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Laying on the Mother Guilt

I am going solo tonight, which is not an unusual occurrence.  What it means is that I get very short with the kids: mildly scolding, maybe yelling at them to finish their dinner, do homework, tidy lunch bags, brush their teeth, get into bed.  Without fail, there are special requests: can you lie down with me? can you get me my bag that I left outside? can you help me with this (when they full well can do it on their own)?  When I reach my point of saturation, I explode.

"Can you just do it on your own so I can go and have my dinner in peace?  I have been going nonstop since we stepped foot in the door, making your dinner, asking you to put away your clothes, helping you get your homework done, doing chores.  You need to go to bed now, so that I can eat dinner in quiet."

This is one of my more tame guilt trips.  Once, in a parked car waiting for the rest of our party to run an errand, I was accused by the little folk of always "working", when I launched into a tirade about "what I do all day on the computer."  I elaborated: "For one, I am working, always working, so that we can afford your soccer cleats or that gift for the friend who's having a birthday party or even just our house payment.  For another thing, I am not just dilly-dallying on this computer.  I am researching activities for you, signing you up for your soccer league, emailing your school, coordinating schedules so someone can be at such-and-such school event ...."

I really lost my marbles.  I went on and on about how I did everything for them, nothing for me.  Don't judge. I know I'm not the only one.  What I hate is how I catapulted into the guilt trip, the "don't-give-me-grief-I'm-doing-all-of-this-for-you" mentality.  In reality, I do generally feel selfless, I do feel like I would want to go above and beyond for my little ones, even without their acknowledgment or appreciation, but sometimes these guilt trips just. come. out.

I was raised in a household where guilt was laid on thick.  I felt like I needed to count my blessings every day.  Granted, I had many blessings, but I was almost made to feel that I didn't deserve the blessings.  I don't want my kids to feel that way.  I don't want to make my kids feel that way.

Tell me about your guilt trip moments.  But also tell me about the things that you wish you had said instead, instead of making them feel bad, what would you have said that would have just aired your feelings, but would not have assigned all that blame?


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Try to figure out the emotions behind the comment. I guess I might say something like, "It sounds like you have been missing Mommy time because I have been so busy lately."

Or, better yet: own it. "Yup, I do spend a lot of time on the computer!" and just move on.

Or a simple, "Sweetie, I have had a busy day, and I am really tired. Can you help me out here?"

I also sometimes like to make it into a joke. "Everything is so crazy now my head might explode!" My kids think this is hysterical, and it sometimes helps to get rid of some of the tension. Good luck. Remember to take care of yourself.

I've been there (and it's been this weekend, too). definitely lots of the "but I am making money for you to live in this house and keep the lights on and, lest we forget, the cable TV!' -- all that usually does for me is to bring up all the things that I *should* be doing "for them" with my time, too: setting up playdates (you're TERRIBLE at that, mama!), figuring out how to get back the pokemon card book we left at someone's house who suddenly up and moved to Washington, DC, etc.

so I've tried to focus more on how I'm feeling, and tell them that I'm really frustrated because I am really trying to be a good mom and give them all the things to make them happy -- that I *want* them to be happy most of all -- but that it feels right now like they aren't happy with anything that I'm doing, and I don't like doing a bad job and I don't like feeling that I'm actually making things WORSE for them. and I try to say this in a relatively calm and blameless voice. this may not be a TON better than the all-out guilt trip, but it's at least focused more on my feelings than on their causing them. I also focus a lot on how the environmental factors -- my lack of sleep, my lack of good food for the past few hours -- are making my frustration worse, and maybe I just need a little break to cool down and a nice healthy snack. hopefully I'll end up with a little good modeling in the meantime.

I spend a lot of time reviewing my tone for terseness, sarcasm, blame and whining (of course, I get a lot of external 360-degree review from my kids, too ;) and try to pull back whenever it gets bad. this weekend, I lost it several times, and had to do a lot of apologizing. mea, mea culpa.

I don't come from a guilt family at all, though my husband does, so I feel that I have to work extra hard to keep my interactions low on guilt to balance out whatever residual he brings to the parenting table. parenting is hard.

I was laying the "I grew you in my tummy and was in active labor for 4 days and pushed you out and raised you...." schpiel at the pumpkin patch, half-joking with my 5 year old daughter who was telling me that I was being unfair, or mean, or that I don't do anything for her, etc, etc, when the face painting lady turned to me and said, "are you Jewish?" I had to laugh. I was kidding, but it was a perfect imitation of Jewish mother guilt, and it comes so easily, even though I don't THINK my mother used it with me. It turns out the painting lady was Jewish too so we had a good laugh. So I guess I do the exaggerated guilt in a funny way to get my daughter's mind off of whatever she is whining about, and I realize that someday, maybe when she is a mom, she will look back at how I managed to raise her, take care of the house and 3 elderly cats, all with family 3000 miles away, while still managing to work full time and spend most of thetime we are awake together attending to her needs, all as a 24-7-365 single mom, and she is going to feel WAY GUILTY all on her own! I smile a sly little smile while I am folding laudry and thinking of that day! I hope I am alive to see it!

I do ALL the laundry. Folding is one of my most dreaded chores. I have in the past, made this very clear. I got tired of the laundry not getting picked up off the floor and put into the basket when it was dirty, or turned right side out before entering said basket and/or picked up from the couch after it was cleaned and folded that I pulled a boycott of sorts. After I had expressed my desire (for the millionth time) for them to put the clothes in the basket right side out and pick them up off the couch and put them away after I had washed and folded them, I once again considered the guilt trip tirade. Instead, I just stopped going into their rooms and looking for the dirty stuff. Instead, I closed the door. They began to complain that they didn't have clean socks after 5-6 days. Hmmm, I wonder why.... When clothes made it to the dirty basket inside out, I didn't reverse them and after I washed and dried the inside out clothes I threw them, unfolded in a pile on top of their beds and closed the door. I have made the conscious decision to not guilt them about it OR take it on as my obligation. They are safe, fed and loved. The End.

I'm not sure how old your children are, but perhaps they are old enough to fill out soccer forms, make birthday presents for their friends, do chores to earn money for soccer cleats. Sometimes when we are "selfless" in the way you describe, we create over dependance, rob our kids of learning experiences and ourself of deserved "me time" and sadly, we sometimes end up sharing these bitter feelings in the form of guilt trips. I know all too well...

Oh boy. THIS is resonant. Right now, I am trying to remind myself that only I am responsible for my choices...not my little buzzards. I can choose to spend waaaaay too much time volunteering at the school, or ironing every article of clothing, or obsessively tidying each piece of Lego, but if that's the decision I make then it's MINE. I would rather adjust to doing less, but doing it lovingly, than to this frenetic pace that leaves me feeling resentful and burned out. It's a work in progress, and thank Dog they love me, flaws and all...

I remember the very first time I laid a guilt trip. My oldest is autistic -Aspergers/high functioning autism and we pulled him from school and homeschooled for several years. His father and I worked alternate shifts to be able to do this so I got up each morning and did a structured homeschool all day then worked til 11pm each night walked home fell in bed exhausted and did it all over again. He was resisting something I was asking of him in our schooling - writing in a journal - whatever he wanted - anything - and had a tantrum about it and I ended up in tears telling him how much we were sacrificing to try and meet his needs. He wrote in the journal - an almost suicidal guilty I'm ruining my parents life journal entry.


What I should have said was that I was feeling overwhelmed and run down from the arguing and I needed to take a break. When I was feeling more in control I should have found a compromise on the journal...and most importantly I should have asked for more help.

How ironic to be feeling guilty about some perfectly legitimate guilt trips!

My heritage is Asian and my husband's is Jewish. Motherly guilt trips are a time honored tradition! Mothers work their tails off and are entitled to occasionally remind their ungrateful children of that fact :)

"They are safe, fed and loved. The End."

This is a great quote @Been There. I think I will make it into my mantra when I am about to unravel the next guilt trip or jump to finish the next extravagant request.

My heart goes out to you mudmama. Our oldest son is Autistic and last night my Husband was sitting with him helping with his math homework and a major meltdown occurred. I was cooking dinner and trying so hard to stay out of it and I was really angry with how my husband was handling things. Fortunately my son went over to our new piano(he just started piano lessons) and he plunked out this beautiful song. His dad cooled off and they tried again. He told us that the song was called "The Sad Boy." I almost cried. I have almost accepted the feelings of guilt as part of being a Mom. I feel like I can never do anything good enough. My mom was a single parent who had no support financially or emotionally. My sister and I had alot of responsibility. Now as a stay at home Mom I probably over compensate and do too much. This morning I heard myself saying to the boys at Breakfast(they had been fighting with eachother all morning and I was about to pull my hair out)"When I was little I had to get my own breakfast, make my sister and my lunch and walk my sister to school." Even now I am nodding my head wondering "What was that about?"

It usually happens when I'm really busting my butt to make beautiful, appealing and nutritious meals, arrange play-dates, and cart him about to indoor parks or other outings I know he'll love, and he does the normal two-year-old routine of refusing to put his shoes on and freaking out because his banana is broken and insisting that I carry him while I'm packing lunches and just--from my point of view--gratuitously making my life difficult. That's when I find myself starting to lose it, to tune of, "I'm doing all this for YOU! Why are you trying to drive me crazy?!"

My husband reminds me that I don't have to go to such lengths, so that it won't feel like such a personal affront when my child is uncooperative. My husband is more balanced in this regard. He doesn't bend over backwards to fill their time with interesting activities or otherwise be an overacheiver parent, and when our son is difficult and contrary, he seems to take it into stride a lot better. In other words, I'm guess I'm learning that when I feel that way, it's usually my cue to quit trying so hard and feeling like a martyr, and be a bit more selfish with how I invest my time and energy, so I don't take it personally that my 2-year-old isn't sufficiently appreciative and compliant.

Oh yeah. I've said stuff like, "You know, there are kids in Morocco spending 8 hours a day weaving carpets who would love to have problems like yours, so don't complain to me about taking out the frickenfracken garbage, mister."

I don't feel guilty about it. I saw those kids when I lived in Morocco and I know how beyond lucky my children are. I also know that it's impossible for them to really understand their privileged situation. But I say these things anyway. Because I want them to understand it, and it makes me a little nutty that they don't.

My parents never played the "kids are starving in China" card to get me to eat my vegetables, and I never understood the logic of it when my friends would tell me their parents said things like that. I understand the impulse to say these things now, though. For me, it's just a visceral response sometimes.

I grew up in a very dysfunctional household where our mom guilted us for everything she did - even the basics - like making dinner.
Yes it was crazy and I swear I will never be that mean to my kids but at the same time - it made me very grateful for what I had and later on for how I wanted to raise my kids.

I think kids need to hear the truth about work & money and that both go hand in hand...

They also need to hear that mommy needs her time and that in a few days we wil go to the zoo or the dollar store or wherever is a special treat for your child but that now mommy needs quiet time.

You should not have guilt for that - parents of our generation are so immersed in our kids lives, development, school, activities etc - that we need to set aside time & boundaries for mommy time & parent time.


Lee, that's spot on. And I'm a plain ol' white girl from montana. How else are kids going to learn to be a little humble? We are so stuck on pride and feel goods that sometimes we forget balance. I say a little guilt and yelling aren't just something to feel bad about, it might actually be helpful in the long run. it's really about teaching the kids that to have pride (and endless requests) that they must also recognize a time for humility (and giving mama a break).

I support and defend mother guilt trips. I agree, they are a time honored tradition, and really important. I am not talking about going s-house, or griping over the basics. I was raised with them, and I think it helped me greatly to become a compassionate and empathetic person. I think my mother had every right to stop us from whining, and being ungrateful. There is a glue that holds the family together, and children need to be aware of what makes that glue. Children do need to be aware, cooperative, and appreciative. I think a message of: "Hey, I work so hard for you and you are not being thankful, in fact you are being selfish and unkind. You have it really great. Work with me. " is totally fine. And, yes, they will feel sad or shamed. I think sadness and shame are ok emotions, just as being mad or jealous are.

ohhhh...skimming this post i thought it was in regards to FEELING guilty for not being enough for your kids! HELP! i have this kind of guilt. i usually never lay on the guilt to my 3.5 yr old son, but i have an easy time of saying. "not now, honey" or "in a few minutes". so i never feel overextended, therefore never being pushed to my limit. but then i feel horrible for not being present for him when he's playing alone for 2 hrs, or not reading him a book, or not being into his new creation. any tips on this???

What Lee said. A little once-in-awhile attitude perspective and attitude adjustment (as opposed to a constant, unending guilt trip) never hurt anybody.

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