To be a Mother is to be….Guilty?

Belinda Whipple Worth, a therapist from the Anna Marsh Clinic at the Brattleboro Retreat, recently joined us at New Moms Network at BMH. We had an interesting time talking about the guilt that comes with being a new mother – and we were all relieved that we could laugh at ourselves and with each other about our changes and challenges. Do you recognize yourself here? We are not being judgmental, just telling you how we have grown and changed, and where we need to do more growing and changing.

To work or not to work

“I feel guilty that I need to go back to work and leave my baby. Then I feel guilty about feeling guilty that I need to go back to work. I want to go back, and I want to stay home.”

Control Freak

“At first I just knew my husband did everything wrong. Now I realize I was being a total control freak. So I feel guilty that I was so awful, but if he does it wrong – not my way, that is – I feel upset.”

Too tired to exercise

“I just don’t care about getting out and exercising. I know I should, but –! Actually, I got too tired at the end of my pregnancy. And you know what – I don’t even care that I don’t care! And I feel guilty about that.”

Can’t stop the crying

“I feel guilty when I can’t get her to stop crying. Why don’t I know everything?”

I’ll never do that

“I swore I would never use a swing, and then I used one because my baby was so fussy. And then I clonked her head on the swing when I took her out! Then I felt really guilty because I was such a bad mother!”
At that point another mom chimed in – “Yeah, and how about the carseats!” leading to –

The carseat

“I took my baby out of the carseat while my husband was driving because she was crying and she wouldn’t be quiet.”

The agenda

“Sometimes I have my own agenda. If we need to get out of the house, it just works better if I get dressed, he gets dressed, then we nurse, get in the carseat and go. And he’s crying because he wants to eat while I’m getting dressed!”

Neglect 1

“I feel bad when I lay her on a towel on a cold bathroom floor while I get in the shower. Doesn’t she look neglected?!”

Neglect 2

“I feel guilty because I just love to take the baby over to my mom’s. Who cares about my partner’s family? Then I feel bad because the baby should get to know them, they’re nice people. But I want to go see my mom.”

“My older daughter sure isn’t getting 100% of my time and attention anymore! She seems to be very happy and she loves the baby but I feel guilty anyway.

Neglect 3

“Really who cares about the house.”

More grandparents

“I feel guilty that we’re so far away from our parents. They should be able to enjoy her more often! Maybe we should move back there.”


“We used to be so happy, and we didn’t get on each other’s nerves. Now I feel like I’m irritable with him, and we blame each other for things. It’s stupid. We’re both tired and cranky.”

But there’s also an overflow of joy with a new baby in the house. How do you find balance? Sometimes it’s a question of helping to find yourself again – or maybe the new you, who’s a mother and still a vibrant, intelligent woman!

Here’s a list of “Guilty Pleasures” for new mothers to consider. You don’t need to find a whole day to get away – sometimes two minutes is enough to give some undivided attention to yourself.

Guilty Pleasures

  • Go for a run
  • Scrapbook by yourself, or in a group with or without the baby
  • Join a book club – it required time to read AND time to get out
  • Early morning joys: grab those quiet moments, garden, read, enjoy coffee alone
  • Shower – or even shower and shave!
  • Go back to the gym
  • Talk with friends – by phone, in person or on the computer
  • Make a date with yourself – go to the store and walk around without the baby, take a walk, whatever you like
  • Journal
  • Get a massage

Life is immeasurably enriched with a new baby in your life. Help yourself enjoy that richness – and get a hug when you need it. As Dr. Jeanne Watson Driscoll (a wonderful nurse PhD) says – “Don’t should on yourself!” There’s plenty of guilt to go around. Let it live somewhere else while you are learning to love your new baby and your new life.

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