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Got Guilt?

by Jane Jarrell


June 7, 2013

Got Guilt?

The intercom at D-FW Airport blared, “Flight 599, Flight 599, this is the final boarding announcement for Flight 599 departing for Orlando.” Elise pushed her swollen feet back into her new black pumps, recently removed to help her make it unscathed through the new and improved homeland security restraints. She grabbed her carry on bag, minus the confiscated pointy tweezers, and ran to make her flight.

Bumping and scooting her way through the warm, stale-smelling cabin to her cramped seat by the window she settled herself. “Whew! I made it, thank God, I made it.” There was not much Elise could do now, seeing as she was sequestered for the two-hour and thirty-minute flight. Sequestered, that sounded kind of good, no emails, no phones, no laundry and no guilt? Wrong, the ghost of guilt buckled up right next to her.

Mommy guilt; it goes with you.

The Guilt Trip
The infamous guilt trip; are you packed? Of course you are, along with all the baggage. Guilt baggage comes standard in motherhood, with a wide assortment of shades and sizes. Balancing work + marriage + financial needs + family + church + extracurricular activities = guilt. Add your own variables to fit your personal equation. Ultimately life’s demands take their overwhelming toll on our very existence, leaving us burdened with a load of guilt.

What is the toll guilt takes on our lives? Author Harriet Lerner explains in her book, The Mother Dance, “Guilt keeps mothers narrowly focused on the question, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ and prevents us from becoming effective agents of personal and social change.” Needless to say, we could all fly a little higher if we weren’t weighed down by the heaviness of guilt. Guilt is a great waste of emotional energy. It causes us to become immobilized in the present because we are dwelling on the past. Guilt can be very debilitating. It often brings productive thoughts and actions to a standstill. Introducing logic helps counter-balance guilt and helps us stay on course. A key point about guilt is that it is a condition and not a feeling.

3-D Guilt Busters
Discover, decide and determine. Discover the source of guilt, determine if the guilt is valid, and decide to respond instead of react.

Susan Buss, Contracting Director for Cigna HealthCare and mother of three young children offers this advice, “If I'm feeling guilty, it's probably because I feel like my 'balance' (of family/work) has gone out of balance, so I think about what I can do to rectify that. If nothing immediately, (i.e. during November/December I worked a lot and feel like I cheated my kids) then I think about when my next opportunities to spend time with my kids would be, and I promise myself that I will push aside the busy work (groceries, cooking, etc.) and spend time with them just soaking up the moments. (So what if we eat grilled cheese that night? we'll survive.) I think a mistake many women do (I definitely do this) is not stopping to 'soak up the moments' with my kids when I have them - I'm usually doing 5 things at once and I feel even more cheated then I do when I'm working sometimes!”

Here are some ways you can soak up the moments with your child:

  • Look your child in the eyes. In other words, don’t be so busy reading the mail or feeding the dog that you don’t see her and connect through eye contact. 
  • Listen to your child. You may not be able to listen to everything each of your children has to say about his or her day, but you can take a moment to really hear your child. Turn off the phone and television and take some time to listen. 
  • Touch your child by hugging, kissing or holding hands. It seems so simple, but often in the busy bustle of daily life, we overlook the power of our touch. 
  • Never underestimate the power of a note. Write a short but sweet expression of encouragement on a sticky note for your child as you leave work, then put the notes on his homework or mirror when you get home. 
  • Encourage often. The word encourage means to give strength. Give strength to your children verbally as often as you can. Be sincere and specific. 


Jane Jarrell has written fourteen books, including Simple Hospitality and co-authored over 20 others. She is a wife, mother, author and speaker.

Related topics: work, perfection, parenting

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