Photo by: Shutterstock

Just Say No to Mom Guilt

by JD of "Honest Mom"
Photo by: Shutterstock

I’m standing in the kitchen, doing dishes. The beginnings of a crock-pot dinner are strewn about the counter. While I scrub, there are seemingly endless tasks swimming through my mind:

Call the kids’ doctor. Switch the laundry. Email the class mom. Follow up with the potential new client. Do I have time to run to Target before Annie’s bus comes? Don’t forget to sign Annie up for gymnastics camp.

Both my mind and hands are racing as I rinse a pot. I plot how it’s all going to get done in the next four hours.

Then a small hand tugs at my yoga pants.

“Mommy, will you play with me?” Gracie pleads.

I look at my four-year-old, who is still sporting bedhead and her nightgown at 11am. “Honey, mommy is trying to get stuff done. Can you play with your animals for a little while?”

Her hopeful baby face falls as the corners of her mouth turn down, and she sulks off to the playroom. And as the hot water washes over my hands, my mommy guilt washes over me.

Every day that Gracie is home with me she constantly wants me to play with her. And every day, at some point – at most points – I turn her down. I say “no” to playing more than “yes.” I want to say yes more often, but I am being pulled in two directions.

I could put the pots and pans down and go play, as many moms would admonish me to do. They’re only little once. They’ll grow up before you know it. The chores can wait. Play with them!

Or I could expect Gracie to be happy to entertain herself, as another camp of moms instructs. Kids can’t depend on their parents for fun all the time. You are not her 24/7 entertainer. Our parents didn’t spend every second doing Pinteresting crafts with us! We entertained ourselves!

More often than not, I am in camp #2 and I lean toward expecting my kids to entertain themselves without me. I tell myself that it’s good for them to be bored and figure out how to have fun on their own.

So I send them off to play by themselves with promises of playing together later when I’m done with my tasks.

Then I feel guilty about it. I fret that I’m ignoring them and they feel rejected by me. I worry they’re going to end up in therapists’ chairs someday, lamenting that if only their mom had paid more attention to them, their lives would have turned out better.

(Actually, that’ll probably happen no matter what.)

Where is this crazy mommy guilt coming from?

Honestly, I look back at my childhood and I don’t remember my parents playing with me all that much. I didn’t even have siblings to occupy my time. I played with the neighborhood kids. Played in my room. Read books. I have fond memories of times with my parents but they weren’t my constant playmates, for sure.

So why do I feel pressure to be MY kids’ constant playmates?

Well, I’ll let you in on a little epiphany I had recently. And it’s may not be one that you expect.

People love to blame the perfection of Pinterest and societal expectations and peer pressure for the excessive mommy guilt in our culture.

But I’m going to say something totally, completely radical:

I think it’s me doing it to myself. I create this guilt.

I’m LETTING the world around me guilt me. And it’s my own responsibility to let it go. Because really? I’m doing just fine at this mom gig and I need to chill the F out with the guilt. And so do you.

When I start feeling like I’m doing a crummy job, I need to take a deep breath and look around me. My kids are happy and healthy. My house is not falling apart. Sure, I have an overflowing inbox and an endless list of to-dos, but if those things sit for a while while I play outside with my kids, will the world come crashing down? No.

And if I tell Gracie I can’t play with her this very second and she gives me the look that says I just won the “least likely to succeed” mom award today? She’ll survive.

We’re doing just fine, mamas. And we need to stop blaming the world around us for our guilt and just let. it. go.

Now go finish that laundry. Or play with that kid. Whatever floats your boat. Just don’t feel guilty about it, okay?

Are you a guilt-monger? Or are you good at letting it go?

JD Bailey is an author, blogger, and the creator of, where she writes about raising her young daughters, being a working mom, and managing her depression. With real candor and a good dose of humor, JD blogs to connect with other moms and create a space for women to both vent and laugh. When she’s not writing or mom-ing, you can find JD on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+.

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