Parenting Guilt: What It Can Look Like And How To Be Kinder To Yourself

As a parent, you may often feel like you’re not doing enough, or that you’re not spending enough time with your children. It can leave you feeling guilty, and torn between your responsibilities as a parent, and other personal responsibilities or interests.


parenting guilt


What Parenting Guilt Looks Like


Parenting guilt can be complex, but there are often similarities in the feelings it can conjure. Typically, it can feel like:

  • Feeling like you’re doing something wrong, both in your parenting and in your daily life.
  • Feeling like you’re not fully focused on home life or at work.
  • Having a long to-do list but feeling like you’re only doing the bare minimum.
  • Feeling like you’re juggling too many things.
  • Feeling stressed about work and the future of your career.
  • Feeling that you can’t enjoy time with your children.
  • Feeling like you have no time to yourself.
  • Struggling to sleep.
  • Feeling that your relationships are strained.


It’s possible for all parents to feel parenting guilt, but it may be more common or more severe in new parents, or parents under financial stress.


Causes Of Parenting Guilt


Parenting guilt can have many causes, including both internal and external pressures.


Internal Pressures


Sometimes, parenting guilt can be caused by the pressure you put upon yourself as a parent. You can set up unrealistic expectations for yourself and then become guilt ridden and extremely stressed when you can’t meet them.


External Pressures


Parents can also feel external pressure to be a ‘perfect’ parent. Social media can mean that you’re often trying to keep up with other parents and compare yourself to them. You can then feel the same pressure at work to be the ‘perfect’ employee, despite whatever challenges you’re facing as a parent. The standards, and measures you use to gauge your performances at home and at work are often unattainable, which leads to more stress, guilt and anxiety.


Impact Of Parenting Guilt


Parenting guilt can impact your life in lots of ways. It can leave you feeling like a failure, with low self-esteem. It can also mean that you may try to compensate with your children in other ways. You may find that you provide more material items, or financial rewards based on feelings of guilt, and failure.


How To Cope With Parenting Guilt


You can put coping strategies in place to help you cope with parenting guilt.

  • Identify what triggers your feelings of parenting guilt – pay attention when you start feeling guilty. What else has been happening in your life? If you can identify what is triggering your feelings of guilt, you can work to deal with them in healthier ways.
  • Reframe your thoughts of guilt – when you feel negative thoughts creeping in, you can reframe them to be more positive. If you feel guilty about being at work, remind yourself that you’re working to support your child. If you feel guilty about being with your children and not at work, remind yourself that the most productive employees have lives outside of work.
  • Temper your expectations – one of the most important causes of parenting guilt is unrealistic expectations. It’s important to understand what is realistic to achieve, and what isn’t. Temper your expectations and accept that you won’t be able to always do everything.
  • Focus on being present – focus on being present with what you’re doing as you’re doing it. If you’re at work, try to focus on it, and when you’re with your children, focus on them.
  • Use your support system – your support system of family and friends are there to help, so ask for help when you need it. You could also look for support from other parents who are experiencing the same feelings as you.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others – comparing yourself to other parents is pointless and will only serve to intensify your parenting guilt.
  • Take a break – taking a break to recharge can help you feel more energised, and more able to cope with your daily to-do list.
  • Self-care – taking some time to practice self-care and being kind to yourself is a must. You’re no good to anyone if you’re not taking care of yourself.
  • Professional help – if you need to, seek professional help. Therapy can help you to find balance in your life.