Motherly Guilt

There were a lot of things I wish I had known before becoming a mom: breastfeeding will be excruciating the first few weeks, you will ugly cry EVERY. SINGLE. TIME you read On the Night You Were Born, there will be a moment (or two) where you will wonder why you went and got yourself into this mess, but the one thing I would warn my non-mama self is this: You will feel guilty about everything.
It started on day four. Baby E had not peed since we left the hospital. We were waiting anxiously for the arrival of a wet diaper, and eventually called our pediatrician. She told me to supplement with formula until our regularly scheduled appointment that afternoon. By 11am, girlfriend was still dry so at the recommendation of our physician, off we went to the Emergency Department of the Children’s Hospital. Looking at my teeny tiny girl stripped to her diaper under a warmer while she was being monitored for hours broke my heart. And it was my fault because my body couldn’t feed her the way it was supposed to. Thankfully she recovered and we went home that afternoon, but that was just the start of what is sure to be a lifetime of heart wrenching moments.
In the past five months, my motherly guilt has grown to include:
  • E getting numerous colds, a virus AND the flu in less than two months at daycare. I can’t help but think that if I was home with her, she wouldn’t be getting sick. She’s miserable and it’s my fault because I’m at work all day.
  • Let’s be honest-I feel guilty about leaving her at daycare in general. It tears my heart out every single morning and nearly every night when I pick her up. The first week I sobbed when picking her up like a total freak. I feel guilty throughout the day wondering if she is sad, missing me, getting as much attention as she would be at home. It doesn’t stop.
  • Not doing anything else when I get home from work or on the weekend because I want to spend every single moment with the baby. Thus, I feel guilty that dinner is a free for all, we never have groceries, and there are puffs of dog hair rolling down the hallway the size of hamsters.
  • Trying to provide this girl with enough to eat. She is a skinny little gal, and at her two month appointment her doctor made me schedule a weight check-in for month three. Guilt hit me in the gut. How was my body not providing her with what she needed to thrive? Most recently her daycare teacher told me that she wants more for her bottles, something that is a huge challenge for me. 
  • Feeling terrible if I’m not 100% engaged with her at every moment. If I’m checking my phone or folding laundry instead of providing her with some meaningful activity that will foster brain development, improve her motor skills, turn her into the smartest child in the world, I know I’m the worst mom ever.
  •  Taking an extra 30 minutes after work to run errands as opposed to picking her up immediately. It would be easier to hit up the grocery store on my way home from the office to grab a few items, but I feel terrible leaving her at daycare even longer than I need to. End result is it usually doesn’t get done.
  • The worst guilt I feel is when I get frustrated at this tiny innocent face. I think it happens to every mom. Your baby REFUSES to sleep, is fussing for no particular reason, yanks your hair out of your head until you tear up, and that sweet, soft voice usually reserved for your little one is gone. Immediately afterwards I regret it. Last week Emma had the flu and it really impacted her sleeping. One night she was up 7 times. I was sick too, and exhausted,  and at one point at 3 in the morning when she was just staring at me I yelled, “GO TO SLEEP!” I want to cry just thinking about it. Screaming at a sick baby. Mother of the year.
    It’s an awesome responsibility and privilege to care for her beautiful little soul and I can only hope that I’m doing what is best for her. I’m trying to let go of the guilt I feel and focus instead of making the most of the time I do get to spend with Emma every day. Mamas out there, how do you deal with motherly guilt?
*A whole ‘nother post needed on the balance between being an involved parent and being a quality career woman. And maybe another one on trying to be a good wife while being a new mom. Yikes.

10 thoughts on “Motherly Guilt

  1. Jessica,

    I am in tears reading this post. It’s like you are reading my mind and writing it down here. It’s my first visit to your blog and even though you made me cry, I’ll be back. I promise you are a GREAT mom and Emma is the luckiest girl in the world to have you. My little one has some kind of stomach bug right now. I want to quit my job on the good days. These days when she is sick I don’t know what to do. You are doing a FANTASTIC job and you are not alone. Thanks for sharing.

    Katie Heaps (Connell)


    1. Oh Katie, I’m so sorry I made you cry. Since becoming a mom I cry all the time, like a total mess. I think we need to chat. Another one of my girlfriends just had a baby and she has offered to have a little brunch playdate at her house as she wants some support and guidance before she goes back to work in a few weeks. Would you be interested?


  2. I recently started reading your blog and I’m obsessed. You say what is pretty much on every working woman/mom/wife’s mind and do so hilariously.
    The guilt thing is definitely the biggest struggle of motherhood and something I had a very hard time dealing with. But I think at some point, not sure when maybe when Ben was around 1, I just had to let it go. Granted it isn’t gone totally, I still feel guilty about all the things you listed but it is no longer consuming me. Because I could see that Ben was a healthy happy and relatively “normal” kid I pretty much said, ok 80/20 here We must be doing most things right and even if we aren’t we will be ok for our imperfections, which most of them are far from anyway. I could go on for days but ill calm down. Oh and If you ever want to talk breast milk supply, supplementing, etc… Another topic I could talk for days on. God I’m cool.


    1. Allie, I am definitely working on letting go. It is something I have to do at the end of the day so I don’t get stuck in a cycle of blaming myself or feeling bad. I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough lately as I’ve seen Emma really start to respond to her daycare teacher and I see her teacher love on her too–it makes me feel much better!

      As for milk supply-UGH! I haven’t supplemented yet, but she is eating more than I’m making daily and I’m digging into my frozen stash. She’ll be starting solids in three weeks so hopefully that will help. SO MUCH WORK!


  3. Ditto the other comments! Your writing style is hilarious while covering very serious topics. I go back to work in 3 weeks and am excited as I love what I do (lease space in malls to retailers, glamorous!) but am dreading leaving her. We have gotten in a nice routine and I love my snuggles. Just remember when you feel guilty about doing laundry instead of playing with her, that she needs some independent play to talk to the ceiling or her stuffed animals. Where do you think kids come up with imaginary friends and learn to be creative? Kind of creepy, but maybe a few of your friends/readers would be interested in a play date/brunch at my place sometime soon? I would loooove back to work advice!


    1. Niki, you make me laugh! Emma loves the ceiling fan–it is her truly her favorite friend. And yes, I think a few friends would LOVE to get together for a play date. I will e-mail you and a few others who are either new to work or heading back to work soon. It’s funny-we are all girl mamas! I’ll e-mail you soon.


  4. OK. Seriously. DO YOU READ MY MIND OR WHAT?!

    I would like to AMEN all of these. Replace puffs of dog hair with puffs of cat hair and we are essentially the same person, with the same guilt, with the same problems.

    I’m so sorry you’re struggling with breastfeeding! Archer has now gone to formula and I have to say he seems just as happy! I felt MEGA mom guilt about that but I simply do not have time at work to be pumping… Well, that and he refuses to take my breast milk from a bottle. We also had a hell of a time in the beginning because he had a pretty severe tongue tie which made feeding him absolutely AGONY as I never felt in my life. (Cue additional mom guilt about what I did to cause him to have such a bad tongue tie, guilt about why he was born so small, guilt about clipping the tongue tie, guilt, guilt, guilt).

    Monday is my first working day and I know I am going to sob my eyes out. When I picked him up from the nursery today he was mid-scream with tears rolling down his face when I got there. He saw me, immediately stopped crying, started smiling and reaching for me. They then told me that he was basically really emotional and upset all day and that it must just have been one day too much for him this week. CUE MASSIVE MOM GUILT. He was SUCH a happy boy the rest of the afternoon and evening. At least now I feel validated about my decision to only go back Mon-Thurs.

    Also, you are not alone. Archer was being such a pain one morning last week. Wouldn’t let me put him down, screaming for no reason, crying until I would be touching him, and I yelled at him in frustration as we were trying to get out the door. I yelled “WILL YOU SHUT UP AND STOP CRYING. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.” He then cried harder, which made me cry, and then he refused to look at me the rest of the day and I got no smiles. I literally came home and cried off and on all day long about that and I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. We can’t be perfect all of the time.

    Anyway – THIS IS SO LONG, but I just wanted to say YES TO EVERYTHING and please tell me that on Monday my baby is going to be ok when I am 45 minutes away from him. *INSERT MORE TEARS BECAUSE CRYING IS MY NEW FAVOURITE HOBBY.*


    1. Ladies- I wish I could have a mom date with all of you, but I am back in boring Ohio. My nugget is 9.5 months and I feel like I am just getting the hang of the daycare thing and am feeling a little less guilt. The day that I walked in and saw her painting with feathers, I realized that they are doing things with her that I would never effing do. I mean, lets get real. My house is 1500 sq ft and we play in a corner most of the time and most of that time I am holding a glass of wine. She is actually doing things at daycare and enjoying it. I think once they can sit up and crawl it makes things a lot better. When she was 3 months and just started daycare, I would sit at work all day and envision her just laying alone with no attention. It gets better Jess! You know Emma is going to be social and she wants to hang with friends all day!

      Wife guilt…another story. Yes, I am off on Mondays and Fridays. No, I don’t always clean and go to the grocery. Why- because I am staring at my cute child and playing with shape sorters and making animal noises-deal with it! I have been trying to work on it, but most of the time I feel like a POS wife. I walked down the stairs to go to my sisters house for dinner last Sunday wearing my Homage sweatpants and I truly saw the sadness in my husbands eyes. Ugh. I’m such a piece.

      XOXO ladies. Thanks for keepin it real Jes!


  5. I return to work on Monday and I have been an emotional wreck this week. I don’t want to even think about leaving her for work. I feel so guilty. I am so glad I am not alone in this struggle. Such a great post. As a new mom I can totally relate to all of those. You are a great mom! Don’t ever forget it! Honestly I feel like so much of motherhood is trial and error which is scary. You are doing your best and your little girl is blessed to have you!


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