The Upside of Guilt and Letting Go

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Photo: Kirby Preston


It plagues parents. We feel guilty for everything. Holding our babies too much, not holding them enough, letting them eat junk food, not letting them eat junk food, asking for help, accepting help and the list goes on.

I feel guilty that I don’t sit down and play with my kids enough. That their favorite shirt isn’t clean because instead of doing laundry, I sat and played. I feel guilty that tonight’s dinner is pretty terrible (a can of beans and a pot of rice). We went to go to the park after school which cut into my dinner prep time. The point is that I feel guilty when I spend time with them because of the chores I ignore. I feel guilty when I don’t spend time with them and get the chores done. It’s a no win situation.


I have been listening to a lot of Brene Brown. Her life’s work has been on vulnerability, connection, guilt, shame and worthiness. There are many points from her talks that have stood out to me. Her take on guilt is one of them.

Here is the upside of guilt. If you feel guilt, it means that you hold yourself to a high standard. To me, that is good news. I feel guilty but it’s because I want to be better. People who don’t feel guilt, feel shame. Brene talks about shame as a deep rooted sense of unworthiness and worthlessness. I will take guilt over shame any day. The more this sinks in, the less guilt I feel.

The problem then becomes how to let go of the guilt. Because we do need to let go of the guilt. Happy people feel guilt, but they are able to let go of it. Mamas, we need to move right on past those rushed dinners and piles of laundry. We need to look past those dust bunnies in the corner and right into the eyes of our little ones. And we need to do it with a happy heart.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks thinking about my personal guilt. I’ve tried to be aware of when and why I feel it. Rather than ignore it or worse, let it get me down, I’ve tried to be conscious of it. This has allowed me to think of ways to deal with it. Here are some things that have helped me:

Self Care- Taking care of myself has made me feel so much more prepared to care for the little ones in my life. If I can get away for a short period of time, I come back ready and refreshed. I’m simply a better parent. For me, this can be little things like a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood or taking off with my computer to the nearest coffee shop when my husband gets home from work. This time work wonders for my soul.

Friends – I have a small group of close girl friends. Connecting and sharing with them is energizing. I try to spend time with one of them at least once a week, even if it’s on the phone. Often times, we meet for play dates with our kids are in tow. They get to play and we get to chat. I always leave these play dates feeling renewed.

Seek out help – I’ve recently joined a couple of Facebook groups that are mom and/or blog specific. The community provided in these groups has been supportive and uplifting. If you pursue this avenue make sure that the group provides the type of support you are looking for. For example, I am not interested in groups that focus on specific parenting topics like breastfeeding, sleeping, etc. I find that these types of groups are more exclusive than inclusive. Life coaches and therapists can also make a big difference. I encourage anyone who is having a tough time to talk to friends, family, groups, or doctors. You never know who might say just the right thing or give you the encouragement needed.

Reading and listening – Find books and podcasts that spread positivity. Listening to uplifting messages is going to make you feel good, I promise. There are podcasts for just about any topic that interests you.

Make a list – Recently I was feeling guilty about the fact that it has taken me 7 years of parenting to start finding myself again. I was feeling guilty about myself, for myself . . . what? Isn’t that crazy? Like there isn’t enough guilt in my life so now I am going to feel guilty about something that I should just be happy about. I started making a list of what has gone on in the last 7 years that has made it difficult to find time for myself. Here’s what I came up with:

2010- My first child was born. I got pregnant with my second child. 2011 – I found out my second baby had a major heart defect at 20 weeks pregnant. He was born later in the year and required lots of extra care. 2012- He had his first major heart surgery. 2013 – He had his second major heart surgery. 2014 – We sold and bought a new house. I got pregnant with my daughter. 2015 – She was born. 2016 – I got pregnant with my fourth baby. Throughout this entire time, I worked full-time.

Putting all of this down on paper really brought the last 7 years into perspective. These are just the major events. What’s not included are the day-to-day difficulties that are a normal part of life. When I made this list, I thought, “WOW, that is A LOT. No wonder I got lost. I’m lucky to be where I am. I’m grateful. Bye bye guilt. Maybe I’m actually amazing?!”

If you are struggling with guilt or generally having a tough time, it might help to make a list of everything that is affecting you. You might look at that list, just like I did, and realize that you are doing amazing, which by the way, is something that your kids, friends and family already think about you.


YOU ARE ENOUGH.                

I'm a mom of 3, almost 4 who is always looking for ways to enjoy my family more. My blog, Embracing the Essentials is about cutting through the crazy of everyday life and getting to the heart of what's really important. Join me for community, laughs and inspiration!