Drowning In Mom Guilt


I am drowning in mom guilt. Drowning. In. It.


You know the day-to-day mom guilt we all feel? For me, it’s the nagging feeling in the back of my brain that comes from buying fruit snacks with artificial colors and flavors. Or the weight I feel on my shoulders from missing my daughter’s school parties because I had to work. I try my best to rationalize these day-to-day feelings of mom guilt by telling myself thatthe ‘bad’ fruit snacks were on sale” and “even though I miss the school parties, teaching allows me to afford dance classes”.


But what about the mom guilt that you can’t work through or rationalize? The mom guilt that comes from the stuff that actually matters.


About a month ago, I failed as a mom.


It was over winter break, I had just dropped my 1st grader off at one of her regular counseling appointments. While she was in talking to Ms. J, I decided to run to CVS to pick up some of those fun, animal face masks for us to do later. As I was pulling back into the parking lot, Ms. J and my daughter walked out to my car. Definitely not normal. Ms. J told her to get in the car because she had to talk to me for a few minutes.  


Earlier, my daughter had confided in my parents about a physical incident a few years ago involving her dad…. who isn’t around anymore. Her dad not being around is mainly why she goes to therapy. I shared this information with Ms. J, and asked her to address it during the session to see if we could verify if what my daughter said had happened – had actually happened. Her dad was an alcoholic, and she unfortunately spent the first 5 years of her life growing up around someone who abused alcohol. But I couldn’t remember a time when she had ever been physically abused by her dad.


I’m ashamed to admit, but my first instinct wasn’t to believe her. I tried to deny it had happened, I tried to rationalize why it couldn’t have happened, and I honestly think I told her therapist because I wanted reassurance that it hadn’t actually happened. So here I am standing next to my car on a chilly afternoon, as Ms. J explains to me that what my daughter shared during her session corroborated with what she had told my parents. So yes, there is suspected child abuse and we need to hotline this.


Pretty sure at this point, I zoned out. Hotline? As in Social Services? My kid? As I forced myself to refocus on what Ms. J was saying, I started to cry. That was the moment that I realized that I had failed as a mom. I had failed my daughter. A mother’s most basic purpose is to provide care and protection for her child(ren). And I had failed. I had not protected her. Someone hurt her because I had not protected her.


The next few days passed in a blur. Calling a 1-800 number to report what had happened to my daughter. Getting a call back to schedule a home visit. Having a social worker from the Department of Social Services come to my house. Sitting by myself in silence as the social worker talked with my daughter in a different room. Then coming out to talk with me. The social worker telling me that her 3rd version of the incident matches up with the other two – so yes, she was physically abused by her dad. And yes, I did the right thing by reporting the abuse, but there’s not a lot they can do because her dad no longer lives in the United States.


A month has passed, and I still blame myself. When I actually let myself think about it, the feelings of guilt and failure physically surround me…and they are still so strong, I feel as if I am drowning in them. The mom guilt that comes from this failure… it doesn’t compare to anything else. The mom guilt that comes from buying the wrong fruit snacks? I put that on myself… I cause that feeling of guilt by convincing myself that I’m less of a mom over something so trivial. My daughter won’t even realize – and honestly, she’d probably prefer Oreos anyway.


But not protecting my daughter from physical abuse….not protecting my daughter from her father… THAT matters. My feelings of shame, my feelings of guilt – they’re real and they’re warranted. I failed her, and there’s no quick fix for this. I can’t just apologize or promise to do better next time. The damage has been done, and no amount of trips to Target for the newest LOL doll can fix this. The short-term effects of the physical abuse have already become evident… and a very selfish part of me would prefer to not even have to think about the long-term effects.


A month has passed, and I still feel like I have failed as a mom. But I get up everyday, and I keep trying. There is nothing more important than helping her work through all of this. And maybe…just maybe…. by helping her work through it, I’ll help myself work through it too.

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Maddie is constantly trying to find the balance between raising a biracial daughter on her own, being a high school Spanish teacher, and trying to navigate the dating world in her 30's. Definitely an extroverted introvert, Maddie loves nerding out about teaching Spanish, and you can usually find her reading whenever she has free time. Her favorites include: tacos, coffee, mascara, Harry Potter, scuba diving, face masks, and therapy. Maddie is also a childhood AML Leukemia survivor, and currently has a very stubborn case of Papillary Thyroid Cancer. She's spent most of her entire life in the St. Louis area, and her favorite things about STL are the Zoo and Imo's Pizza!