parent opinion

'If you have mother's guilt, that might just be on you. Let me explain.'

I don’t have mother’s guilt

A long time ago I decided to not let anyone else’s opinions or judgement get me down about my parenting. 

If something I’m doing makes me feel bad these days it’s usually because it is bad and I should stop doing it. 

It’s not guilt, it’s called having values and being guided by them. 

Watch: Be A Good Mum. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia

This is what helped me stop smacking my kids - I felt bad about it afterwards because I don’t believe in physical punishment.

No one made me feel that way except myself. 

Reading articles about smacking triggered me because of my own actions, not because the research is incorrect and unfair.

Having values becomes uncomfortable when we repeatedly do things that go against our values. 

Rather than blaming external factors for the internal discomfort we feel – it’s worth considering why we actually feel bad about things.

Negative comments have no sting if they truly have no basis. Research isn’t a personal attack, it’s a scientific exercise to test a hypothesis. 

It’s only if the comments or research articles hit a sore point, if deep down we know there is something wrong with our actions or a seed of truth, that they are really upsetting. 


When experiencing this discomfort we have a knee jerk defensive reaction which usually involves lashing out angrily and/or blaming others for making us feel guilty. 

It’s much harder to be accountable for our actions and to own them, so we shift the blame.

Having values and an awareness of how our actions might hurt others is actually a vital and beneficial part of our prosocial nature. 

It’s what makes us human and promotes social cohesion in wider society. If everyone assumes zero accountability for their actions and instead assigns blame to external factors, our society would descend into chaos. 

Mother guilt is a term that allows us to remain unaccountable and to position ourselves as the victim in the equation.

I still have problematic phone use habits and on the rare occasion it is pointed out directly or I read something in the media, bam – I feel deeply ashamed. 

I could counter this feeling by criticising the methods used in the research that says digitally distracted parents are not ideal for child development. 

I could also counter this feeling by telling myself the person who pointed out a real pattern of behaviour is mean and at fault. 

But I know deep down that my phone use is problematic and therefore I make ongoing attempts to develop healthier habits.

Repeatedly trying to justify actions, to ourselves or to others, can never work if the action is not in line with our values. 

In the early days I tried to justify smacking to myself – that it was okay because it was only on the bottom and not often. 

That my kids would turn into bad people if I didn’t do it. 


That I had no other option. 

But it didn’t matter what I told myself or others, I still felt bad about it. 

I either had to change my value system to justify deliberately hurting others, a common trait of narcissists, or change my actions.

The only instance in which I can see myself maybe crying ‘Mother Guilt’ in future is if I am forced to make decisions that are not in line with my values.

Even then I would say guilt is an unjustified emotion if I genuinely have no choice or control over the outcome. 

Listen to This Glorious Mess, On this episode, Dr Sophie Brock, Motherhood Studies Sociologist, joins us to debunk mum guilt and how to we can change it. Story continues below.

Having values is uncomfortable when we live in a culture that actively undermines our values through policy and social norms. 

The reality is that parents who are time poor, under supported and operating at peak stress levels are less able to address behaviours they are deeply uncomfortable with and will inevitably harbour a sense of guilt that compounds stress in a debilitating way.

Either way, pointing the finger and crying mother guilt is an unhelpful characterisation of emotions that morally guide us. 

Rather than attempting to silence the sources that hit our sore points, we must direct this energy towards having conversations and agitating for systemic change that will better enable us to live in line with our values. 

To take the discomfort and turn it into real action is the only relief.

Feature Image: Instagram

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