Mommy Mojo: Does This Mom Guilt Make My Butt Look Fat? 5 Simple Steps to Overcoming Toxic Guilt


Why do we assume that just because we are moms that we HAVE to feel guilty? Seriously. Mom guilt is now talked about as though it’s just something moms have to go through as part of the induction into the club of motherhood.

There are two kinds of guilt: healthy guilt when your conscience is nudging you to try again or stop doing what you’re doing and toxic guilt when you have that all-pervasive feeling that no matter what you do, you’re just a bad mother.

Toxic Guilt is like cholesterol that clogs our arteries, squeezing. Healthy guilt is what keeps us in check and guides our actions. It whispers to us, “Oops. Try again”, but toxic guilt shouts at us, “You’ll never get it right or measure up.” But guess what? Toxic guilt is optional.

I repeat: toxic guilt is optional.

Behind the Culture of Toxic Mom Guilt

The culture we live in doesn’t make it any easier for us tap into what really matters. The message of the parenting culture screams, “Look ‘out there’ to see where the answers are to how you’re doing. Read this book. Watch this show. Look at what that mom is doing and do it.”

Since we’re busy, it’s easy to listen to the culture; after all, we live in it. Oh, and let’s not forget the fast pace of our culture – the one that would have us be so busy that we don’t have time to slow down.

Think of it this way – the culture doesn’t always have your best interests at heart. It’s humming right along at the speed of light, and it’s very easy to go right along with it. Sometimes that’s great. And sometimes it’s not.

There’s a yin and a yang to everything, which means that there’s some good in the culture. In my mom’s generation, moms often didn’t talk as freely about what scared them, stressed them, angered them, and confused them. My mother didn’t have books and websites to help her realize that what she was experiencing was “normal”. That generation was just expected to “buck up” and “deal with it.”

Our current culture is one where moms can be real about what’s keeping them awake at night so they can support one another. When we’re clear on who we are, what strengths we bring to the table, and what kind of kids we want to raise, parenting resources can be quite helpful.

Nowadays, there is so MUCH for moms to pay attention to in order to parent, it can make your head spin. Between the blogs, YouTube videos, TV experts, book and other resources, it’s enough to make your head to explode from too much information. That’s when we feel guilty about “doing it wrong” or question our own instincts.

How do you know when you’re doing “it” right?!?

5 Ways to Get Rid of the Toxic Mom Guilt

#1: Filter – Run all parenting advice through the filter of your own values and what you know to be true about YOUR family. Use this filter to let in what resonates with you and let the rest go.

There’s a ton of parenting info out there on how to tame tantrums, how to get your child to sleep, how to do pretty much anything you want to do as a mom. But here’s the rub: most of it conflicts. “Always practice co-sleeping so you bond with your child and she’ll grow up confident.” “Never sleep with your child! That raises a child that’s dependent on you, plus it’s dangerous.”

Your filter is what keeps you from getting overwhelmed by it and only letting in what makes sense for YOU. If we feel guilty, chances are good that our filter’s holes are too big and not selective enough.

#2: Match your parenting style to YOUR child – Know your and your child’s temperaments and set up your home to match them as much as possible.

Yes, there’s a lot of information out there on parenting, but not all of it fits our child. If you’re extroverted and crave being around people, and your child is introverted and craves staying at home playing by herself, you may feel frustrated that your needs conflict with your child’s. Or, you may wonder if your child is too shy and if something is wrong with her.

Do not underestimate the idea of fit – the interplay between your and your child’s temperaments – and how it can make parenting harder. Knowledge is power. If your child is extraverted and is constantly asking you, “What are we going to do next? Who are we going to see?” you’ll understand why they’re asking that, especially if you’re an introvert.

Sometimes, just knowing why our kids or we do something is enough to take the guilt away because we can let go of blaming ourselves.

#3: Know what restores your energy – Get clear on if you get your mojo back by being around others or by being alone.

When we’re not clear on how we fill back up when our energy is depleted, OR we feel guilty about taking the time to fill back up, we can get in a downward spiral of resenting our family. Or, we think we “should” love going out for margaritas with our girlfriends as a way to refuel, when really, we’d rather curl up with a good book, and pet the cat.

#4: Stop comparing – Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others.

We compare our insides with other mom’s outsides. See that mom over there? You know, the one with the perfect hair and clothes, whose kids are impeccably dressed and her car doesn’t have old food crumbs in it? It’s easy to look at her, compare yourself and think, “Ugh. I’m not like that. I feel so guilty.”

The truth is you don’t know what’s going on inside that mom. Trust me – she has her own demons she’s wrestling with.

#5: Take action – When you feel guilt, decide if it’s about something you can and want to change and, if it is, take action. Otherwise, it’s toxic guilt and is optional.

It’s high time that mom guilt is popular enough to be talked about in the mainstream culture. Let’s face it: moms deserve relief. Motherhood and toxic guilt do not have to go together.

You can find your healthy core of who you really are without the guilt, create your own filter, and live guilt-free and get back to enjoying parenting and be the mom you want to be.

Download Karen’s Free Audio and Guide on “How To Get Your Kids To Listen And Do What You Say” at


About Author

Karen Bierdeman, B.A, M.Ed, is a mom of two girls school-aged girls and a certified parent coach. She specializes in helping moms ditch the toxic mom guilt so they can be more effective and enjoy parenting. She is also an expert in children who are strong-willed and challenging, and has spent many years consulting with school districts and families on how to stay calm and connected when kids' behavior is explosive and intense. While mom guilt and strong willed children often go together, Karen has coached many moms without strong willed kids, who are just tired of parenting being so hard and are ready to have more peaceful homes.


  1. Great post Karen! It is SO easy to suffer from “mom guilt” because it always seems like someone out there is doing things just a little bit better than I am! I love your suggestion on parenting based on your child’s temperament. What is right for one child (or family) may not be right for yours. You have to find your balance and then be confident that it is right for you. 🙂 — Tara

  2. AWESOME post! I love the title and the rest carries the theme nicely. The whole mom guilt thing is so wrong and I am so glad you got to the bottom of it here. Whether it is spoken or not… what message does it send to our kids? Not a very positive one. So, I love your tips and agree with Tara – it is so key to parent based on your child’s temperament. We have to literally parent each of our 3 girls differently because one style doesn’t work for all.

    But, back to this mommy guilt thing – I think it holds a lot of moms back form being truly happy. So, posts like this will help open moms’ eyes to the potential.

    One line that really struck a chord with me is: “When we’re clear on who we are, what strengths we bring to the table, and what kind of kids we want to raise, parenting resources can be quite helpful.” When moms are clear on who we are, our strengths, values, etc – this also gives us the chance to get clear on our GOALS and what we want in life which reduces stress and anxiety and increases our confidence. Great work. Thank you!

  3. When Karen introduced the idea of running all that information out there (including hers!) through MY OWN FILTER first, she gave me back the keys to my own kingdom. I am the one who knows me, I am the one who knows my kids, and I am the one in charge of parenting them. So, it’s on me to figure out what works for me and mine…not all those experts ‘out there’.

    In my opinion, the best antidote to toxic-guilt is knowing yourself, your kids and what works for you and your family. Karen’s REALLY GOOD at helping you figure that out.

  4. I love this post Karen!
    I think that making the distinction between our own voices and the voice of the “culture” out there is important.
    I really appreciated the way you pointed out the fact that so many of us feel guilty about “doing it wrong” or question our own instincts. I believe that every mom is an expert on her own kids… and honoring that voice will help us get rid of the toxic guilt.
    Thanks for also reminding us that in the end, the last step is ACTION: because we can have all the best intentions and great ideas, but without putting them into action, our efforts won’t pay off!

  5. Karen Bierdeman on

    Thank you for the kind words! I’m a big believer that understanding temperament (yours and your child’s) makes parenting sooo much easier. And I so agree with you—your version of balance may look really different than someone else’s. And that’s okay!

  6. Hey, Britt–
    You make an excellent point by asking what message mom guilt sends to our kids. That point is rarely mentioned anywhere and I think it’s high time it is. It’s one of the negative, not-talked-about impacts of near-constant toxic guilt. So glad you shared your thougts and found the article helpful! Thanks for weighing in!

  7. Suzanne–

    Yep–a filter is a good thing and is oh, so necessary in this quick fix culture filled with contradictory voices! You are a shining example of someone who has deliberately worked to figure out what works for YOUR family. I love the phrase, “…..gave me back the keys to my own kingdom”! Long may you rule! 🙂

  8. Sandra–
    I’m so glad you found the post helpful! Yes, I think second-guessing ourselves and questioning our instincts (or not believing we really have them in the first place!) is a huge contributor to toxic mom guilt. I think clarity about who you are and what you bring to the table is the antidote to that. Action is, as you put so well, what we need to do when our healthy guilt is nudging us to try again. So glad to hear YOUR voice on this subject!

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