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Navigating Mom Guilt: 5 Key Lessons in Empowerment and Support

A mother covers her face as her kid’s pillow fights in the background. Learn how a moms support group in Branchburg, NJ can offer support with online therapy in New Jersey and other services. Contact a group therapist in Scotch Plains, NJ to learn more.

A mother sits on a couch with a stressed expression as her kids run around her. This could symbolize the stress of parenting that a mom support group online in New Jersey can address. Learn more about online group therapy in New Jersey today by searching for a group therapist in Scotch Plains, NJ today. Hey there, fellow mom! If you’ve ever found yourself drowning in a sea of guilt over the myriad challenges of motherhood, you’re not alone. Mom guilt is a universal experience. Understanding its nuances and learning how to navigate it can be transformative.  Here are 5 lessons I have learned through being a mom and a child therapist.

Lesson 1: Understand Mom Guilt vs. Mom Shame

Let’s kick things off by unpacking the difference between mom guilt and mom shame. 

Mom Guilt

Mom guilt often stems from specific actions or behaviors.  Examples might include missing a school event or losing your patience with your kids. Guilt is an emotion your body experiences when you have failed to live up to your expectations for yourself.  In your mind (and sometimes objectively) you have done something wrong.

For example, many years ago I was lectured by an ER doctor and my son’s allergist for not immediately giving him an epinephrine shot following a food allergy reaction.  They were right.  The results could have been disastrous.  The mom guilt was massive.

However, sometimes mom guilt is the result of impossible expectations and standards for ourselves.  If I am honest, I have frequent mom guilt of not making fresh, home-cooked meals that will be well received every night.  Gosh, if that isn’t an impossible expectation I’m not sure what is.  I can’t even predict if my kid’s favorite snack will be well received on any given day.

Mom Shame

On the other hand, mom shame runs deeper, affecting your sense of self-worth and identity as a mother. You worry you are a bad mom that will ruin your child.  Many times we refrain from sharing our mom guilt, because we fear it will expose us as a horrible parent.  This is mom shame.

It’s essential to recognize these distinctions to address and overcome these feelings effectively.


  • Bullet journal your feelings or experiences related to mom guilt and shame.  Look for patterns.  
  • Bullet journal your values.  Do a values exercise online to clarify the guiding values in your parenting.
  • Speak up to your mom tribe or mom support group about when you feel mom guilt and shame. Normalize and shed light on the universality of the experience.

Lesson 2: Identify and Understand Expectations

As mentioned above, mom guilt (and mom shame) are intimately related to your expectations of yourself.  Expectations are influenced by your values, your upbringing, and your family of origin, culture, and society.  Being able to identify where particular expectations are coming from can increase how you understand those expectations.  

For example, society expects mothers to be selfless and provide endless love and care for their children.  This notion can overtly and covertly bleed into self-expectations.  You find that you are feeling guilty for spending time away from your children solely for the pleasure of yourself.  Many times this guilt comes from societal messages that we have internalized. Furthermore, there is that double bind that mothers should take care of themselves better so they can be better mothers.  This can feed ideas that you can never get it right or good enough.  At the same time, there are few societal supports to assist mothers with these expectations.

Another example might be specific to your family of origin.  Are there said or unsaid expectations regarding how your children are supposed to behave?  Are there ways that you are expected to parent?  How often are babies held?  How do people traditionally respond to toddler tantrums?  Do you talk about emotions?

Naming these expectations is the first step to being really intentional about how much weight you give them.


  • Bullet journal expectations.  Fold a paper in half and in half again.  Title the four quadrants.  Societal. Cultural. Familial. Self.  Bullet some of the related expectations that you have internalized in each of these quadrants.
  • Share your bullet journal with other moms.  What does your mom tribe or mom support group think of these expectations? Do they fit with your values?  Are they realistic? 

Lesson 3: Challenge and Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

Identifying expectations that fuel mom guilt and mom shame can help you pinpoint where these expectations came from.  Then you can begin to reflect on how these expectations align with your values and who you want to be as a parent.  As you become intentional about the values and the expectations you want to embrace, your identity as a parent will become clearer.

Society bombards mothers with unrealistic expectations, painting an idealized image of motherhood that’s impossible to attain. From Pinterest-perfect birthday parties to Instagram-worthy family vacations, the pressure to measure up can be overwhelming. Remember, it’s okay to embrace imperfection and prioritize what truly matters: your love and presence.


  • As you identify unrealistic expectations, create affirmations that challenge them.

A close-up of a woman hugging herself while smiling. This could represent the self-love cultivated after receiving help from a moms support group in Branchburg, NJ. Search for online therapy in New Jersey and other services.“Being a nurturing mother doesn’t mean sacrificing my own dreams and well-being. By prioritizing my own happiness and fulfillment, I become a stronger role model for my children.  I can show them the importance of self-love, balance, and pursuing one’s passions.”

“As a mother, I acknowledge that it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and lose patience at times. It’s not about being perfect. I will recognize these moments as opportunities for growth, compassion, and learning.  I will embrace the chance to repair when ruptures occur.” 

“It’s not only ok but expected that I will apologize when I make a mistake. We all make mistakes.” 

Lesson 4: Mom Guilt – The Sometimes Uncomfortable Companion

Not all mom guilt comes from unrealistic expectations.  Sometimes we make mistakes. 

Maybe you scheduled that important meeting on the same day as the gymnastics competition.  

Or you lost patience and threw a temper tantrum because your kid would not just GO TO BED!!!  

Sorry, I think I might relate to that one.  It happens.  Let the mom’s guilt wash over you in those moments where you did not live up to your expectations.  

Then rinse yourself off and keep it moving.

Absorb the lessons that your guilt is signaling for you to learn.  After that day at the ER, I was able to fully step into my role as an epinephrine-wielding ninja.  Ok, maybe I sat in my feelings for a few days but I embraced the lesson.  I also internalized the related values of providing necessary medical care for my child and modeling important life skills for him.


  • Emotions are vibrations in our body.  Allow them to travel through you without fighting them or wallowing in them.
  • The emotion doesn’t have to MEAN something.  It doesn’t mean you are a bad mom, a crappy person, or an incompetent parent.  Be mindful of thoughts about yourself that arise from guilt.  This is where shame can take root.
  • Guilt is your body communicating that you did not live up to expectations.  Ask yourself if these are realistic expectations AND if they are your personal value-based expectations.
  • Give yourself the gift of compassion.  You deserve it.

Lesson 5: The Transformative Power of Moms Support Groups

Mom guilt and shame thrive through isolation.  They can make you feel small and want to hide yourself.  One of the antidotes is community.  Have a mom support group you can share experiences with.  This could be monthly coffee, weekly video chat, or a close-knit online forum.  There are several mom support groups online in New Jersey.  They help make mom guilt digestible and ward off mom shame by providing:

  1. Validation and Understanding: Find solace in knowing that you’re not alone in your struggles.
  2. Practical Tips and Advice: Benefit from the collective wisdom and experience of fellow moms.
  3. Emotional Support: Lean on your mom tribe for encouragement and empathy during tough times.
  4. Celebration of Diversity: Embrace the diversity of perspectives and parenting styles within your group.
  5. Empowerment and Growth: Gain confidence and resilience through the support of your fellow moms.

Last but certainly not least, remember to extend compassion to yourself. This can be very hard when guilt washes over you.  You’re doing the best you can with the resources and knowledge you have. You are enough. And at the same time, you are growing into yourself. Celebrate your wins, learn from your challenges, and above all, be kind to yourself.

Begin Therapy in Scotch Plains, NJ, Branchburg, Westfield, and Beyond Today!

If you are struggling with feelings of mom guilt or shame, one of our trained therapists can help you to find ways to feel more empowered and confident in yourself and your parenting. We also run a virtual Braving Motherhood Support and Empowerment Group that gives moms struggling within similar areas a safe and empowering platform. Start your therapy journey with Brave Minds by following these simple steps:

  1. Contact us for a free video consultation.

  2. Learn more about our Parenting Counseling Services

  3. Start being the best parent you can be!

Other Services Offered With Brave Minds Psychological Services

Parenting support isn’t the only service offered by Brave Minds Psychological Services. Our team is happy to provide a variety of mental health services to support adultsteens, and children. We offer counseling for parents along with postpartum counseling, and birth trauma therapy. We also offer teen anxiety treatmentsocial phobia therapy for teenschild sexual abuse therapychild anxiety treatment, and more. If you are wanting to connect with peers going through similar struggles we offer several options for group therapy. Our services are offered in person at our Scotch Plains and Branchburg, NJ offices and through telehealth counseling in New Jersey.


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