8 Ways to Be a Better Mom to Young Children

The children and I at Garden of the Gods in Colorado

I don’t know about you, but I’ve struggled with a lot of mommy guilt over the past seven years I’ve been a mom:

“Am I doing enough?”

“Are my children eating right, getting enough sleep, getting enough fresh air and exercise?”

“Am I spending enough quality time with them?”

“Should I be doing more of X with them and less of Y?”

And then I’ve felt like a bad mom for having so much mommy guilt. Yes, I know, I’m hopeless!

In talking to other moms, I know I’m not alone. If you’re a young mom who is feeling discouraged in your mothering today, I wrote an article over on MomLife on 8 Ways to Be a Better Mom to Young Children. It shares some of the things I’ve learned–mostly through error–as a young mom.

I hope it can be a blessing to some of you who are exhausted and overwhelmed in your mothering!

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  1. says

    Awesome! I can’t wait to read the post. We love Garden of the Gods. When we lived in CO, we went there on many occasions. Was this your first visit? Mommy guilt…I suffer from that a lot as a mom who works outside of our home.

    • says

      I went there almost every year growing up, but it was our childrens’ first time to go. They LOVED it and are already ready to go back!

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing this today. I have a 7 month old and have been struggling with finding the balance of spending every waking second with baby and taking some time for myself.

    I took baby to the gym with me yesterday and put her in the stellar “kids area” and she did awesome but I couldn’t shake this “guilt.” Guilt is not from God – it’s from the enemy!! Conviction is from the Holy Spirit, yes, but guilt and conviction have very different after feelings.

    Thanks for sharing!

      • miriam says

        Hi,

        I think that no matter how much we do or give to our kids it will never seem enough, but I have learned one big lesson in life in being a mother of 3 great kids (Rachel 20, Hannah 17 and Michael 12) and that there is only 3 basic things that they need to be taught in this life for their successful future and then into being parents one day themselves.
        1. the love of their earthly parents is unconditional no matter what happens in life and will always be there for them.
        2. they are created in the image of their Heavenly Father who loves them immeasurably that He gave His life for them.
        3. and to “Seek His kingdom first” and “In ALL things acknowledge Him and He will direct their paths”.

        Beyond that I choose as their parents to Trust Him, Honor Him, Love Him, Obey Him, and pray for them each day. My husband and I let our lives and our walk be an example to them, and let the word of God direct us in all our decisions. We have seen such fruit in the way my children have made great choices for their life.

        So do not let your heart be troubled and let guilt rob you, but continue doing what you believe is right in your heart for them and commit them to the Lord, after all they are His anyway and only on loan to us.

        God Bless,
        Miriam

  3. Elysha says

    I’ve learned that the best way to avoid guilt is to remove the word “Should” from my vocabulary. Instead I focus on the words “Can” and “Will”.

  4. Heather O'Sullivan says

    I’m a stay-at-home mom to two boys 3 1/2 and 1 1/2…the older is in speech therapy. Has been since he turned 3. I know all too well abut mommy guilt! It started when Connor(oldest) was 4 days old and being rushed to CHOP because of a severely high billi ruben level. He was severely dehydrated because my breast milk hadn’t come in sufficiently and I felt like a failure for almost two years because I would never be able to adequetley breast feed any baby.
    When his speech was not catching up like it should have, I started fearing it was related to his hospital stay and my inability to do what most mother’s can… But he’s physically fine, with a comprehension level of a 6 year old. He just drops ending consonants.
    I have had so many fears and guilty times since becoming a mom and it can be so isolating…
    Sometimes it seems like feeling like a failure in something, only pushed me to try even harder in those areas and talk to friends, family or seek words of wisdom from you all!!

    • D. says

      Heather, my heart breaks for you when I read your post . As a mom of 2 boys (a high schooler & middle schooler) I just want to tell you not to hold yourself to impossible standards. You will never be able to do everything right. We live in an imperfect world and you are not a perfect person, therefore you will make mistakes. Looking back to the times when my children were younger, I see areas where I wished I would have done things differently. But I did the best I could at the time and this is where we are and what they’ve got. Just love your children as much as you can, let your head guide your decisions and don’t heap guilt upon yourself it something goes wrong. Certain things will always not go as you planned and it is a natural thing for a mom to blame herself for anything that goes wrong in her children’s lives. Every mom does it. You’re not alone in that area.

    • Heather says

      Don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault you had breastfeeding problems. It’s more common than people admit or realize. I think it’s one of the many reasons for such high infant mortality rates in the old days. Thank goodness for modern medicine!
      Happened to me too, and yes, sometimes when my 4 year old doesn’t act her age, I worry that it’s because I didn’t give her more formula at the beginning. But rationally, I doubt that’s the case – and really she is fine. Chase that guilt away!

    • Heather says

      Thank you ladies.

      For sure one thing that did not aid in the breast-feeding guilt was the packaging of the formula container! Every time i pulled it out was like a smack in the face because it says repeatedly that breast milk is best…
      I thought I was the only one who was struggling like this for months and then all of a sudden, people I’ve known my whole life starting being honest about their experiences. I wish I had heard those stories earlier.

      I don’t keep expectations too high. My house is by far, not as clean as it used to be before kids! I try to figure out why I feel like I do and sometimes it’s something that I can do differently, or just talk to another mom about and I feel better.
      We have no close family where we live and both my Husband and I have lost our mothers…makes raising babies hard.

      That’s why I love MoneySavingMom and all of you for your honesty in Facebook comments and here on the blog.

      Thank You

      • Liz says

        Definitely definitely definitely do not feel bad about the formula!! You tried your best and that’s all God asks of us! When I had my first child, we had HUGE problems with breastfeeding and he was starving because I wasn’t making enough milk. My mom kept pressuring me to breastfeed exclusively, but fortunately my husband intervened and forced me to give him formula. Suddenly our fussy, crying baby was happy! Yes, in the perfect world, we would all breastfeed exclusively; but since that is not the case, we do what we can with what we’re given. To quote a song I listened to as a child, “Do your best, pray it’s blessed, Jesus takes care of the rest.” (I often have to remind myself to remember that Jesus WILL take care of the rest!)

    • says

      Heather,

      My younger son has been in speech therapy since he was 3. He should have started sooner, but people kept telling me I was overreacting. He also has some other issues I won’t bore you with. I constantly struggle with guilt and worry. I know that you are a great mom, and I’m sure your little guy is making big progress, as is mine. All you can do is your best-oh, and I bf for a full year, so please take that one off your shoulders. :) God Bless!

      • Crystal L. says

        I’m going through this speech therapy thing right now too with my two-year-old. I’ve been so worried all of this time that I did something to make him fall behind. I know me having postpartum depression and not being there as fully as I could be probably had something to do with it.

        However, when I took him in today I realized what a radical change this program was making in his life in a short amount of time. That made me feel like a good mom for once. :)

        • says

          You did a Great job getting him help so early!

          I actually have a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and an endorsement in Special Education, so intellectually I Know that speech problems are very common and very correctable.

          Emotionally, as a mom, it’s a whole different story. This thread is definitely helping me see that All moms struggle with these feelings.

    • says

      Heather,

      I almost could have written the beginning half of your post. When my daughter was 4 days old, I brought her to the doctor for a checkup and she was severly dehydrated as well. She also had to be rushed to the hospital and hooked up to an IV and then her heart rated dropped quite a bit. We were there for 4 days. I felt so, so guilty. I thought she was an expert breastfeeder – she was feeding for long periods of time – little did I know that nothing was coming out! In a way, I blame it on La Leche League and other militant breastfeeding proponents who give formula such a bad name that I did notin a hundred years even consider giving it to my precious child. Instead I almost starved my child by my “great breastmilk.” As a mother for only 4 days, I started to question whether anything I did was right – was I making other horrible decisions, too? Fortunately, my pediatrician was old-school – he was around when formula was popular. He encouraged me that there are far worse things I could be doing for my child. By trying to breastfeed exclusively and failing, I gave up on breastmilk altogether, I was so scared from the experience. And my child was 100% formula fed. By the time my 3rd child arrived (my second was adopted so breastmilk was not an option), I was much more confident. In the beginning, I would nurse and then give formula immediately after. And watch out to any militant breastfeeder who tried to tell me differently. I ended up only being able to provide about 8 ounces of breastmilk per day. I would pump and pump and pump and just very little came out. By the end of two months, I could only get 2 ounces per day. And then I quit. Your world will not change if your child is formula-fed. You are the mom and you know what is best for your child. Don’t let anyone or any propaganda make you feel guilty for not doing things THEIR way. (HUGS)

      • Cherie says

        I was right there with you, ladies. I spent the first month of my son’s life up almost constantly on a horrible regimen of nursing, bottle feeding, and pumping and then starting all over. I felt guilty the whole time that I wasn’t producing enough and I had to give him formula.

        I blamed my body (we struggled for several years with infertility) for not doing what it was supposed to. What I should have been focusing on was how lucky I am to live in a time when formula was an option.

        Now I find myself feeling guilt about working outside the home and countless other things.

        You are obviously doing what you determine is best for your kids. That’s all you can do. Hang in there!

      • Stephanie says

        I’m sorry that no one suggested supplementing with formula to you earlier. The lactation consultant I had and the LLL around here were all about just getting the kid fed while working out breastfeeding issues (#1 had a lousy latch and wasn’t getting enough milk). Formula is not poison and she ended up having bottles a few times a day for six months, by the time she was eating solids the breastmilk was enough.
        You tried and you found a way that worked for you. The most important thing is that everyone is healthy.

  5. says

    Growing up we used to spend a lot of our family vacations in Colorado! Love camping, hiking and spending time in the Colorado Rockies! :)

    Thanks for sharing Crystal! This is a hot topic for Moms everywhere. If we take our focus off the “What Ifs” and the “Mommy guilt” we allow ourselves more opportunities to focus on what God has for our lives and be the best Mom we can humanly be. I pray that my girls overlook the mistakes I make and that they ultimately turn their hearts to God as their guide through life because he never fails them.

  6. su says

    You’ve read my mind again. Heavens, I even have Mommy guilt when I need to put the puppy in the crate(now that’s sad, isn’t it). I’m in a constant state of am I doing enough….I kick myself whenever I “snap” at my kids to get them to listen(even when it’s been said a hundred times).
    I’m always praying for God to help me. Some days are so overwhelming that it is hard. And today, my four yr old is puking. I think God is laughing at me sometimes….ever feel that way. He’s saying, just laugh too!

    I truly enjoy your site. thx

  7. says

    Beautiful photo Crystal.

    The guilt thing can be so rough for moms. I find that focusing on the future helps. Guilt comes when I dwell on the past and that doesn’t accomplish anything. Keeping priorities straight helps determine what I really need to change vs. wallowing in self doubt.

    • Crystal L. says

      This has definitely made my life so much better. Before, I would sit there and stew over all of the bad things in my life and what I COULD have done to prevent them. Now I accept them, and look to the future. Wouldn’t you know, like magic, my mommy guilt and depression started to dissipate (though, drugs probably helped too LOL)?

  8. says

    I can’t wait to read your article! We live in Colorado and visit Garden of the Gods as often as possibe…such a beautiful place! I used to suffer from Mommy guilt until I had a discussion with my own mom who is an amazingly Godly woman. She told me that there are two types of guilt in this world, guilt from each other and guilt from God. As long as I am raising my children in a Godly home, then the guilt that comes from others should be shrugged off and left at the door. It has been the best piece of advice in my 3 years of being a mommy to my two precious children!

  9. says

    As a 60 year old Mom to a total of 7.

    My only words to young Mom’s if you are doing your best with each day that you are given then your children are doing well and should be happy!

  10. Andrea says

    I am excited to read your article. I have Mommy guilt every day that I drop my daughter off at daycare. I worry if she is a good enviroment while I work and worry myself to death that I am not doing what is right by her because I work to help pay the bills. Then I worry when I get home and have to make dinner and clean up. I started to include her in setting the table and cleaning up so I feel like I am spending time with her. You have inspired me to do more freezer cooking which I feel gives me more time with her in the long run. Thanks for sharing!

  11. says

    Great article! Thanks for sharing. I think we all struggle with mommy guilt sometimes. It definitely makes me view my own mother in a different light. We have to just take it one day at a time and, as you said, always put your relationship with God first. That definitely helps put things in the right order.

  12. mary ellen says

    Great and encouraging article. I worried terribly that my son was a late potty-trainer and felt quite a bit of guilt. However, now that he is 21 and a successful college student, no one ever asks at what age he was out of diapers! We must remember not to sweat the small stuff. That is such a beautiful picture of you and your children, Crystal!

  13. Stephanie says

    Most recent mommy guilt moment, taking the 3 year old twins to the doctor after 10 days of their sniffling, coughing etc. Both have a sinus infection, one has an ear infection as well. Every other time I call the pediatrician over every little thing and it really is nothing. This time…they’re sick sick sick. Then, it’s the first time they’ve taken antibiotics. My son, next day full on body rash. Who knew, he’s allergic to penicillin. It’s never easy being a mom. I love my kids. They love me. Repeat.

  14. says

    As a mom to preemies, I have additional guilt of my body failing these precious boys. But I recently read a quote that I hold so dear to my heart every time I feel the guilt kick in.

    “You did then what you knew to do, and when you knew better, you did better” – Maya Angelou

    • Susan says

      Oh I love this quote!

      Kids do not come with an owner’s manual. I’m a single mom to an elementary school age daughter. When I look back over her life so far, there are plenty of things that I wish I’d done differently. It’s much easier to see the right path with the benefit of hindsight. But I never feel guilty. I do the best I can, under the circumstances, every single day.

    • Crystal L. says

      Um… I think I’m going to print this quote off and post it above my desk! Great motivator to rid the guilt. :)

  15. says

    Thanks Crystal! I needed this pick me up. I’ve gone round and round with Mom guilt between working, keeping up the home, raising my 2 yo son and also finding “me” time. These tips are great. One thing I always remember is if I’m not feeling my best (taking time for me) then it will be impossible to be my best for my son.

  16. says

    Crystal, those are great tips! We are needing to work on routine right now. We are temporarily living in campers at an RV park and I can see a change in my youngest from the change.

    I still have twinges of mommy guilt at times, however, I’ve learned that all I can do is my best and let God’s grace fill in the gaps. My children are 17, 15, 13, 11, 9 and 2 and I’ve seen God fill in the gaps so often over the years. When I mess up, I apologize and ask for forgiveness both from God and from my children. I think it is important for children to know that no person is perfect but God is and as long as we’re doing what He wants us to we’re gonna be ok.

  17. says

    My best tip for being a better mom: Reject the concept of “Mom guilt.” You’ll be happier without it and happy mom = happy kids.

  18. says

    Enjoyed your article Crystal! I struggle with mommy guilt too, even though I know I’m doing the best for my kids that I can. Being a mother is exhausting and that makes it easy to be grumpy and hard to feel like you’re doing a good job!

  19. Elizabeth says

    Almost 36 years ago I became a mom for the first time. I still struggle with questions at times…should I contact my child, should I not…should we do more, or less…I am not sure some questions ever go entirely away. It is one thing with one’s own child, and then they marry. And often so many things change, it becomes difficult all over again to know what one should or should not do. We do our best before our FATHER GOD and hope that one day HE will approve of how we did…praying for guidance along the way, of course, meanwhile. I have learned we can never please people too well…our only hope is in pleasing HIM!!

    You do know a great deal than most moms in my day, Crystal…that is obvious by all you have written on your blog. Your children look healthy and happy in the photos!!
    Blessings, Elizabeth in NC

  20. Becky says

    I really enjoy your site and appreciate that you share so many things that are practical to life and not just savings. Thank you for your hard work.

  21. Debbie Rodrigo says

    Crystal, i can only say that you (we) just need to honestly do the best that we can do. If at the end of the day you know you did the best you can do that day, then that’s enough.

    I have 2 kids, 13 and 15. Let me just say that if I could go back to the “littles” years, I would do so in a heart beat. Not that I would do much different, but there are some things, in hindsight that I would change. And what works for one kid does not necessarily work for another, which adds to the challenge of raising children. The struggles those years are nothing compared to the teen years, however. Which is ironic because there are so many support groups in the community and online for moms of littles, but moms of older kids? Nothing that I have found!

  22. Sarah says

    Crystal,
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I am a single, working mom of a beautiful two year old. It breaks my heart everyday when I have to drop her off at the sitters. Then when we get home at night, I feel like we don’t have any time to spend together. Thank you for reminding me to keep God first.

  23. Betsy says

    Crystal,
    Thank you for the vulnerability and truth statements in blog posts such as these. So helpful and I’m right there with you as a SAHM of four small boys. I posted this on my FB page yesterday b/c it was such a wonderful video clip that relates exactly to what you mentioned here. Perhaps it will be an added encouragement to you~

    http://vimeo.com/29784133

  24. Susan says

    Garden of the Gods is awesome! I was there many years ago and would love to take the kiddo for a visit.

    Am I the only one who thinks you look like quite the youngster in this photo? Had you not indicated “the children and I” I’d have thought you were, oh I don’t know, your kids’ only-slightly-older cousin.

    :-)

  25. says

    So glad you could enjoy Garden of the Gods with your children. Our family loves going there. Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom.

  26. Brittany S. says

    This summer I was able to help lead a quick book study with some moms on this book: “Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus.” The book has lots of good things in it, especially in dealing with parenting guilt. I don’t agree with every single word of the book, but the overall message is GREAT. Some highlights:

    The authors expose the formula many of us operate on in raising children: Good parenting in, good children out.

    And page 59, “There are no promises in the Bible that even our best parenting will produce good children. None.”

    “God may use your parenting as a means to draw your children to himself. But he may use other means and at a different time. Or he may use your child’s rebellion and disinterest as a way to accomplish his unexpected will.” – page 61.

    • sarah says

      I’m reading this book with my moms group right now, one of my friends knows the authors! I’m on chapter 4 and I know what you mean about not agreeing with every little thing they write, but on the whole it’s a very challenging and convicting book!

  27. Elias says

    Family members often tell me, “Oh you will miss these years! Soak it up because it will be over in a blink! I just loved when my kids were so little.” I usually just put on a fake smile and think, “Really? Do you REALLY remember these years? The constant never ending cleaning, cooking, homework, breaking up fights, clothing, feeding, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a parent. I wouldn’t trade it for anything but it’s exhausting! And then I feel guilty for thinking this!

    One thing that helps me with guilt is seeing my kids do awesome in school. They may drive me insane at home but at least they are polite, kind to their friends and doing fantastic in academics. So it’s a good reminder that all the hard work is paying off. :)

    PS, Crystal, you have a beautiful family.

  28. says

    Very good points, Crystal. Thank you fo sharing what you have learned along the way. I’ve been rattling around some mommy concepts in this little head of mine all day. Your article and the comments here have added more marbles to shake around up there. I’m hoping they soon line up in a straight, understandable line. :)

  29. august says

    My husband and I see a marriage counselor a few times a month to help our marriage. It’s not because we’re on the verge of divorce, it’s simply because we want to. We speak a lot of our son while in there, and the first thing I was told was “chilren only need 3 things:”

    —love
    —discipline
    —knowledge

    I can’t help, but feel like these are so true.