Give Up the Guilt

Helene Wingens

WaterAid America - our December sponsorI always wanted to be a mom, but with motherhood came a whole set of things to make me feel inadequate and guilty. Part of my guilt was the sneaking suspicion that I was a fake. While I struggled, other moms seem to fall into the mothering role with enviable ease. I worried that eventually I would be unmasked as an interloper in an ocean of women who were the real thing, true motherhood material.

Nearly 24 years into this mothering gig, I’ve learned a thing or two: your child’s imperfections are not due to some perceived lapse on your part.

You are good enough, and so is your parenting. Give yourself a break.

  • Ditch the infant guilt. Do you hate nursing? So did I. It made me feel like a cross between a milk cow and a porn star, which for me was just not a winning combination. Far worse than the physical unpleasantness was the psychological burden. I felt that I held my child’s very fragile life in my very shaky hands. As far as I could tell, it was a certainty that if I failed at nursing, my child would be less; less smart, less healthy, and less bonded. What the La Leche ladies who do their rounds in the maternity ward neglected to mention is that a happy mom is more critical to a baby’s well-being than a nursing mom who is miserable. If you enjoy nursing, kudos to you, but if you don’t, let it go.
  • Ditch the toddler guilt. You just can’t bring yourself to read the same bedtime story for the billionth time, so you plop your progeny in front of yet another episode of Barney (or whatever show is au courant with the toddler set these days)? I guarantee it will not dumb them down. If your child is “gifted” she will remain so. If you have reached the end of the day, and your toddler has not managed to kill herself, it’s a very good day. Congratulate yourself.
  • Ditch the grade school aged child guilt. You can’t manage to prepare an organic, soy free, nut free, lactose-free, sugar-free meal for your child every night? A few nights a week you fall back on the “breakfast for dinner” thing, or you order pizza more often than you think is “healthy.” Don’t sweat it. Children can live, nay thrive, on a steady diet of macaroni and grilled cheese. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
  • Ditch the teenage child guilt. Your little prodigy is not getting straight A’s and is doing things that seem to exhibit an appalling lack of judgment? It’s not you–it’s her. This is a phase. Hang on, she will get to the other side. See #2 above. If you have reached the end of another day during which your teenager has not managed to kill herself or anyone else, it’s a very good day. Congratulate yourself.
  • Ditch the college age child guilt. Your 18-year-old calls you on his way from point A to point B, and he graciously allows you a moment of his time, which is continuously punctuated by all the people along the way with whom he feels the need to kibitz. But, each and every time he calls, you drop everything you’re doing to speak to him. I’ve seen moms, mid-bite, mid sentence, mid whatever it is they were doing, drop everything to speak to a child only to return a moment later with a hangdog expression; the minute junior got another call or reached his destination, he was done with her. Finish your meal or your conversation. If your child has to wait to speak with you, I guarantee it will be fine. Having enough of your life and allowing your children to cool their heels waiting for your attention is healthy.

The greatest epiphany I’ve had over the years is that we are all posers trying to make our way through the quagmire of child rearing. Some are just better at faking it than others. Follow your gut and ditch the guilt.



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ABOUT HELENE: Helene Wingens is a mother of three boys, wife, daughter, friend, sometimes writer, and retired lawyer. Fifty is in the rear view mirror, and she’s trying to figure out if there is a second act, and, if so, what is it? Her writing can be found on several online publications,, The Forward, Better After 50, and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

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I always wanted to be a mom, but with motherhood came a whole set of things to feel inadequate and guilty about.


Give up the Guilt was written by Helene Wingens exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.

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