When the Mom Guilt is Earned


You’re Not Alone in Your Big Mistakes

We talk about mom guilt over our day-to-day shortcomings, but what about when the mom guilt is earned? What if we fail in huge ways? How do we heal? There aren’t funny memes for the hardest moments as a parent. We might yell or threaten to cancel tv forever when we’re frustrated, but some mistakes can’t be fixed with a cup of coffee and a good cry.

mom guilt

I’ve had big fails- times when the mom guilt was earned.

Regret, shame, and devastation covered my biggest mistakes. For years, they were a blanket I pulled up to my chin, over my face, and refused to come out from under. This was the prelude to my relapse with alcohol. It was part of my crushing depression.

Throwing off the shame, whether the mom guilt is deserved or not, was crucial for me to become a better mother and human. It’s hard having a complicated past and then becoming a mother. We carry our hurt, trauma, and survival skills into parenting.

I have four young kids. Overall, I feel good about my parenting. Despite my relapse, I grew, learned from my mistakes, and can be present and stable.

I also have two older kids who did not get the best version of me. They got the broken mom, the one who needed therapy more than children. I didn’t know that when I had them. I thought I was strong, despite my trauma, but I was practicing denial, not strength. When that dam broke, my world flooded, and they were swept up in it, too.

My older children got the best I had to give them at the time, but the best I had was not enough. The mom guilt was earned.

I walked away from my kids when they were nine and twelve. I’m that mom- the one who left. There were reasons, but they don’t matter here.

Moms who leave are judged swiftly and harshly. I don’t say this for pity, but because I could barely talk about it because of the reactions. I was hurting, and the judgment was a knife in an already gaping wound. Getting helpful feedback was almost impossible. This caused me to isolate, rather than process and progress.

When a mom walks away, it doesn’t matter why. What matters is the hurt left behind.

I struggled for years with my choice.

I carried them in my body, birthed them, and adored them. I saw their first steps and wiggled their loose teeth. When I had them, I never imagined I would leave them. I envisioned a future with them, not my (unsaid) goodbyes.

I live with my choices every day, but I am talking, healing, and mending what I can. Some things can’t be fixed, and I’m working on acceptance. It still hurts. Mom guilt is rough, but I’m not living in the shame cycle or continuing the damage.

healing from mom fails

Your fail probably doesn’t look the same as mine. It may be completely different, but you still deserve to move forward.

Uncover the secrets, the shame. Talk. Find a therapist. Find women who love you anyway. Change your behaviors. Be intentional about your healing. Give grace. Release the mom guilt, even if it is earned.

Shame dies in the light.

Fails can’t always be fixed, but they don’t have to follow you into the future. The most powerful lesson I’ve learned is to be vulnerable and let it hurt. I have grieved. I’m trying to mend. Even when the mom guilt is deserved, we need to heal to change.

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Jess grew up near Madison and has lived in the Milwaukee area since 2013. She's a mom to four small children, who love to make crafts out of garbage, draw on walls, and make creepy, creepy masks. She also has two teenagers who live with their dad in Madison. She loves to watch them all grow to be amazing, unique humans. She spends her time outdoors with her feral little family, hiking at State Parks, camping, or visiting new parks. She also loves helping them make messes and create art... but hates the clean-up. She is a freelance writer, editor, and marketer for a living, and spends the free time she has left working on personal writing and art projects. She's involved in social justice and advocacy work and is particularly interested in LGBTQIA+ issues. She stays involved in politics and her community and is always looking for ways she can help to make a positive difference and spread awareness to inspire change. When she isn't busy with those things, she can be found binge watching Netflix, reading, listening to new music, and wasting her life on Facebook.


  1. This is so raw and real. It’s refreshing to read something so honest and deep in a world full of memes and fluff peices. Moms are human, and sometimes we make big mistakes; I think this is an important article because all you hear about is the shaming, but that is so destructive. I think this will help other moms not feel so alone in their big mistakes, and give them courage to start their own healing.


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