Feel the guilt and do it anyway


Last weekend my Mum lamented to me that ‘all’ she done for the past few weekends was lie on the couch and relax.

‘Um, what’s wrong with that?’

‘Well, I just feel guilty. Like I should be doing something more useful with that time.’

My mum is 62. She’s spent the better part of her life wrangling five kids, running our household, and for the past thirty years she’s also worked full-time. (It’s only in the last couple of years that she’s reduced her working hours). She also spent all that time managing our household finances so tightly, (driving us batty with how anal she was) that now, today, she and dad are able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without the need for either of them to work full-time. And they are finally also in possession of an empty nest.

Yet she feels guilty about spending her weekends (her weekends!) relaxing.

The topic of guilt is one that comes up fairly consistently in the comments section of this blog. In trying to help people with it I’ve written countless articles reminding people that if they’re not taking care of themselves as a priority, then they’re no good to the people around them.

Which makes me a bit of a hypocrite because I still feel guilt.

  • I feel it when I send my kids to my parents’ house for a night so Ant and I can enjoy a rare evening together as a couple.
  • I feel it whenever I get someone else to drop Jaden off or pick him up from school.
  • I feel it when I do pretty much anything for myself during what could be considered ‘family time’.

And it’s only in recent times that I’ve found some better ways to manage all the guilt. Three ways in fact:

1. Most of the things I do ‘for me’ are done when the rest of the house is sleeping

This is the main reason I get up so early. It means the precious hours I spend writing, exercising and just ‘be’-ing are completely guilt free. I’m not stealing time from anyone.

I love those hours.

2. The things that are important, I do them regularly

I’ve found the things I do ‘once every so often’ – they’re the ones that provoke the most guilt in me (most likely because they cause the most angst in my kids who can’t bear me leaving the house without them).

The things I do once a week like going to the Chiro, or doing a Parkrun on Saturday mornings – everyone in my house knows that this is just what Mummy does at this time every week. So when I leave the house to do those things, I’m less likely to have a three-year-old hanging on to my leg wailing ‘WHY! Whyyyyyyy dooooo you HAAAAAAAAAVE to goooooooooooo?’.

It seems if there’s something you want to be doing, you’re better off doing it every single week as opposed to once every so often. The guilt backlash is definitely smaller.

3. I feel the guilt and do it anyway

It’s become clear to me that guilt is hard-wired into women. I have no idea what the evolutionary reason is for it, but it’s here to stay. So I figure we can either continue to futilely exhort each other to ‘stop feeling guilty’, or we can choose to do my new favourite thing, and that’s ‘feel the feeling’, (thanks Brooke!).

I mentioned my mum at the top of this piece and the fact she felt guilt at spending three weekends in a row actually relaxing. But what mum also did was felt the guilt … and did it anyway.

Now there’s a policy I can definitely buy into!

Do you have any novel ways of dealing with guilt?

Comments 6

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      Yeah it’s a funny one – but I’ve certainly found it to be true! It’s the kids losing it that sets off the most guilt for me so anything that helps with that is a good thing!

  1. I’m sure there was a time in my life when I would allow someone else (probably Mommy) to “pack my bags” and send me on a guilt trip. I just don’t, anymore. I don’t do anything maliciously, so I refuse to feel guilty for anything I’ve done. Maybe I’m the rare woman in whom guilt is NOT hard-wired. If someone tries to send me on a guilt trip now, they can pack the bags all they want. I’m not picking ’em up.

    This is, of course, not the same as feeling remorse over hurting someone. We’re talking about intent. I have no guilt over what I do intentionally.

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  2. Not exactly a novel way or that I do it as often as I can (well, because it’s kinda uncomfortable), I ‘feel the feeling’ and take it one (or more) step further and ask myself why I feel guilty in the first place.

    Do I feel guilty because it is not in line with
    1. my own beliefs? – like letting the kids watch too much YouTube (my belief that it is doing more harm than good), or
    2. society’s beliefs? – like we have to have it all or we are not enough, or
    3. our family and friends’ beliefs? – like you have to do things a certain way), or
    4. anyone else’s beliefs that you have chosen to adopt?

    If I genuinely feel guilty about something that I believe in, then it is a good thing (in a way). That may inspire action to change things so that I am living in a way that aligns with my values – win.

    If it is other people’s beliefs, then is the story serving me? Why am I feeling guilty about something that doesn’t even sit well with me? Yeah, sometimes it’s easier to just feel the guilt and do it anyway (hopefully without feeling resentful) but sometimes, when I have the energy and head space, I try damn hard create the boundary and say no, I’m doing it my way because I am worthy of living my life my way (silencing the guilt, but sending them love anyway).


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      Oh I really like that Ling. I think you are so right in pointing out that guilt can sometimes be sending us an important message! (Depending on what kind of guilt it is!)

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