daily functioning is alarming.

Finding healthy supports, both peer and professional support groups, can be extremely validating. Talking to a therapist regularly can help you build insight and navigate how to better manage your feelings.

Needing some support? Click here to book a free virtual consultation with one of our therapists!


Written by: Alexandria MSW Candidate

A woman standing infront of a wood barn door, smiling

Alexandria is a registered social service worker, currently completing her masters of social work at Wilfrid Laurier University. She works with adults in a variety of areas, including grief and loss, anxiety and depression, self-esteem and worth, life stress, life transitions and more. Alexandria is currently accepting new clients.


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