A Therapist’s Response to Moms Feeling Guilty this Holiday Season

Not sure who needs to hear this, but if you did not send out holiday cards with pictures of your kids, fully decorate your home, or send goodies to the teachers this year, you are not a failure of a mom! 

As a therapist, my heart goes out to my clients who are moms—not only are you trying to figure out how to navigate 2020 and this pandemic for yourself but also for your children. Throw in the upcoming holidays and you have the perfect recipe for stress, guilt, and ultimately feeling bad for somehow not being “good enough.” Ditch that recipe for stress and guilt by shifting your focus toward acceptance and self-compassion, because the only recipe you want on your mind right now is for your favorite holiday treats. 

Accept that the Holidays (and life) will be Different

As much as we like to feel we are in control, the holidays happening during a pandemic is beyond our control. Life is different; the holidays will be different—and that’s okay. DBT therapy provides the idea of radical acceptance of what is outside of our control because we actually suffer less when we stop fighting against reality. 

Does your guilt connect with the thought that you should be doing everything as you normally would this holiday season? It might be helpful to shift your thinking toward radical acceptance of the fact that life is not the same right now; therefore, what you are doing might not be the same. 

Acceptance isn’t about liking how things are, but choosing not to struggle against what is, because that hurts more. 

Stop “Shoulding” all over Yourself

I should have all the gifts ready for the kids. I should have baked homemade cookies for everyone. Sound familiar?  Why are you “shoulding” all over yourself? Sometimes we have an unhelpful amount of shoulds, making us feel constantly inadequate. 

Gently remind yourself that there aren’t that many shoulds and rules in life as our minds sometimes tell us. Are you feeding, taking care of, and nurturing your kids? Then I’d venture to guess that you really are doing what you should be doing! 

When those other pesky “shoulds” pop up in your life, shift your focus to all that you are doing instead. Helping your child attend school in-person or virtually—check. Being there for your child with all the feelings the pandemic brings—check. 

Instead of berating yourself with shoulds for the holidays, perhaps scale down and choose one activity to do and enjoy with your kids this year (instead of 15), making the absolute most of the single activity by being fully present.

Give Yourself a Little Credit, for Goodness Sakes

Be gentle, kind, and compassionate to yourself. Remember that you are a human and you are doing the best that you can. Life is tough and parenting during a pandemic is extremely challenging. Yet, here you are, making it happen!

When the guilt and negative self-talk come up in your mind, just notice those thoughts. They show us how important being a good mom is to you. However, the negative feelings and thoughts might not be all that helpful for you. Let them be and shift your focus to a more helpful thought like “I’m navigating this pandemic holiday with flexibility” or “I do not have to be ‘perfect’ to be a great mom.” Whatever thought makes sense to you and helps you.

May acceptance and self-compassion lead the way out of guilt and negative thinking so that you can be kinder to yourself this holiday season. Things aren’t the same AND we can look for those moments of joy and magic, this season and always. 


Courtney Jewett, LPC is a native San Antonian and the owner and therapist of center yourself therapy, specializing in therapy for women in their 20s and 30s for anxiety, self-esteem, and quarter life crisis. Courtney believes in empowering women to show up fully present in their life. During the pandemic, Courtney provides online therapy throughout Texas. In her free time, she loves tap dancing at Third Coast Rhythm Project (currently through virtual classes), reading poetry, and spending time with loved ones. Favorite Restaurant: Mi Tierra Favorite Landmark: The Riverwalk (with holiday lights) Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Fiesta

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