Ahhh the guilt.


I have to confess, up till now, I’ve bumbled through life pretty much guilt-free.

Guilt (& her bitchy BFF shame) simply didn’t have much of a place in my life.

I experience healthy guilt (my conscience telling me that I acted in a manner which didnt mesh with my self-definition/personal mission statement) and in those instances I immediately take steps to change the situation as typically I’d accidentally done something hurtful or unkind.

Guilt with regards to food or exercise? Never.

Was I born this way? Hell no Im Jewish, remember?! Not really.  You can find the four steps I took to shed the guilt here.

Recently, however, I’ve struggled with squelching emerging feelings of guilt.

Feelings which, for me, are tied into motherhood but the same ones I saw frequently with clients when it came to making time for themselves in all realms of self-care from exercise to quiet moments.

An ah ha! moment of sorts I want to share and see if youve experienced the same or if you have an tips or insights to share with us.

With the start of kindergarten came the onslaught of volunteer requests. 

Everything from booster club meetings (845a on a weekday!?) to helping in the front office (various & sundry times. All during the day).

As I do in the rest of my world (and whether it’s right or wrong it’s who I am) I whipped out my Sharpie, picked an activity I could work into my schedule and I drew my mom-working-out-of-the-house-so-it-appears-Im-always-free-but-really-Im-not boundaries.

I fought off the pressure of the school as if I really did wield super-powers because I knew, if I over-committed, the one who’d pay the price is the one for whom I ostensibly was volunnteering.

The  Tornado.

I was proud of myself and yet, for the first time ever, I experienced guilt that didnt mesh with my guilt-definition.

I felt it while working.

Something which neither violated my moral code nor caused me to be unkind or hurt someone’s feelings.

I felt it at the end of the day when she & I would snuggle and she’d asked me how my work was & if it had been hard.

An act I should have celebrated (really? you’re learning empathy & to think about others? Im so proud!)

I was seeing my world through a narrow just-me lens —- something I’d always tried to challenge my clients not to do.

I heard her saying: How was work mama? Is that why you weren’t at school today with me like other mamas?

I exhausted myself with 18 thousand different approaches to how I could volunteer more than I’d already planned while still maintaining my current workload.

I beat myself up over the fact I loved my work almost as much as I adored unplugging entirely, meeting her at the bus stop at days end & immersing myself in Tornado time.

I likely would have maintained this cycle (here’s where I admit I wasnt listening to you adult-types who tried to tell me) had I not seen the artwork pictured above at Meet the Teacher night.

Needless to say this over-tired misfit cried I noticed what she wrote & asked her about it the next morning as we played.

We had to say what we wanted to learned in kindergarten Mama (she said half paying attention and half coloring) and I want to be good at writing like you are good for your bosses with your work.

And like that my guilt vanished.

I cant promise myself it’s gone forever—but at least for now I learned (again) it was a wasted emotion & all in MY INTERPRETATION of the world around me.

When the Tornado prayed at night Thank you G-d for my mama come to lunch today she meant merely that.  THANK YOU MAMA.

When the Tornado prayed at night what I heard was Seriously G-D why the heck is my mom only there for lunch & only once a week?! 

It was all in my misfit-head.

So that’s where I am on this Friday.

Looking to you and wondering about YOUR EXPERIENCES with GUILT.

Are you like I am was & have you experienced guilt when, in all reality, it was entirely in your mind? (Hello we women beating ourselves up over self-care & making time to be healthy!)

Or have you happily lolloped through life, experienced nary a pang of misplaced guilt, & never lost sight of the definition I’d thought I’d internalized?  (I command ye to share below and feel not an iota of GUILT at asking for your time in showing us the light!)



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  1. says

    I feel like I never knew true guilt until I had my son. I stay at home with him, and he is VERY attached to me, so EVERYTIME I leave he says “Mama, don’t go. Mama, let me come with you!” ugh! My heart.

  2. Nan says

    I’m Catholic and we’ve cornered the guilt LOL.

    Thank you for the four steps post you linked to.

    I am starting those today.

  3. says

    Oh, my LORD! The mother guilt. I’ve been a working mum for ever, and I’ve juggled things so I could be at school for special morning teas or lunches, or to do volunteer work of some kind, PLUS held office on kinder committees and school councils and STILL it wasn’t enough to keep the guilt at bay. There was always the excursion or the daytime performance that I just couldn’t be there for and it killed me.

    At least for the first child. By the time the third one got to school, I’d realised that I was doing my best and that was all I could do. And my kids were FINE. As long as I was free with the hugs and my time when I was with them, that was enough.

    Any kind of guilt is a waste of time and energy. You have to either rectify the situation, or accept it – one or the other. Making yourself crazy over it is a game you can never win.

  4. says

    Oh, heck. I know JUST how you feel and faced the exact thing with M starting preschool. So many things to sign up for and I volunteered where I could and tried to make it clear in our “about the parent” sheet that I do some form of work they may not understand from home. It is SO tough!!!

    Dang mom guilt. That’s the one that will sneak right in there and grab you with it’s talons of doubt.

  5. Tia says


    I own my own busness and struggle with the fact I am my own boss(I could go volunteer) and the fact if I’m not working we dont have money (I am a single mom).

    I love how your daughter got it and what you heard as a guilt thing wasn’t really.

    I will choose this hearing too.

    Thank you!!!!

  6. says

    I am not a mom, but have struggled my whole life with guilt.

    I am a pleaser by nature and if I do anything for me—I feel guilty.

    I had never thought of saving guilt for something which “violated my moral code” that’s an interesting thought, Miz.

  7. says

    Wow fab post Carla. I love that you could see the difference between your intrepretation and the reality. It must be so bloody hard but so admire you for working through the emotions and drawing those boundaries xx

  8. says

    oh, I feel guilty all the time. like right now, for example, I’m trying to find my way out of a year of volunteer service doing glorified secretary work. yup.

  9. Izzy says

    I love your 4 step approach, Carla.

    I, too, feel guilty all the time (is it a Jewish thing?) and never thought about the concept of saving it for actions which voilate my code.

    If I did then I would rarely feel guilty as I am a pretty good person.

    I think.

  10. says

    I’m with Nan (Catholic guilt … don’t get me started) and Helen (being a pleaser). But like Jamie said, I’ve learned to let it go. There are only so many hours in the day and only so many people you can please. At the end of the day, one of those people needs to be you. I’ve said no to school things more often than not because so many others figure I just sit on my ass all day and don’t realize that working at home means I’m (wait for it) actually working. And you know what? My kids don’t care that I’m not there. And it makes the time we spend together at home & other places that much better.

  11. Healthy Mama says

    Ok Carla with love I have to tell you to just get over it.

    I have learned through my four kids and life before that we can only do what we can do and just move on.

  12. says

    Tornado rocks!!!
    Her drawing is adorable
    and as far as guilt…
    I don’t have it
    never had it in any degree
    except when it came to my daughter and not even when she was younger but recently which is kinda pointless since she doesn’t want to do much w/me now anyhow (gotta luv them when they’re 15 and don’t want you unless they need a ride or want something!)
    I’ve had to work out of home on some projects the last month and often times all day on weekends and I felt guilty for a split second before realizing she’s got her own busy social life when I’m gone all day anyhow so she’s with friends so why feel guilt..of which I never felt before?!
    So, no guilt here…she knows I have to work to provide for she/I and it gives her her own ‘space’ as well

  13. Meredith says

    I like this Mizzy:

    I drew my mom-working-out-of-the-house-so-it-appears-Im-always-free-but-really-Im-not boundaries.

    I will buy Sharpies today!

  14. says

    I feel guilty now when i try to fit In a workout!! I think its fabulous that youre doing some volunteering! I dont know how working moms fit it in

  15. Melissa says

    I’ve always maintained that any mom who says she has figured out the work/life balance is a big fat liar. We just do the best we can; one foot in front of the other. Emma’s growing up in a loving home with food in her belly and a stable roof over her head. All the rest is gravy.

  16. Runner Girl says


    Thank you for this.
    I am not a mom :) but I have lot of guilt when I take days off from running.


  17. says

    I think the self-inflicted mom guilt is even worse when you’re working at home. Yes, to many (hi, mom!), it does seem like you’re lounging around in yoga pants, watching the Today show because you’re not in an actual office building with shoes on. Then you get those robo-calls about PTA meetings at 7:15 a.m. and think “no freaking way” while your kid’s listening and asking “are you even a member of the PTA anymore?” But we are working, just from home and just with no shoes on, so we do have to say no when we can’t squeeze it in.

  18. says

    As a non-parent, I’m always amazed at how Mom’s who are doing SO MUCH often seem to feel guilty about whatever they’re not doing. The expectations are so ridiculously high! I have nothing but admiration for you all.

    I have to wonder, do fathers feel as guilty? I almost always hear about parental guilt from women, not men. And why is that?

    • says

      Crabby…that’s a good point and think it falls on stereotypes…but I can attest to the fact that new hubby feels more guilt than I…But he was a single Dad who fought for custody of his little one Perhaps men just don’t talk about it as much and we as women do what we do…allow them to put themselves first.

  19. says

    I was a single working mother so my involvement in lots of things was quite limited – because of necessity to provide for us! My girl is grown and gone now but I still feel guilt over all sorts of other things. (As is evidenced in my last blog where I’m trying to sort out why I feel guilty that I don’t seem to even want to exercise as much as some other people!) It’s definitely an issue that you have to sort out. I think the trick to it all is not to say “Yes or No” and have that be your forever answer. What you have time for now might change in the future and vice-versa.

  20. says

    I’m with the rest of these ladies… bring on the Mom Guilt! OY!

    I think it just comes with the territory… we want to do work we love, and, we want to be with the kids… it’s that old “can’t be in two places at once” thing.

    But, I love how you’re very clear on your boundaries… I think that definitely helps. Gonna have to explore that for myself…

  21. says

    Powerful post yet..May I say from experience not only will it continue, it will get worse as she gets older. My experiences are so many…many of years of juggling priorities..and still, at the ripe old age of 50 and on my second round of being a working Mom..it will be daily.

    I have always longed to work from home to take a few more balls out of the juggling pattern..where I felt it would give me a little more flexibility for my schedule. The littler things were easy to pass up the guilt for but when it comes down to the bigger things well…

    Because of a shift work job I had many years ago, I missed birthday parties, special soccer games, special performances and HOLIDAY’s. Or even to this day when they are sick and need you the most and you can’t stay home with them because your time off bank of hours is too low…..

    You learn that, as you have here, kids don’t hold it as long as we do and they do understand….TRULY… It is a true lesson in life…We adjust and make the time we DO have worth the times we miss.

  22. Lorna says

    Yes, yes and YES! At first I relished returning to work and fitting in my workouts. I was proud of myself for giving my little man opporfunities for socialization and independance and for taking just a small bit of time for myself. Now, as half marathon training has turned into full marathon training and races whisk me away at least once a month, Ive begun to feel guilty for enjoying something all by myself. Shouldnt I have him out in the jogging syroller (the one I never purchased) with me? Instead, I have him on the sideline wuth friends or family cheering me on. It’s a constant battle, in my head, over doing things for myself that also provide an example of healthy lifestyle, dedication and personal accomplishment vs. the “he hates me for leaving him on my off days”, and I should be spending this time WITH him thoughts. So far, Im still winning the battle… But there ARE days when I wonder at what cost?!

  23. Miz says

    <strongc I'm laughing ou lloud here. Hectic morning. Almost started feeling guilty for not checking in and responding 😉

    I fought the guilt.

    More soon

  24. Miz says

    Now I’m laughing I’m rolling on the smart phone and somehow screwed up the bolding :)

    Please to, uh, ignore….

  25. says

    Such a great post! Our mom experiences are all so different but we all seem to share so much in common at the same time. Love reading each of the comments!

    Now that my girls are 16 & 12 I don’t think there is an emotion I haven’t felt along the way. I’m sure there’s a gumbo of more to come–but I don’t think emotions like guilt are necessarily a bad thing but just a human thing. Eventually I realized that all I can do is the best I can do with what I have. No more, no less. :)

  26. amy says

    Hi Miz,

    Great modeling! You work hard; she wants to work hard. You write well; she wants to do the same. No guilt there – just great parenting.

    I’ve found that expressing unspoken disappointment i.e. “I wish I could have lunch with you every day!” acknowledges feeling on both sides. And a silly love note in the lunch box every day (or backpack) helps too.

    Stress less and enjoy these precious days.


  27. says

    Ah, mother’s guilt. I so often experienced it. And… the opposite… daughter’s guilt! But, I tend to make mountains out of molehills and can stress out about anything. As for the volunteer thing, you are very wise to consider what you have time for. There will be soooo many requests as the school years go by. Pick and choose.

  28. says

    No matter how much you do, the guilt tempts and beckons — and i homeschooled!

    Some way, you have to get to where you know you have done all you can, and tell the guilt to take a hike.

  29. says

    LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Again, you pass on all your wonderful learning to Tornado by just being you.. not even having to teach – it is just YOU! I love the all dressed up look in the pic or so I think with a hat.. is that an ice cream cone up in the corner? 1 track mind here! 😉

    Guilt – I am Jewish – I live guilt! 😉 Honestly, I have always had guilt about things in some sense. In some ways, I do think it is part of how we were raised & what surrounded us….. At times I am able to say I have it but I have to move on for the best.. other times it lingers, goes away, comes back, goes away…

  30. says

    I love the drawing (the fancy hat is precious!) and how little T admires your writing. The guilt thing, it’s always there waxing and waning even when your daughter is long past kindergarten. Sorry. :/

  31. Meredith says

    What stuck me most and must be what I need to hear is you saying you heard NOT what she was saying but what you thought.

  32. says

    I was a single mom. I missed a lot while my son was in school because I was working. I did take time off for the important stuff…I used to feel guilty.

    Then one day my son said that he would rather I work than come to the school to “help” because he knew that if I didn’t work, we would be broke…

    That cured my guilt quickly in that area. But trust me, there is ALWAYS mom guilt lurking somewhere!

  33. says

    I experienced sooo much mommy guilt when my older son started school. I ended up volunteering for WAY too many things and drove myself about crazy. I just couldn’t say no back then (maybe being quite young, in my 20s, and having been raised catholic had something to do with it…). It really wasn’t good for anyone! I really wasn’t able to be a good mother, wife, friend, employee, or volunteer as I was just stretched way too thin. It took me years to figure out that it’s okay to say no. I guess some wisdom does come with age… 😉 We’ll see how I’ll do when the toddle starts school, and I’m bombarded with requests…

  34. says

    I love this! I have such a hard time teasing apart appropriate specific guilt from the amorphous generalized guilt, especially when it comes to my kids. I so feel you about all the volunteering stuff. It’s never ending but I’ve ended up saying no to most of it, esp. because volunteering for me means paying a babysitter so it’s an investment of time, energy and resources. So for me not to resent it I have to really feel good about it – so I just pick the few occasions where that works out.

  35. says

    I’m in the same boat with you. I have NO idea what the answer is. Honestly, I think it’s the plight of women of our generation. We are told we can have everything, but in my opinion, there is ALWAYS a price to pay.

  36. says

    I work out of the home.

    I have the guilt.

    I’ve had the guilt for many years now…Linsey’s in 5th grade and I (gasp) send my 3 year old to preschool.

    I sooooooo have the guilt.

  37. says

    When my son started kinder, I volunteered one morning a week in the classroom, along with being the room mom. And do you know, there were other moms who were at that school every.single.day? At first I felt bad and tried to keep up with them, but then realized that my son needed his time away from me, and needed to learn how to deal with and rely (a bit, anyway) on other adults. Plus? I needed a little “me” time. There are always going to be those moms who are at the school all the (damn) time. I wish schools would limit them (and stop making the rest of us look bad). It will get easier, these uncertain feelings. Stay strong, don’t fall into the guilt trap!

  38. says

    ahhh, I go off in a nother direction. You have guilt for working…I chose to stay home and as such…have no money. Therefore we get by, but no extra to put away for college. I homeschooled my oldest, and have driven her daily to and from her charter school for four years, have attended every parent teacher night…I have been there for homework, and for driving her to her projects and for being the house her friends could study at…But now she is going to have to fund her college on her own. She will probably get scholarships….a pell grant. It won’t cover all of it. It seems there are only so many things we can give…mostly it’s time OR money. rarely both…we can only do the best we can. I think they can tell that we are imperfect but that we are trying. She knows you love her. And would give your arm, kidney or life to make her life better. Hang in there.

  39. Valerie says

    Ahh, the mommy-guilt…I’ve refined it to an art-form. It can eat you alive, if you let it, and it’s probably the least useful emotion you’ll ever experience. It has no connection to logic or reality; no matter how great a parent you are, there will always be something over which you can beat yourself up.

    The thing that (sometimes) helps me to let go of the guilt is reminding myself that I am teaching these girls how to be a woman; they will form opinions, by watching me, of how they are to live their lives. I’m leading by example, whether I want to or not, and the last thing I want is to teach them not to take care of themselves, or not to set the boundaries they need to do so. I want them to see that being a mother means loving and being loved, and valuing oneself enough to lovingly set those boundaries, for the sake of everyone; I do *not* want to teach them that it means overextending and being taken for granted and not having one’s boundaries or needs respected. I want them to be healthy and happy as they become women, and if that’s not what I’m doing myself, then I’m not doing a very good job of teaching them.

    It’s become a fitness aphorism that you can’t care for others until you first care for yourself, but I don’t think we often stop and think about all the reasons why that’s true. In this respect, it’s true not only because a healthy person has more to give, but also because we are a constant example to our children, whether we know it or not.

  40. says

    wow. yes, i loved this post and i love the fact that you recognize the difference between the reality and what you heard.That is a key for me.

    sigh. ok here it goes and just because you asked.

    I swim in guilt. Daily. It’s a sickness. I try to let it go and I’m doing better at saying “no” but I feel guilty even about saying no. I am a pleaser, when someone wants my help I want to give it, I guilt if I feel I could have done better to deliver, I guilt if I’m working while the kids are playing next to me, I guilt if I am playing while the work that’s always sitting next to me(and the commitments) go undone.

    It’s a cycle I can’t seem to break no matter what. I’m feeling guilty typing this as opposed to not doing the work I sat down to do while feeling guilty I’m working at all on a Saturday when I really want to play pirates.


    I realize it is my own guilt that I am giving myself. That it is not the reality of things.

    But I must say I am pretty proud of you for writing about it now as opposed to 5 years ago when the onslaught of guilt happened to me (commenced as soon as the child popped out when I felt guilty about leaving work to stay home and guilty because in some way I thought my body failed when I had a preemie. My guilt runs deep.)

    Now that I’m writing this, perhaps some therapy is in order?

    I haven’t read your four-step approach but it will likely do me good.

    I have some work to do in this area to say the least. :)

    I wish you as much guilt-free-ness as you will allow yourself, because when I am guilt-free, I am so much more peaceful (and so is everyone else), and I love those days.

  41. addy says

    The Mom guilt never goes away. Ever. I had it even though I was at every single thing I could be and still hold down a job. Never did the PTA though – morning meetings on a workday really?? Good for them – a luxury I couldn’t afford. CiCi was supportive and understanding So glad to see me when I snumck away for lunch with her! So do you think it will go away now that she is in her third year of college? maybe…..

  42. says

    Gotta get/have a really nice bed. That’s my number 1. And lorazapam helps too.
    Hannah was complaining Sat night (she stayed over) that she needed the light on. I told her to shush and within 10 seconds she was snoring like a sixer. Darn kids.

  43. says

    4 AM?! Is that a real time?! LOL I have trouble sleeping with all the pain I’m in. But on days I do get sleep and don’t need to get up to hubby’s alarm I’m normally up by 7-8ish.