Parenting Guilt: The Parent Trap

Written by: Megan Stander


Time to Read: 5 min

Parenting is hard. Whether you're dealing with societal judgments, internalized expectations, or getting trapped in the fantasy of social media parenting perfection, 'Parent Guilt' is an emotion we can all relate to.

More often than not, it’s the mom who goes through bouts of guilt and self-doubt. Society often paints a picture of the devoted, self-sacrificing mother who puts everyone’s needs above her own. This portrayal ignores the complexity and diversity of real women's lives and can contribute to feelings of guilt when a new mother needs time to focus on herself, and her needs, or get back to work.

Understanding Parent Guilt

In the intricate tapestry of parenthood, a universal emotion often weaves its way into the hearts of mothers and fathers alike—parental guilt. This poignant sentiment, while deeply rooted in the love and devotion parents feel for their children, can also become a formidable force, shaping the way they navigate the challenging landscape of raising a family. 

There are myriad emotions and expectations that contribute to this phenomenon. From societal pressures to self-imposed standards, the journey of parenting is accompanied by the ever-present shadow of guilt.

While the term "mom guilt" is primarily associated with mothers, it's important to note that fathers and other caregivers can also experience similar feelings of guilt and self-doubt in their roles as parents. It is not easy being strict towards your children even if to teach them valuable life lessons. The term "dad guilt" or "parent guilt" is sometimes used to acknowledge this.

Conquering Parent Guilt

Conquering parent guilt is a challenging yet essential endeavor for fostering a healthy and positive parenting experience. It is an ongoing process, and it involves self-compassion, learning, and growth. Practice mindfulness to stay present in the moment. Often, guilt arises from dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about the future. By staying present, you can appreciate the positive aspects of your parenting experience.

So, how do you deal with this? (Because there is no way you are not going to get caught in the parent guilt trap.) 

Here's a Raising Mama 7-point plan to deal with it:

Know That It's More Common Than You Think: 

Start by acknowledging that parent guilt is a common and natural emotion. Accept that nobody is a perfect parent, and making mistakes is a part of the learning process. Many parents experience it and it does not mean that you are a bad parent. It is in fact, a reflection of the love and care you have for your child.

Seek support, Prioritize, and Delegate:

Understand that it's acceptable to delegate responsibilities and seek help from others. Parenting is a collective effort, and sharing the load is essential to alleviate some of the pressures that contribute to guilt. Talk to your partner, friends, family, or a therapist about your feelings. Learn to prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities when feeling overwhelmed. It's okay to ask for help.

Set Realistic Expectations: 

Understand that no one is a perfect parent, and it's okay to make mistakes. Establish realistic expectations for yourself as a parent. Understand that you cannot control every aspect of your child's life, and it's okay not to meet every idealized standard. Strive for balance and do your best, but be kind to yourself when you fall short. You can't do everything, so keep your goals real and doable.

Set Boundaries: 

Children work well with structure and authority. This is why it is important to establish clear boundaries for yourself and your family. Recognize that saying "no" to certain commitments or obligations is not a sign of failure but a demonstration of prioritizing your family's well-being. 


Recognize the importance of self-care in parenting. Taking care of your own physical and mental well-being enables you to be a more effective and present parent. This includes getting enough sleep, engaging in activities you enjoy, and seeking support when needed. Remember that taking care of yourself is essential for being the best parent you can be. Taking breaks and practicing self-compassion are important. 

Limit Social-Media:

Be mindful of the content you consume on social media, especially if it triggers feelings of inadequacy. Social media platforms can significantly distort our perceptions of what a "perfect" parent looks like, often leading us down a rabbit hole of unrealistic standards and self-comparison. Remember, you're only seeing what others want you to see.

Be Mindful and Positive:

Often, guilt arises from dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about the future. Practice mindfulness to stay present in the moment. By staying present, you can appreciate the positive aspects of your parenting experience. and focusing on positive moments and achievements in your parenting journey. 

Ultimately, parenting is a shared responsibility, and both mothers and fathers can experience feelings of guilt and self-doubt. It's important for all parents to recognize these feelings as normal, seek support when needed, and prioritize self-care to maintain their emotional well-being while raising children. 

Be kind to yourself and don't forget to celebrate small victories. They remind you of the love and care that you provide for your child.

What is parenting by guilt and how can it be addressed?

Parenting by guilt involves making decisions or acting out of a sense of guilt rather than what might be in the best interest of both the parent and child. It often stems from societal pressures, unrealistic expectations, or comparing oneself to the idealized portrayals of parenting on social media. Addressing parenting by guilt involves recognizing these feelings, understanding they are common, setting realistic expectations, seeking support, and practicing self-care to mitigate the guilt and make more balanced parenting decisions.

What are the 4 parenting styles identified by psychologists, and who introduced them?

The four parenting styles identified by psychologists are Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive, and Uninvolved. These styles were introduced by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind in the 1960s, based on her research on preschool-age children. Each style varies in levels of responsiveness and demandingness and has different impacts on children's behavior.

What are the 4 C's of parenting, and how do they help in conquering parent guilt?

The 4 C's of parenting could be considered as Communication, Compassion, Consistency, and Care. While not directly mentioned in the provided article, these principles can be integral in conquering parent guilt by fostering a supportive and understanding environment for both the parent and child. Communication opens the lines for expressing feelings and needs, Compassion allows for mutual empathy and understanding, Consistency provides a stable structure for both parent and child, and Care ensures that both the emotional and physical needs are being met.

How can setting boundaries and practicing self-care benefit new parents dealing with guilt?

Setting boundaries helps new parents manage their time and energy more effectively, ensuring they don't overextend themselves and exacerbate feelings of guilt. Practicing self-care is crucial for maintaining physical and mental health, enabling parents to be more present and engaged with their children. Together, these practices help mitigate guilt by reinforcing the idea that taking care of oneself and saying no when necessary are essential components of effective parenting.

In what ways does social media contribute to parent guilt, and what strategies can mitigate its impact?

Social media often presents highly curated, idealized images of parenting, which can lead to unrealistic comparisons and exacerbated feelings of inadequacy and guilt among parents. To mitigate its impact, parents can limit their exposure to social media, focus on content that offers realistic and supportive perspectives, and remind themselves that social media often showcases only the best moments, omitting the challenges and struggles that are a natural part of parenting.