Mom Guilt (part two)

Mom Guilt (part one) discussed the ludicrous notion that the remarkably diligent Moms of special-needs children are saddled with guilt, not accolades for their unending hard work. How exactly does this Mom Guilt come about?

Screaming in the Cereal Aisle

Screaming in the Cereal Aisle

It begins with the inner doubts and uncertainties that accompany every learn-while-doing adventure. And it is cured in the ovens of outsiders’ critiques, their uncareful words and judgmental stares. Parents-whose-kids-have-meltdowns-in-the-cereal-aisle lack a certain social standing in most communities.

Mom Guilt has many sources: today, we consider a common one:

Shaming by Other Parents – Parents have to do a fair amount of parenting in public places and judging each others’ efforts is something of a national pastime.  It’s similar to the Winter Olympics where I somehow feel free to mercilessly criticize a figure skater’s routine, even though I can barely wobble-skate the full length of an ice rink myself.

Actually, it’s nothing like the Winter Olympics for two important reasons: First, parenting is much harder than competing in the Olympics.  Second, the Olympics really don’t matter. They have little to do with How and Why Humans Exist, but parenting IS, in fact, How Humans Exist.  In the long history of human existence, parenting actually matters. No one wants to be so incompetent as a parent that they raise the next axe murderer or Tonya Harding.

So when a child melts down in the cereal aisle, it might be an incompetent parent issue and the mom might give in to the child to end the meltdown.  But this might be a great mom whose child has a low melting point. She might have done everything with love that a mother could, and her child still screams.

How would strangers tell the difference between an incompetent mom with a ruined kid and a gifted mom with a challenged kid? Simple. They could spend day after day beside her, helping her, doing what she does 24-7.  If the child has fewer meltdowns under their care, they could volunteer to be the nanny for her. Alternatively, they could keep their judgments to themselves. The world needs fewer critics and more leaders.

Well, at least that’s the ideal. The reality, though, is that all manner of people are willing to pass judgment on the screaming child’s mom, often within her earshot.  “That child needs some old-fashioned discipline,” or “Mine never did any such thing.” Current Parents, Past Parents and Future Parents all chime in with advice.  Most don’t actually speak the words, but there is definitely a glance that says, “Take your child outside” or “soothe her harder” or “get a therapist and work on your need for control.” 

Viewed from afar, we know how wrong others are to criticize, and that ignorance deserves to be ignored.  But a Mom doesn’t enjoy the luxury of perspective in the scream-filled cereal aisle.  She can’t leave her child there while she sips tea and reflects.  There’s no lifeline to call. Critics hit her when she is down, by all appearances failing, when it’s almost plausible that she doesn’t love her child enough.

Guilt feelings are all but guaranteed whenever Moms fail-however temporarily-their maternal vow to protect and comfort their children always. Love cannot be perfected, and to fall short of a hope is poignant, not wrong.  But the critics don’t love the child. Their evil is not that their criticism causes the guilt–but that it throws acid on it.


“Make no judgments where you have no compassion.” ― Anne McCaffrey


Physician specializing in diagnosis and management of attention deficit disorders and related conditions.

Posted in parenting
5 comments on “Mom Guilt (part two)
  1. i recently read a great comment from somewhere – when they say “you need to slap that behavior out of that child” you say “that sounds like a great idea. can i try it out first by seeing if i can slap the stupid out of you?”


  2. Susan Kruger says:

    Brilliant! “How would strangers tell the difference between an incompetent mom with a ruined kid and a gifted mom with a challenged kid?” — Well put! As is the whole article. These are going to give a lot of moms some comfort! Thank you. 🙂


  3. […] Tomorrow: Sources of the Guilt […]


  4. amy says:

    Thank you. Just, thank you.


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Oren Mason MD
Oren Mason MD

Oren Mason MD

Physician specializing in diagnosis and management of attention deficit disorders and related conditions.

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