The Not So Perfect Mum: The parent guilt trap

not so perfect mum

A few simple ways to navigate your way through unpleasant emotions and negative thoughts – otherwise known as the parent guilt trap.

Parenting I am sure you would agree comes with a considerable amount of responsibility, questions, worries, concerns and a bucket load of emotions. Like life, parenting is full of ups and downs, twists and turns like you’re on a never-ending roller-coaster! Every emotion under the sun comes with being a parent, and by far, one of the worst feelings has to be parent guilt. We’ve all experienced this very unpleasant feeling in other areas of our life, but this can go to a whole new level when you’re a mum.

You may be familiar with a few of these guilty times, and no doubt you will have hundreds more:

Guilty because you have to work as you cannot afford to be a stay-at-home mum.

Guilty because you are desperate to get back to work and have an adult conversation.

Guilty because you want a divorce, and worried how this would affect the kids.

Guilty because you’re having a night out with the girls and your child is home unwell.

Guilty because your children are driving you nuts, and you want a night to yourself.

Guilty because you sent your child into school, feeling under the weather.

Guilty because you’re not spending enough time with your eldest child because you have a new baby or other commitments.

Guilty As Charged

Guilty because you’ve shouted at your child.

Guilty because you felt unwell and let your kids play on their consoles all day.

Guilty because you can’t or do not want to breastfeed.

Guilty because you were tired and let your child have cereal and chocolate for dinner.

Guilty because you promised to take your child out on the weekend, but now something else has come up, and you have to delay.

Guilty because your child hurt themselves while you were not looking.

The parent guilt goes on and on and comes in all shapes and sizes.

mum guilt

Crippling Emotion

As mums, we fall into the parent guilt trap, regularly. Wondering if the things we are doing, not doing, saying or not saying are the right way to go. This crippling emotion can leave you feeling drained, dissatisfied, and unhappy. Parent guilt can eat away at your self-esteem – as these judgments add up, one on top of another. No surprise you can be left feeling like a hopeless or not a good enough mum.

Emotions Come And Go

What is important to understand is emotions are just emotions; they come and go like thoughts.

Give This A Go:

Close your eyes and imagine you are standing waiting for a train, and when the train arrives, each compartment you see is an unpleasant emotion. As the train pulls away, see each compartment (emotion) of the train disappear through the dark tunnel.

This will help you to detach from your feelings and not identify with them. I am anxious. I am stressed. I am unhappy, are all ways we attach ourselves to the way we feel. Instead, observe the emotion, and let it pass by.

If you try to change or suppress these emotions, they will pop up another time. Majority of us have not been taught how to deal with our emotions, and we can end up afraid of how we are feeling.

I Want Cake!

If you find yourself raiding your biscuit tin, buying another pair of shoes, hunting your cupboards for chocolate or cake, randomly eating a tub of ice-cream or wondering if it is too early to open a bottle of wine, then these could be a clue to look at your emotions.

Building emotional resilience is not only great for you but also your child. Helping them to understand it is ok to feel whatever they are feeling, without trying to fix it will create a more resilient child.

Worst Critic

Another place to begin to turn this around, if you feel parent guilt is taking over your life or anything else for that matter, is listen to what you are saying to yourself. We are our worst critic, and I can assure you, it’s not pretty.

Statements like: “I am a bad mother! I am the worst mum! I am a terrible person! Stupid woman! I am fat! I am ugly!” These and many more negative comments can with or without your awareness damage your self-esteem and self-worth.

Once we begin to become more aware of what we are saying to ourselves, they begin to lose their power. And the same as with your emotions, see these thoughts pass by like a cloud. Again, observing the thought, rather than engaging in it is the key.

parent guilt

There’s no doubt we will make mistakes, behave inappropriately in the heat of the moment, and this may impact our kids. If this is the case own your shit, be honest, seek help if you need to, take responsibility and learn. But do not continue beating yourself up, as this will add to the shame. As ultimately how you see yourself, will affect all areas of your life, not only as a mum.

Gorgeously Flawed

The A to Z of Perfect Parenting does not exist, and we have to learn on the job so to speak. Most of us have had little or no experience before we venture out on this life-changing journey.

To be able to get through this wonderful time smiling, with our shit kind of together, we must acknowledge that we are flawed in our own gorgeous way, we do not have all the answers, we will make mistakes, and there will be times when we are clueless. Just because you were biologically ready to have children, does not mean you are truly prepared to be a parent. All we can ever do is our very best with what we know now, be open to learn, and aim to be better parents and people every day.

Parenting is an ever-evolving work in progress!



Teresa is the author of the forthcoming book “I should have bought a puppy; Parenting with heart, honesty and humour.” Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.


  1. I am certainly guilty of feeling all the mum guilt, especially since giving birth to our third baby a few weeks ago! I really like the idea of imaging a train full of unpleasant emotions – I’m going to give that a go, thank you 🙂

  2. Parent guilt is so hard! I often worry about the littlest of things. I literally felt bad about making my son go to bed when he said he wasn’t tired last night. It was passed his bedtime anyway!

  3. Loved reading this! I was nodding along with so many of your points at the beginning and I hadn’t even recognised the emotion I was feeling when experiencing some of those scenarios was guilt. I do a similar mindfulness technique to the the train, except each emotion/thought I don’t need, I put in a basket and float down a river. It’s really helpful.

  4. Mum guilt is real over on this platform! I like the visualisation idea. I think mums need help in how to deal with their emotions, as well as knowing they are not alone. Great post.

  5. The mom guilt is the worst! Like you said we feel it for all kinds of reasons – sometimes we even feel guilty becasue we don’t feel guilty about something. I also found that a lot of my guilt was caused because I was comparing myself to other moms – when in reality I do not know how their lives really is. Nobody has it all figured out!

  6. I’m suffering major mum guilt right now. I just interviewed for a job that would require upping the wrap around care hours for my kids, at the same time as they are asking if I can pick them up from after school club earlier so they can have more time with me at home. Now I don’t know any more if I even want the job.

  7. I’m so pleased that this post has had so many of you nodding along – when we all know we feel much the same it makes everything feel so much better…x

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