Mom Guilt and Self-Care

by:Dr. Stephanie Liu, M.D. M.Sc February 21, 2019

As a working mom with a toddler, I often feel guilty about not spending all day with my little one. In the morning when I leave home to go to work, Madi will get upset and fussy. On those days when she gives me those puppy-dog eyes, I can feel my heart sink into my chest. When I work, I worry that my daughter will feel unsupported. I’m thankful that we have a nanny to support us, and I often come home to find Madi snuggling up with our nanny. While it warms my heart to know she’s is being well taken care of, I sometimes have conflicted feelings that Madi isn’t cuddling up to me all day. I heard her call the nanny “mama” once, and I almost lost it.

Mom guilt is normal, and is more common than one might expect. Most moms experience some guilt while raising kids. While guilt isn’t always bad (it can help inform our decisions when it comes to our babies), it can become a problem if it is too intense and is affecting us emotionally.

As moms, we want the best for our kids, and this can come at a sacrifice to our own mental health. As a physician, I know the importance of self-care for both mental and physical health. Self-care means something different for everyone. For some women, this means going to the gym, taking a bath, getting a massage, going to a movie, or having a nap. It can be as extravagant as a vacation or as simple as a nice meal.

The problem is that many mamas feel guilty when they invest time in themselves. They often feel like they should be using that time caring for their home, husband, and little ones.

With my patients, I often compare self-care to investing money. For example: At the end of the year, before you do your taxes, you have the opportunity to transfer money into retirement savings, education, or other investment plans. This can make you pay less income tax overall, and allow you to grow your money and save for the future. Fast-forward 10 years, if you invested money consistently, you will likely have a nice little nest egg. I ask my patients: do you think investing that money is saving or spending money? All of my patients reply “saving!”

The same is true when it comes to self-care. If we take time routinely to invest in ourselves so that we feel our best, we will have an overall better mood, more energy, and enjoy the time with our families more thoroughly.

Self-care is important for everyone, not just moms! I always prescribe it to my patients, and I try and remind both my patients and myself not to feel guilty when investing in our own mental health so we can enjoy our time raising happier children.

A common medical issue with Mom’s I see in my medical practice is anxiety, so check out my other article on Anxiety and Motherhood to learn more.

Dr. Stephanie Liu, M.D. M.Sc


This Guest Blog is written by Dr. Stephanie Liu

Dr Stephanie Liu is a graduate from Columbia University, University of Calgary and University of Alberta. She practices community family medicine and acute care at the University of Alberta Hospital. She has sat on numerous boards and is a Clinical Lecturer at the University of Alberta. She is wife to Dr. Graeme Mulholland, Otolaryngologists Head and Neck Surgeon and mommy to Madi, her sweet and spunky little girl.

She shares her experience of life as a Doctor and a mom through her blog – Life of Dr. Mom. “Life of Dr. Mom is a health and medical blog designed for the modern mom to provide credible information for moms to help with parenting, and to support families and the healthy development of their children. Doctor Mom works to educate the modern mom with the most relevant up-to-date medical evidence, using her expertise working in women’s health, mental health psychiatry, postnatal care, and pediatrics.”

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