Guilty Mummy Syndrome (GMS)

My name is Nikki and I am suffering from GMS (Guilty Mummy Syndrome). You see, I had no idea when I gave birth to my baby girl that I would spend at least 79% of motherhood feeling guilty.


By Nikki Lennox-Moorby


In just one week, my GMS has escalated to new uncharted territory. I have been feeling guilty for being a working mum, guilty for having my friend pick my little girl up from school twice a week and my mum once a week, guilty that when my little girl gets sick I have to work from home, guilty that I sent her back to school too early thinking she had fully recovered, guilty that she vomited all over the carpet in her class where they hold quiet reading time. Guilty for the poor teacher who put out her hands to try and catch the fountain of sick in vain and guilty that poor old Mr Brown the caretaker had to…well you can imagine the rest.


I have realised though, that it’s not just this week that I have been feeling this way. When I was a stay at home mum I felt bad that I didn’t have a job. Now that I’m a working mum I feel guilt-ridden that I don’t spend enough time with my daughter. I also feel at fault for occasionally thinking ‘Thank god it’s Monday’ and then feel it again for thinking that just once, I would like to be able to get ready and leave the house in less than 1 hour 44 minutes, without having to shout ‘put your shoes on!’ at least 13 times. And don’t get me started on how awful you feel when you have to miss the odd bedtime routine.


Mummy guilt is like a leech. It clings on and eats away at you. It is always gnawing away at you during quiet moments throughout day; just to make certain you never forget it.


But, I can take some comfort in knowing that I am not the only mummy who feels this way. A survey earlier this year prepared by Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) on the ‘Changing face of motherhood’ found that the majority of British mothers feel guilty about going out to work and not devoting enough time to their children. Compared with their European counterparts, UK mums are also the hardest on themselves.

Hardly surprising then, that for most mummies the first time you really experience the full power of GMS at its very ugliest, is when you have to leave your little one unwillingly in childcare. Dropping them off at nursery or pre-school or even leaving them with a child minder against their will is likely to hurl you headfirst into downward spiral of GMS.


So what can we do about these feelings of guilt? Well, if all else fails you can always turn on an episode of Supernanny USA to make you feel like a better parent. Alternatively, you could try swapping GMS for a more positive emotion.


  • Try and think about how you could use your guilt wisely. Instead of letting it eat you up, maybe you could use the feeling as a warning system to let you know you need to take a step back to get a better look at the whole picture. Is it possible you are stretched too thin? Or maybe you are multi-tasking a bit too much and could do with more support.


  • Try to lower your own expectations of yourself. Mummies are their own worst critics (well at least until their children are old enough to talk…), so let the guilty feelings motivate you into doing something positive and stop punishing yourself. If you feel bad about being away from your little ones then set aside time to play with them in a work-free, smart phone-free environment for an hour.


So maybe a small amount of ‘positive’ guilt isn’t such a bad thing. After all, if it wasn’t for a bit of guilt and remorse where would we really be? Well, according to scientists we would all actually be raging psychopaths but that is a whole different story!




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