What’s worse than PMS? FMGS (False Mother Guilt Sydrome)

Posted on Oct 1, 2015

Today I was working with a really awesome woman, let’s call her Ann.

Ann is a mom of 3 kids under 6 years old (and a puppy to add to the chaos). She is a loving wife. She supports her husband’s career growth, even though it often takes him away from home.

Ann chose to put her career on hold to be a full-time stay-at-home mom. Before she had kids she worked as a project manager for a large consulting firm. And she was great at it.

Now, she uses her management skills as the Chief Operations Officer her family. She takes her work in all of her roles very seriously. In fact, that’s reason she is in my office. She came to me for support and coaching because she has been feeling more and more overwhelmed.

This session we were reviewing her childcare situation to make sure it fits all her needs. She seemed embarrassed to tell me that she had enough childcare and often comes home early because she feels guilty being away from the kids for so long.

I asked her why she felt guilty, she said “I don’t know. Don’t all mothers have guilt?”

When I told her that she seemed to be suffering from False Mommy Guilt Syndrome, she looked at me like I had 3 heads.

Let me clarify:

Yes, everyone feels guilt.

Guilt is a warning light telling us that we need to change our behavior.

True guilt is when you feel remorseful for something you’ve done.

False guilt is when you have a bad feeling that you have done something wrong even when you haven’t. Moms are particularly vulnerable to false guilt.


My client had all the tell-tale symptoms of False Mommy Guilt Syndrome:

  1. She didn’t know why she felt guilty.
  2. Her guilt was a nagging feeling that never when away completely.
  3. It made her feel like she wasn’t ever quite good enough.


Let me be clear: It’s not that pain of her guilt is false.

Pain is real, but it is unnecessary and self-inflicted.


Ladies, this needs to stop now.


False Mommy Guilt is a silent epidemic that poisons our lives.

Here’s how the epidemic spreads:

Society sends the message a mother is nurturing, devoted, self-sacrificing, putting their children’s needs above their own at all times.  She never loses her cool. She makes everything look easy and looks good doing it.


The message is pervasive. Even if you don’t identify with it, it is always there.


Moms buy into the messages because most mothers are terrified of screwing up their kids. So we internalize these ridiculously high expectations because it gives us the illusion of control: if we meet these standards, the kids will become happy adults.


Moms unintentionally perpetuate the idea that for moms, “guilty” is a normal state of being. The more we talk about how guilty we feel, the more it seems like we SHOULD feel guilty all the time.

Next time you’re feeling guilty, look more closely. Is it true or false?

Did you actually do something hurtful or harmful? Or do you just have a free-floating sense that you should feel guilty because you haven’t been sufficiently self-sacrificing today?