SAHM Guilt

by Courtney Sirotin on January 25, 2012

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Working moms sometimes talk about feeling guilty for having to be away from their children during the day, but what is often overlooked is that Stay At Home Moms experience parenting guilt too. At least I do, so I’m going to shed some light on what this SAHM is feeling guilty about these days.

Television (and iPhones and iPads…)

I’ve read all the information on why young children should not watch TV, especially before the age of two. I read how it can mess up their attention spans, cause ADHD and all the rest of it, but when you are home alone and the ONLY thing that keeps your child happy, calm and entertained while you get necessary daily-living things done is the TV, you have no choice but to use it. And then when your child gets so stressed out by solid food that the only way he will eat even a mouthful is if he is distracted, and you’re worried about his weight and iron levels, and he eats much better with the TV on…you find yourself doing the unthinkable and serving him meals in front of a television screen. Go ahead and judge me because it makes me sick too! Guilt.


I am an anxious person by nature and exercise takes my anxiety away and gives me a better outlook on my day. I spend nearly all of my time focused on Dylan but for one hour a day I focus on myself and I exercise. I think it makes me a better mother the rest of the day if I have that time to zone out. Usually, I bundle Dylan into his running stroller, make him very comfortable, give him a snack and then put in my earphones and listen to a podcast or audiobook while I run. He eats his snack, stares at the passing trees and often falls asleep. I don’t feel guilty when we run like this because its soothing for him, too, but I feel horribly guilty when it’s raining out (like it is today) and I put him in a swing in front of the television while I use the elliptical next to him. Even though he likes it, it feels wrong. I suppose it is wrong. But is it better to take that time so that I can be centered and better able to stay focused on Dylan the rest of the day, or to skip my workout and feel a little off? These are the choices we have to make and, for me, what I decide to do all depends on the day and how we are both feeling.

Snacks and “Junk” Food

I feel guilty when I use snack food to placate Dylan. For example, when we are at the grocery store I give him something to munch on so that he’s content to chill in the cart while I shop. I give him a snack cup of Goldfish or cereal when we are driving. As a rule, I always give him an almond butter and whole wheat Saltine cracker (his favorite) when he’s in the stroller. I take him for ice cream a few times a week just to get out of the house. The problem is, I feel so disconnected from Dylan’s stomach and never know when he should be eating or if he’s hungry, and since he hates solid food I always have this urge to just feed him whenever he is willing to eat, and that’s usually when we are doing something like driving or shopping and he’s distracted. And yet, passing a cookie (even if it is organic) back to Dylan in his car seat at the first sign that he is getting fussy just feels wrong. Major guilt. I know I should let Dylan experience unpleasant moments sometimes, but I inevitably do what I can in the moment to keep him happy. I think I’m probably (hopefully!) not alone in making some choices I know are not the best just to get by.

Enrichment Activities

When your “job” is to raise a child or children there is a lot of pressure to provide an endless stream of enrichment activities to stimulate your child’s brain and give him or her every advantage when he or she enters the school system (or just life in general). This is a constant source of guilt for me because there are days when the most stimulating thing Dylan and I do is go to the grocery store. Day cares are staffed with people who are trained to teach kids and they have all the tools they need available to do so. I am only one person and I sometimes run out of ideas or am just too spent to be stimulating. I absolutely do my best and am proud of some of the clever activities I come up with, but there is an overriding sense of guilt when I let “teachable moments” pass without having taught something.


I could list many more things that I feel guilty about in terms of being a mother, but my point is, being a SAHM has its own set of challenges and we are all just trying to do our best with the resources (inner and outer) we have available. I suppose guilt, for all moms, is an inevitable byproduct of parenting and juggling life at the same time.

Or maybe I’ll just blame 12 years of parochial schooling for teaching me to feel guilty all the time. I don’t get to do anything with a clear conscience.

A final thought and a challenge to myself…

I’ve heard that guilt, like worry, is an unproductive emotion. It doesn’t accomplish anything. If I am going to do all of these things that I feel guilty about, shouldn’t I try to let go of the guilt? Unless I plan to make different choices, which I don’t see myself doing, why not just come to terms with the kind of mother I really am, even if she’s not as perfect as I had hoped she’d be? Perhaps I will try…

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

KELLY January 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I found this post really refreshing! As a working mom, I constantly feel guilty I don’t spend enough time with my kids. I am jealous of SAHMs and can’t help but think they look down on working moms since they didn’t choose that path. It’s nice to hear that daycare can have some benefits. I think moms in general feel guilty all the time. I am trying to let some of that go and it’s impossible to do everything perfectly. As long as my kids seem happy most of the time I will try to be satisfied with that. Remember that you are an amazing mom and Dylan is beyond lucky to spend his days with you. Also, Dylan is awesome so you must be doing the things that matter


COURTNEY January 27, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Thank you for you’re nice comment (and for commenting at all)! In terms of mothering, I think we are the same in all the ways that matter 🙂


JASON SIROTIN January 27, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I wish you would have some husband guilt. This kid is living the dream. He gets attention, cookies, TV, and I have to fight to get some spaghetti sauce. 🙂 Don’t be guilty you are a GREAT mom but a terrible house keeper.


COURTNEY January 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Oh, Jay…I was making you your stupid sauce at 7am this morning!


ALIX WEIR February 1, 2012 at 5:12 am

Love this post Courtney! So nice to ‘see’ you guys. You all seem to be very happy and Dylan is lucky to have you both as parents.
I’m not a SAHM, but I can sooooooo relate to the ‘food’ thing (like all parents). My son Ben is 18 mnths old, and I was talking to someone who had a 2 1/2 year old and how we both constantly feed them different types of food and we’re both worried that we are starting a bad habit. Ben doesn’t seem to like meat (he did eat a piece of chicken when he thought it was pita bread). I struggle to get him to eat his vegetables. The list goes on. We have to remember that babies graze all day. They don’t eat the normal 3 meals a day. And they will eat if they are hungry. They also go through phase after phase. It’s a constant battle of ‘you liked this before, and don’t today’. I give Ben options. “Do you want this?” He shakes his head. “Ok what about this?” No again. “This?” I got a Yes! Ok. So now I have 2 minutes to come up with the next thing. Lol. That is litterally what our meals are like. I usually give Ben 3 or 4 different things, and yes they are foods I know he will eat. I say give them what they like and keep offering the other stuff on the side…. every time. One of these days it’ll spark their interest. As long as they are eating and a healthy weight, it will all be ok, right? I hope so!


COURTNEY February 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Yep, you sound JUST like me! BTW, just saw Ben on FB and he is adorable!!!! It looks like you are doing something right 🙂

Dylan won’t eat meat either. I think it weirds him out that it doesn’t dissolve in his mouth like other foods. I try to get protien in him like I would if he were a vegetarian (which I guess he is right now) by giving him things like greek yogurt and mixing beans and grains. I hide that stuff in smoothies (yogurt) and purees (beans). He is at least willing to taste mush so I still mash or blend everything. Other than dry things like crackers and cereal he doesn’t like many finger foods. He will gnaw on an apple but usually spits out the chuncks.

I agree that we should feed then what they are willing to eat and keep offering what we want them to eat on the side. I know that logically but I still can’t help feeling dejected some days when I make him something I know he would love if he’d try it but he just won’t. Tears have been shed…but thank you for helping me keep it in perspective. Bottom line: he won’t starve to death.

Thanks for checking out my blog!


NICO September 19, 2012 at 6:56 am

Hey courtney! Love your blog 🙂 I’m also a SAHM at the moment and feel guilty about all sorts of things that I do and don’t do. For a while I was reading the blog of a mom who does daily activities with her kids (like crafts, learning letters etc) and then I had to stop because it made me feel too inadequate because I couldn’t seem to manage to do even one activity a week, let alone a different one every day.


SARAH November 15, 2012 at 5:20 am

I was sitting here, unwinding after a long day with my sick two year old son, and googled “sahm guilt,” when I came across this article/blog, and now I’m hooked. I feel like in so many ways we’re practically living parallel lives. I can relate to almost every word, and am enjoying your writing style. Thank You! I’m off to bed now, and am feeling much happier (and less guilty) than I did 45 minutes ago. 🙂


COURTNEY November 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I’m so glad you found my blog and like it! Knowing I’m connecting with other people like me is awesome! I feel disconnected sometimes and having this place to dump my thoughts and emotions helps me feel connected to other people (like you!).


COURTNEY November 15, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I’m so glad you found my blog and like it! Knowing I’m connecting with other people like me is awesome! I feel disconnected sometimes and having this place to dump my thoughts and emotions


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