Got “Mommy Guilt?”

… Or Daddy Guilt? Or Partner Guilt?

Ya know those voices in your head that say things like…

“You’re not spending enough time with your family.”

“You’re kids are going to go from ‘kiddo to college’ in no time flat and you’ll miss everything in between.”

“If you put as much time into your marriage as you do your career, everything would be fine.”  

Sound familiar?  

Yup! I know those voices all too well too.

First of all, don’t feel bad. This is incredibly common.

Many parents and partners experience guilt with a side of “not enough-ness” —

Am I doing enough?

Am I showing up enough?

Am I giving enough time to each and every one of my loved ones?

Am I enough?

Let’s paint the picture: You just spent an entire day with your loved ones and, STILL feel guilty for not doing that one thing? During this glorious day you were as present as possible, giving love, time and energy. You didn’t even stare at your phone…much 😉 … yet, as you get ready for bed, you still feel guilty that you didn’t do that one thing or you beat yourself up for not being present enough.

Why do you feel this way?

Simple. It’s because as a species, we’re wired to focus on the things we DON’T do well and we dim the lights on the things we DO do well.

Think about it, millions of years ago when we hunted food across the pride lands, who do you think survived longer?

Cave person A: Who took time to stroll along and reflect on how awesome they were for bringing home dinner every night last week.


Cave person B: Who also fed their family but spent the night reflecting on how they almost got eaten and thinking about what they could do better next time?

Who likely lived longer? Cave person B!

Ya see? We’re wired to focus on that which (almost but) didn’t quite kill us, so we can be made stronger.

Did any of that strike a nerve?

Well, the good news is that I have a simple and proven way to deal with the guilt!  And it doesn’t involve affirming that you don’t suck (which,don’t get me wrong, I’m not against); it involves taking some specific actions.

Do a little Inner Detective Work

As I said above, guilt is a hard wired emotion, so just telling ourselves to “ignore it” won’t help. Like all emotions, guilt is simply a signpost. It gives us insight into where we are and how to avoid “hazards” up ahead.

1. Ask, is my guilt speaking truth?

Are you not present enough? Do you need to spend more time with the kids or your partner and less time on work? These are great questions to ask and answer but when you do and still find the guilt bug gnawing at your insides move to step 2.

2. Ask, what is my Minimum Engagement Threshold (MET)

Your MET is the minimum amount of time you can spend or the minimum number of activities you can do with your loved ones that will allow you to go to bed guilt free.

3. Set ‘em and stick to ‘em. Set very specific time periods and very clear activities that you will engage with your loved ones. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to do them and feel good about it later.

Your Assignment:

Set one Minimum Engagement Threshold today for one important relationship.

  • Is it at least one hug and a kiss when you or your partner comes home from work?
  • Is it at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted conversation time (no phones or games)?
  • Is it at least 10 minutes playing a game with the kids?   

A few tips:

Write your MET’s down and put them somewhere you can see them at the beginning of the day.

Go easy on yourself. If spending 20 minutes with your kids each evening feels easy peasy, consider initially setting your MET at 15 minutes. This way you feel good about yourself right out of the gate.

Set specific time periods, not just specific events. Not doing “enough” of something with those we love can still bring up guilt. Setting time frames will help sidestep this potential pitfall. For instance, saying, “I’ll color with my child today” is not as powerful as saying, “I’ll color for 10 minutes with my child today.”

Bonus points: Tell your loved one what you plan to do with them each day to add some accountability to the situation.

Here’s the thing…

Life is busy. Work is busy. Family is busy. Taking time out to set and meet your MET could mean the difference between a good night sleep and a guilt night of no sleep.

Whether it be a child, a pet, a parent, or a partner, setting and sticking to thresholds is like putting on guilt bug repellent; it can help you avoid being bitten by the sensation guilt often brings.

MET’s also keep ya honest for those days…weeks…months when you really are less likely to be engaged because of work, fatigue, or any number of “that’s life” sorta reasons.

So, set your  Minimum Engagement Threshold and then reply to let me know what they are or how they’ve impacted your guilt sensation!

Ya know I love hearing from ya,


Are you struggling to engage yourself or those you love as the parent, partner, or person you know you can be? Let’s talk! I’d love to help. Sign-up for a free call here.



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Hi, I'm Lynyetta

I'm a psychologist and family empowerment coach for self-aware women and their families.