Overcoming “Mom Guilt” as a Woman with Crohn’s Disease

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If you’re a mom — even a mom without serious health issues — you’ve probably experienced the feeling of “mom guilt” before.

As the name implies, “mom guilt” is a term used to describe the guilt many caregivers feel when they don’t meet their expectations as a parent, according to Cleveland Clinic.

When you’re a parent and have a chronic illness, there’s an extra layer of complexity to this emotion. For example, there’s a popular saying: “There’s no sick days for mamas.” But, as someone with Crohn’s disease and a mother of three children — ages 2, 4, and 6 — there are certainly days when I am sick, which can cut into my family time.

Still, I don’t let those feelings of guilt consume me. Here’s how I overcome mom guilt while managing my chronic illness.

Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself

One of the most challenging aspects of living with Crohn’s disease is the unpredictability of the condition. There’s no telling how you’re going to feel each day. As a parent, this can be especially stressful, because your family depends on you to take care of their needs, no matter how you feel. All too often, we push ourselves and put our own needs last.

Luckily, I’ve been in remission the whole time I’ve been a mom — my first was born in 2017 — but that doesn’t mean I don’t experience pain, fatigue, urgency, and a laundry list of unpleasant symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Through the years I’ve learned that having a low-key day with my kids and not pushing myself to the extreme is a win-win for everyone involved.

If I’m feeling fatigued and it’s a beautiful day, I often feel guilty about not capitalizing on the weather and taking my little ones on an adventure, but I also know to listen to my body. Sometimes, that means having a movie day and snuggling on the couch, and that’s okay.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others on Social Media

Social media can be a huge point of connection for people with chronic illness, by allowing us to feel seen with our sometimes challenging realities. But, it can also highlight how we may not be measuring up to other parents, who are taking their kids on trips and seem to be doing all the things, all the time, with their families.

While it may appear other families are thriving 100 percent of the time and never bored (or even at home), remember that social media is everyone’s highlight reel. We all do it. We’re not showing the moments that upset us, such as the tantrums being thrown to get out the door or the kids fighting in the car or the snack being mushed into the floor of the van. We’re posting pictures and videos of our kids smiling and loving life with one another.

Be mindful of this, and know that just being present for your child makes them feel loved, whether that’s at home or on an action-packed day out and about.

Prioritize Self-Care and Be Intentional About It

Self-care often feels like a buzzword that can feel impossible when you’re drowning in mom duties 24/7. Recognize that taking care of your own health is crucial for both you and your family. Just as your child’s well-being is always top of mind, make sure you take time for yourself.

This can be something as simple as going for a walk, following a skin-care routine, taking a bath, reading a book, or waking up a little early to enjoy a cup of coffee in peace and quiet. Try to set aside at least 20 to 30 minutes a day for yourself to do something that brings you joy.

Accept Support and Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to lean on your support system. I struggle with asking for help myself, but when I receive it, it makes a big difference in my ability to juggle Crohn’s disease and motherhood. Rely on family, friends, and trusted caregivers to assist with childcare when needed. Remember that reaching out for support is not a sign of weakness but an act of self-care.

One of the best parts of social media is connecting with other parents who live with a chronic illness and understand how challenging it is. We’re all in this together, and it’s empowering to talk with others, encourage one another, and share what’s worked on the difficult days. Some of my favorite online groups are IBD Moms, Mamas Facing Forward, and IBD Social Circle.

Have Honest Conversations With Your Children

Try to be open with your kids about your limitations, even when you aren’t feeling your best or are trying to smile through it. I tell them Mommy’s tummy hurts or let them know when I need to lie down.

Being open with my kids has instilled empathy and compassion in them, starting from a young age. I often don’t even need to tell them when I’m unwell; they can recognize it from the look on my face or when I grasp my abdomen or when I need to run to the bathroom countless times.

It does not make you a weak parent to admit you’re struggling. If anything, this teaches your kids that it’s okay to not be okay. Reassure your children that how you’re feeling doesn’t diminish your love for them. It just highlights the importance of taking care of yourself, which is a valuable lesson to teach them.

Treasure What You Have

Being a parent takes a lot, regardless of whether you have health problems. For someone with inflammatory bowel disease, it’s about finding balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of your children. It’s about making sure you’re managing your disease to the best of your ability, so you can be present and at home as much as possible.

There’s no telling when that next hospital stay will be, so soak up the feel-good days and the beautiful moments with your children. Just as you’ll blink and years will have passed on your health journey, so will the time you have with your children.

Give yourself grace and remember that you are giving it your all, despite the uphill battle you’re facing with a challenging health condition. Look at pregnancy and parenthood and all that you’re capable of, despite your disease, and allow that to give you a renewed sense of love and appreciation for your body.

Rather than dwelling on what you feel guilty about, focus on the positive aspects of your parenting. And, most of all, be kind to yourself, and remind yourself that it’s okay to prioritize your health.



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