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.
Lauren Johnson – Producer and Director of Harbor Grace Co.
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.
Destini Ann – Certified Parenting Coach
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.”
Morgan Tyler – CEO of the Millenial Moms Club, Co-Host of Moms Actually Podcast
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."
Bridget Chapital– Founder of Hypothesis Haven Science Club
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.
Jade Godbolt, Beauty & Motherhood Influencer, Co-Host of The Godbolt Life Podcast
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
- 12 Affirmations For New Moms ›
- How These Working Moms Find Balance Amid The Demands Of Work & Family Life ›
- I Gave Up My Career To Be A Stay-At-Home Mom, Now I’m Consumed With Guilt ›
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From Monogamy To Polyamory: 'I'm In An Asexual Poly Marriage With My Husband Of 7 Years'
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be asexual and in an open marriage? Relationship Coach Mikki Bey shared her first-hand experience with us as well as answered some of our burning questions.
Like a lot of people, Mikki met her now husband, Raheem Ali, online. As soon as they met, they instantly fell in love and got engaged on their first date. Just 90 days after they met, the couple tied the knot and have now been married for seven years. Raheem and Mikki aren’t your typical married couple, and despite being married for almost a decade, their marriage is anything but traditional. Mikki and Raheem have what she calls an "asexual polyamorous marriage."
Defining Her Sexuality
It wasn't until last summer that Mikki found the language to define her sexuality. "I didn't have the language for it until last summer," she explained to xoNecole. "Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing.”
Mikki always thought she was broken because she had no interest in sex. Mikki noticed after her friends came to visit and started discussing their sexual fantasies that she realized something was different about her. “At that point, I knew something was definitely different about me since I do not have sexual fantasies at all. It was truly news to me that people are at work thinking about sex! That was not my experience.” This led to Mikki researching asexuality, which she soon realized fit her to a T. “It felt like breathing new air when I was able to call it by name," said Mikki.
"Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing it."
Asexuality refers to people who experience little or no sexual attraction, experience attraction without acting on it sexually, or experience sexual attraction differently based on other factors. Like most things, asexuality falls on a spectrum and encompasses many other identities. It's important to remember, however, that attraction and action are not always synonymous: some asexuals may reject the idea of sexual contact, but others may be sex-neutral and engage in sexual activity.
It's possible that some asexuals will have sex with someone else despite not having a libido or masturbating, but others will have sex with a partner because it brings a sense of connection.
From a Traditional Marriage to Kitchen Table Polyamory
Although Mikki never really had a high sex drive, it wasn’t until after the birth of her son, that she noticed her sex drive took a real nosedive. “I never had a high sex drive, but about a year after my son was born, I realized I had zero desire. My husband has a high sex drive, and I knew that it would not be sustainable to not have sex in our marriage at that time.”
She was determined to find an alternative to divorce and stumbled upon a polyamory conversation on Clubhouse. Upon doing her own research, she brought up the idea to their husband, who was receptive. “It’s so interesting to me that people weigh sex so heavily in relationships when even if you are having a ton of sex, it’s still a very small percentage of the relationship activity," Mikki shared.
They chose polyamory because Mikki still wanted to be married, but she also wanted to make sure that Raheem was getting his individual needs and desires met, even if that meant meeting them with someone else. “I think that we have been programmed to think that our spouses need to be our 'everything.' We do not operate like that. There is no one way that fits all when it comes to relationships, despite what society may try to tell you. Their path to doing this thing called life together may be different from yours, but they found what works for them. We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us,” Mikki explained.
"We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us. We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sex partners to lifetime partners if it should go there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it."
She continued, “We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sexual partners to lifetime partners if it should get there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it. Our dynamic is parallel with kitchen table poly aspirations.”
Kitchen table polyamory (KTP) is a polyamorous relationship in which all participants are on friendly terms enough to share a meal at the kitchen table. Basically, it means you have some form of relationship with your partner’s other partner, whether as a group or individually. A lot of times, KTP relationships are highly personal and rooted in mutual respect, communication, and friendship.
Intimacy in an Asexual Polyamorous Marriage
Mikki says she and her husband, Raheem, still share intimate moments despite being in a polyamorous marriage. “Our intimacy is emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical, although non-sexual. We are intentional about date nights weekly, surprising and delighting each other daily, and most of all, we communicate our needs regularly. In my opinion, our intimacy is top-tier! I give my husband full-body massages, mani-pedis and make sure I am giving him small physical touches/kisses throughout the day. He is also very intentional about showing me his love and affection.”
Raheem and Mikki now use their lives as examples for others. On their website, thepolycouplenextdoor.com, they coach people interested in learning how to be consensually non-monogamous. “We are both relationship coaches. I specialized in emotional regulation, and Raheem specializes in communication and conflict resolution. The same tools we use in our marriage help our clients succeed in polyamory."
Mikki advises people who may be asexual or seeking non-monogamy to communicate their needs openly and to consider seeking sex therapy or intimacy coaching. Building a strong relationship with a non-sexual partner requires both empathy and compassion.
For more of Mikki, follow her on Instagram @getmikkibey. Follow the couple's platform on Instagram @thepolycouplenextdoor.
Featured image by skynesher/Getty Images