Growing up, Eunique Jones Gibson didn't have to look far for positive imagery that reflected who she was and where she came from. At a young age, Eunique's parents wasted no time instilling the importance of self-love and embracing the richness of Black culture. From her father's afrocentric, Cross Colours-based style to seeing herself through the lens of Lena James, Jada Pinkett's confident persona on A Different World, Eunique's surroundings began to paint a colorful portrait of the worlds that true representation could form. She points out, "That was my entryway into really embracing the culture and understanding the power of who we are and being critical of false narratives." It's no wonder that her work in representation through entertainment and media no less found her.
Early out in her career, the power to influence through advertisement served as a compass to direct her career pursuits, "When people used to ask me what I wanted to do that, I always said I wanted to influence decisions in 30 seconds or less. Because that's what commercials do." But for Eunique, the power to influence doesn't stop after the commercial ends, true impact transcends fleeting attention spans and viral moments that evaporate within the vapor of a swipe or click.
Photo by: Eunique Jones Gibson and Ashleigh Bing
The creative-entrepreneur proved this to be true, most noticeably through her Because of Them We Can campaign and instant-classic game, Culture Tags. In creating her Because of Them We Can campaign in 2013, Eunique recognized that Black History Month was in need of revitalization, "I wanted to refresh it, make it youthful, engaging, and inspiring. I saw the opportunity to do that through photographs and eventually to evolve it from that point." As the campaign grew in online popularity and potency, it garnered the attention of prominent figures like Oprah Winfrey to Kerry Washington, "I thought it was going to be a 28-day campaign, but I also realized that in order to be true to what I was trying to prove — which was that we need to reimage Black History, I had to lead by example."
The example that Eunique continues to set is one that's rooted in her mission to celebrate culture and community through the highest form of resistance: Black Joy. Her new game, Culture Tags, has served as an instrument for joy as many have looked for a delightful escape in the midst of quarantine. Restoring play and festivity back into our households, Culture Tags continues to find new life as outside reopens, guaranteeing to be the life of any cookout or rooftop party where the game makes an appearance. "As Black people, we've gone through and continue to go through so much as a community that oftentimes joy is all we have to look forward to. It's up to us to preserve it, protect it, and create the space for it."
xoNecole: Your project “Because Of Them We Can,” garnered viral success with the images that you shared of young Black children portraying notable Black figures. You mentioned once that you “wanted to refresh Black History,” could you tell us about that mission to refresh/reimagine Black History and how that’s evolved today?
Eunique Jones Gibson: When I started the campaign in 2013, I didn't see a captivating push that made Black History interesting and exciting and something that wasn't just Black and white photos. Black History was relegated to the narrative that in order to make history or be a figure or a person who could be acknowledged in Black History, it was a typical lineup of individuals that we learned about in school but it didn't expand beyond those individuals. It also typically ended up revolving around individuals who, when we talk about Black History Month, were older or people who were deceased and we know that Black History is constantly being made. It's always taking place, it's taking place right now as I'm talking to you.
I wanted to do something that would make it interesting to learn about figures throughout history that paved that way by refreshing those images and allowing folks to see them through the eyes of a child. Because then, you become a little more interested in the story and the individual beyond your bias or what you may think based on what you've heard or haven't heard.
Photo by: Eunique Jones Gibson and Ashleigh Bing
Because of all the success that you did receive from that campaign, was there anything that surprised you about the feedback you received or the response in general from your community?
I think at the time what really surprised me was the fact that people wanted it to continue beyond Black History Month. It was almost as if it became my responsibility to keep it going. I had started something bigger than what I had initially thought it was. I thought it was going to be a 28-day campaign, but I also realized that in order to be true to what I was trying to prove, which was that we need to reimagine Black History, I had to lead by example. I don't think I expected it when I launched it and I certainly didn't expect to be eight years later to still be building upon that foundation.
Your game, Culture Tags, is one of the hottest new games for us. What inspired the creation of Culture Tags?
We are a big entertainment family; we love game nights and it really just dawned on me at some point that we needed more games! We needed more options that were rooted in our culture. Not games that we can play because we understand the rules and because they're fun, but games we can play because they bring back the nostalgia and excitement because we know that it was made with us in mind.
The inspiration behind Culture Tags is that same inspiration behind all of my work: it's to celebrate culture and community and to make sure we are represented. I started to think about it back in 2019. One day, I was online and saw a really long abbreviation or acronym and all these people were commenting, "Why do I know what this means?" I was definitely in that same group where I was like, "Yo, this is wild, I know what this says!" I've tried to train my mind to see the opportunities beyond what's on the surface, I immediately said, this is a game!
Courtesy of: Eunique Jones Gibson
Your agency, Culture Brands, has recently been tapped to become Hyundai’s African American agency of record. Why do you think it’s important for big brands to tap firms and agencies that are actually of the culture, especially when it comes to portraying our images in advertisements?
Because we exist. We live it, we eat it, we breathe it. It isn't something that we have to study, it's something that we innately know. In order for brands to portray an authentic representation of their customer base when they are targeting Black folks, they should have experts at the table who can present an authentic story and picture. You can't do that when you are not of the culture.
There are certain things that you will miss, certain things that you will overlook, and that will never enter the conversation because you don't have that first-hand knowledge. You have to bring in people who eat, sleep, and breathe it — and people who can respect it. It's one thing to create culturally relevant content but the content also has to be responsible; it can't be exploitative.
Someone who is of the culture should know how to ensure that we are represented without allowing a brand to co-op the culture or present themselves as a culture vulture. There has to be people at the table with a voice to guide in that direction. A lot of times you have people who are in the room but are not at the table or people who are at the table but don't have a voice, or if they have a voice, no one is listening. We have to make sure that when brands invite multicultural or African-American companies to the table, that they are ready to listen and learn and to implicate the learnings and expertise that these agencies are offering.
"It's one thing to create culturally relevant content but the content also has to be responsible; it can't be exploitative. Someone who is of the culture should know how to ensure that we are represented without allowing a brand to co-op the culture or present themselves as a culture vulture."
I was listening to your interview on Luuvie’s IG Live and one of the things that really resonated was when you shared, “You’ve got to trust your vision. People steal ideas all day, but you can not steal a vision.” In your eyes, what is the difference between an idea and a vision?
Ideas come and go, and oftentimes they are inspired by a need. They are inspired by the environment and things that are happening around us but I think that the difference between an idea and a vision is that a vision makes the idea scaleable. A vision makes the idea sustainable; and gives [the vision] value and validates it beyond that moment. And it gives you direction. It helps to guide the direction that you move in. Oftentimes your ideas may change, but they should back into your vision.
Beyond that, I also don't think it's a good idea to fall in love with your ideas. I think you can execute them and like them, but you should not fall in love with them. You should commit yourself to whatever your anticipated goal is: fall in love with the goal, not with the idea that might get you there because that idea can shift, but if you commit to the goal, you might see that there are multiple ways to get there. Which is why you have to anchor yourself in the vision.
"A lot of times you have people who are in the room but are not at the table or people who are at the table but don't have a voice, or if they have a voice, no one is listening."
Something that many creatives may experience along their journey is analysis paralysis in not really knowing where to start with their ideas. What advice would you give to someone who may be sitting on an idea or hesitant to take a leap into their dreams?
I always say, "Date your dreams." A lot of times you can look at an idea as a dream or something that you want to execute or explore and I think you have to date it and spend time with it. You have to obsess over it, analyze it from different angles, poke holes in it. What's good about this, what's bad about it? What makes sense, what makes this crazy? You date it.
I also think you have to be willing to bet on yourself. After you've gone through that process, if you've come out on the other side, you've got to be willing to fail. If you're not willing to fail, then you will never try. If you're willing to fail, then you can take the risk to move forward with the idea understanding that if you failed, you really just learned.
Photo by: Eunique Jones Gibson and Ashleigh Bing
"Mistakes happen for us to patch the holes, to ensure that our baskets stay full once the blessings start coming in."
What’s something that felt like a mistake in the moment, but turned out to be a pivotal lesson for you along your journey?
I've had multiple moments like that. My mentor tells me, sometimes the thing that feels horrible that we lament over because they happened to us, really happened for us. He likened it to medicine that tastes horrible but at the end of the day, it does us some good. I think it can only do us good if we maintain the perspective that it's all an opportunity to learn and improve and not make the same mistakes that we made before because we are more informed this time.
Failure has been a consistent part of my process and they have been big and small, and costly - whether it's cost me money or peace of mind, they are not inexpensive! But I have learned from each one of them to ensure that I do not make the same mistake again. Mistakes happen for us to patch the holes, to endure that our baskets stay full once the blessings start coming in.
For more of Eunique, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Eunique Jones Gibson
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
While I write this article, my son is across the room—on a lovely Saturday afternoon—watching an episode of his favorite show. Soon, my husband will scoop him up, and the both of them will spend time together outside. But for now, his eyes are focused on a television screen while mine track words across a computer screen. Like clockwork, questions gnaw at me as I try to focus. Is he getting too much screen time while I work? Am I still a “good mom” if I’m hardly paying attention to him? Sure, we’ll spend the rest of the day together as a family, but what if I miss something important while he’s out with his dad? Why do I feel bad for taking time for myself in the first place?
The simple answer is mom guilt, and I’m certainly not the only person that deals with it.
Mom guilt is defined as any specific feeling of guilt a woman experiences in relation to her role as a mother and her ability to meet her child’s needs. It can occur at any stage in motherhood and for a plethora of reasons. Any parent or caregiver is susceptible to feelings of guilt, but I was especially curious to chat with mothers navigating guilt as they pursue their dreams, manage other responsibilities, and work in or outside of their homes.
In an interview with xoNecole, five mothers got real about their experience working through guilt, and here’s what they had to say.
Courtesy of Lauren Johnson
Lauren Johnson, a mother of three and ultimate boss babe, first experienced mom guilt as a college student with her first daughter.
“I was a young single mother at the time, pursuing a science degree with my newborn on campus with me. I would always have to send her to different people just to go to class or to get my work done. Not only did I not know what I was doing as a mother, but I also couldn’t give her my undivided attention. The guilt was overwhelming, but I knew I couldn’t quit and had to keep pushing for her.”
Years later, Lauren’s hard work has paid off. She runs Harbor Grace Co. with her spouse and has built their photography and production company while simultaneously growing their family. By working predominately from home over the past eight years, Lauren has found that working through the night allows her to complete tasks without distractions.
“I’ll sleep during the day when they are at school, and by the time they get home, I’m rested and ready to spend some quality time with them,” she explains.
Even though she tweaks her schedule to prioritize her children’s activities, she still feels guilty when she’s not able to focus solely on them.
“If I’m working on a big production, I’ll have tunnel vision until that project is complete. That means that I may be at home, but I’m not really present. My kids will come into my office for a few minutes to check on me, and that’s typically when the guilt starts. They’ll tell me about their day, give me hugs, and then I’ll hear, ‘Okay, well, I’ll let you finish working,’” she explains.
This guilt led her to overcompensate with material things for her children but also encouraged her to take a good look at her values.
“Mom guilt made me so much more ambitious. I am always striving for more to provide them with the best quality of life. But guilt is also like a mirror. It requires you to be more self-aware. It requires you to be vulnerable in ways you may have never been before.”
Lauren notes that balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood isn’t as difficult as it once was but acknowledges the challenge associated with having limited time for everyone.
“[The kids] were growing up so fast, and I was so busy that I didn’t really take the time that I needed to get to know this new version of them. Or I would feel as though my husband had a better relationship with them than I did, in which most cases, I would just be in my own head,” she says.
Now that her children are older, she has begun to incorporate them into her work by including them in her shoots or by allowing them to scout locations with her. When she isn’t working or spending time with her family, Lauren leans into fitness to challenge guilt. For her, working out several times a week not only relieves stress but it also provides an example for her children to prioritize self-care.
“It’s okay to need help, to take a break, and to prioritize yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Fill yourself up first so that you can always give them the best version of you,” she says.
Courtesy of Destini Ann
As an author, podcast host, and certified parenting coach, Destini Ann consistently delivers authentic and relatable parenting content for the masses. By sharing her own experience raising two children via social media, Destini Ann encourages other caregivers to get curious about their parenting styles.
“I love that my career involves social media! Not only is connection one of my top three values, but the other two are freedom and communication. Social media allows me to connect with my community and communicate my beliefs and parenting advice while giving me an incredible amount of freedom. The flip side of that is that if I’m not careful, I can find myself giving my children less connection, communication, and freedom.”
Destini Ann admits that working in close proximity to her children is challenging since there is less structure, and her children expect more from her when she’s present. However, she’s found a technique that works for her family.
“The oldest does well with a checklist and alone time, but my 5-year-old is all over the place. I find that leading with an abundance of connection makes stepping away a lot easier. Ultimately, I prioritize [connection] the best I can when they’re home,” she says. “I feel guilty when I’m not as connected with them. When life gets busy or I’m tired, it can be tempting to zone out. But it’s actually my guilt that snaps me back into the present most of the time.”
Though Destini Ann is intentional with her approach to parenting now, she doesn’t shy away from sharing the guilt she experienced by being a “permissive parent with very little boundaries” in the past. She also highlights an early experience with guilt after considering how arguments with her ex-husband might have affected her daughter.
“I asked myself, ‘How did this impact her emotional health, her relationship with her father, and her understanding of my relationship with him?’ That guilt turned into fear and anxiety about the future and what that might mean for her romantic relationships,” she says.
But even in the midst of experiencing guilt, Destini Ann says she tries not to allow the feeling to turn into shame.
“My guilt slows me down and forces me to reexamine my values. It gives me an opportunity to get off autopilot and ask myself tough questions [like], ‘Is this really something I need to work on, or is this just an emotion that will pass? Do I need grace or growth here? If it’s grace, how can I affirm myself and ease my emotional state? If it’s growth, what is in my control that I can change or work on?’”
For her, guilt isn’t necessarily a feeling that can be avoided but rather a tool that is best used to check in with herself. She concludes by saying, “Sometimes I need to recognize that I’m putting unrealistic expectations on myself or comparing my journey to someone else’s. Other times, the guilt is the catalyst that takes me to the next positive step on my motherhood journey.”
Courtesy of Morgan Tyler
Prior to becoming a mother, Morgan Tyler had a clear idea of how she wanted to parent. She understood the importance of taking care of herself in order to show up for her child, but guilt set in after the birth of her first child. Asking for help from family and friends became a difficult task, and she started to believe that becoming a mother took precedence over having a life of her own.
Now that she's a wife, mother of three, and a full-blown entrepreneur with a lot on her plate, Morgan has a better grasp of striking a healthy balance between her roles but still experiences guilt at times.
"I typically feel mom guilt when I have to work a lot or travel due to work. I feel like I'm not as present as I could or should be when I'm working on a big project. And when I return home, I'm exhausted and don't always have the energy to jump right into mommy-ing," she says.
Morgan cites her children as motivators for her work and prioritizes open communication with them about how her work will impact the time she spends with them.
"[I] explain to them what I have going on work-wise and pre-plan quality time with them so that no one feels slighted. I especially appreciate my husband because he gives me a safe space to share what I am feeling and helps me overcome those emotions, even if it's just to be a sounding board."
To combat feelings of guilt, Morgan recognizes that there are seasons in life that require more or less from her and believes in maximizing the seasons when she's less busy. She also challenges mom guilt by centering her faith, prioritizing self-care, and incorporating positive self-talk. She finds that waking up before her family in order to read her Bible and pray sets the tone for her day. Without it, she's more susceptible to feeling guilt and negative thoughts.
These days Morgan relies on extending grace to herself and wants other mothers to do the same. She says, "[Guilt] can bring on feelings of not being enough for our children or doing well enough at 'mommy-ing.' However, you were blessed with the assignment of that specific child, and you have everything they need. It can be so easy to compare ourselves to other moms, let our own internal narratives run wild, and let mom guilt take over, but I challenge you to identify the triggers and tackle them head-on."
Courtesy of Bridget Chapital
Bridget Chapital is no stranger to the guilt that creeps in when you're chasing your dreamsand raising three incredible humans. She recalls the end of her first pregnancy as an initial trigger of mom guilt.
"[My daughter] was full-term but underweight and not growing, so I ended up having a failed induction, followed by a C-section so that we could get her nourishment on the outside. I remember feeling as though my busy work schedule and non-stop pace might have contributed to a negative outcome for my baby, and it didn't feel good."
Unfortunately, mom guilt persisted throughout her journey of early motherhood.
"When my kids were younger, I poured all of myself into them. I would feel bad if I dropped them off at daycare when I had a day off of work or if I didn't keep up with a million and one of their spirit days at their school," she says. The older her children became, the less guilt she experienced– until COVID-19 took the world by storm.
"Right before the pandemic, I quit my full-time job in the medical research industry to start a health leadership program that teaches the fundamentals of the medical research industry to kids. For the first time in a long time, I was able to balance my work and professional lives by dropping my kids off in the morning and having seven uninterrupted hours of work, and then picking them up at 3 p.m. and having a full evening to focus on them. Once the lockdowns started, I found myself simultaneously home-schooling three kids while putting in the many hours required to launch a business. It was so stressful," she says.
Thankfully, her children – now thirteen, ten, and eight– are not only more independent, but they are also understanding of her and her husband's work schedule.
"[My kids] are very self-sufficient with getting dressed and making snacks and meals if they get hungry, so that stress is lifted off of me. But even though they would love nothing more than to watch TV or play on their tablets all day, I do feel bad if I have to work on a project on the weekend and can't spend as much time with them."
She maximizes her time with each of her children by limiting work to Monday-Friday when she can, by taking them out for solo dates, and by checking in with them. She also credits her husband's flexible work schedule and his ability to keep them busy with extracurricular activities as another factor in decreasing her mom guilt.
But in order to challenge the negative feelings associated with mom guilt, Bridget is adamant about holding fast to her identity outside of motherhood and rediscovering aspects of herself she might have set aside when her children were younger.
"It's okay to enjoy your time away from the kids. Find a trusted person-whether it's your husband, a girlfriend, or an extended family member– and when your child is with them, allow yourself to let go of the pressure of being a mom and just be yourself for a while. Put this time on a calendar and keep it sacred," she says.
Courtesy of Jade Godbolt
For Jade Godbolt, the pressure to show up and run her business was the source of her mom guilt. Prior to the birth of her first child, Jade was determined to hop back into work right away due to the belief that her business would fail if she didn't. She recalls feeling guilt when she was required to make a decision between work and her family.
"I operated from a perspective that almost forced me to always choose work because I felt like providing financially for my family was the most important thing. If you would've asked me that directly before, I would deny it. But my actions showed, whenever I would rush off to finish a project or shoot content instead of spending time with my babies, that my financial contribution meant more than my presence or attention," she says.
Jade has worked from home since becoming a mother, which is no easy feat. And though there are unique challenges to having young children at home with her while she's working, she makes no apologies about how it's perceived.
"I got used to prefacing anyone I was working with or on a call with that 'If you hear kids screaming in the background, please do not be alarmed.' I couldn't care less if anyone had an issue with it. My family will always come before work or other relationships."
In the past, feelings of guilt led her to overcompensate by buying material things or by going on trips in order to spend time together with her family. However, she notes that this season of her life calls for her to incorporate quality time with her family in her everyday life.
"I don't go out as much as I used to, and that's taken some time to get used to. The pandemic helped because I didn't feel like I was the only one at home, but now that things have begun opening up again, sometimes it is hard because it's not just an easy "yes" or "no" for me to get out of the house with three kids under three. It's a whole conversation and planning session with my husband before I can even think about going anywhere," she explains.
But instead of feeling frustrated over it, she recognizes that this season of her life is temporary and chooses to focus on the positive aspects of raising a family instead.
"The Bible says that children are a gift, and I remind myself of that, especially in the moments when they don't feel like gifts. Motherhood can have its really tough moments, but I lean on my relationship with Christ to get me through when things are smooth and rocky."
And in those moments when mom guilt appears, Jade is quick to challenge the emotion and encourages others to do so as well.
She concludes by adding, "The feeling of guilt can creep in, but it's important to address it while it's a seed so that it doesn't take root in our hearts. Freedom is available to us, we just have to give ourselves and others some grace and forgiveness to get there."
Experiencing guilt as a caregiver may not always be avoidable, but its appearance doesn’t automatically mean you’re making the wrong choices. Instead, its presence can signal just how much you care about the role you play in your children’s life. So instead of feeling bogged down by shame and guilt on your mothering journey, always remember that there is no such thing as a perfect mother.
You can redefine what it means to be a “good mom” and examine the expectations you’ve placed on yourself. More than that, I hope you always remember that you are deserving of self-compassion along the way.
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Featured image courtesy of Morgan Tyler