I’m A Daddy With Mummy Guilt

I’ve seen quite a few posts by mum bloggers talking about the phenomena known as ‘mummy guilt’. In a nutshell, this is the negative thoughts that many mums feel and experience because of what they do – or what they don’t do – for their little ones.

Reading through these posts though, it strikes me how ‘mummy guilt’ is not just experienced by mums. As a stay-at-home dad who’s the main childrearer in our household, I can relate to the majority of the guilt that’s talked about.

Unfortunately though, lazy naming conventions based on outdated stereotypes, suggest that ‘mummy guilt’ is only something that the female of the species go through. I’ve always ascertained that mums and dads are more similar than some people would like to admit. But, for whatever reason, it can feel like there’s an agenda to divide the sexes rather than unite them.

I’m pretty certain that what I do on a daily basis with Toddler L is the same as what a stay-at-home mum does with her kid. As such, I experience the same highs and the same lows that my XX chromosome owning counterparts do.

Mums shouldn’t have to feel like they’re the only ones who struggle with guilt, feelings of inadequacy or any of the other crap that results from having a kid. I can assure you that dads do too. We’re all parents after all, so surely ‘parenting guilt’ is a more reflective and appropriate title?

Do the things that we feel guilty about make us bad people and parents? Not at all. I think they just make us normal. We’re not superheroes who can juggle everything, keep everyone happy and never falter. I know deep down that I’m a good – actually, scrub that, a great – dad despite the occasional feelings that I’m not doing enough.

Mummy guilt dad and toddler playing in the snow

My ‘Mummy Guilt’ Examples

So, in no particular order, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve done – or not done – which have made me suffer a bout of ‘mummy guilt’ at one point or another:

1) The numerous occasions when I’ve put Toddler L down for her nap early because I’d had enough, my patience had worn thin and I just needed some time away from her.

2) The large amount of time we spend in the house rather than being out exploring the world. Am I stifling her development by keeping her confined?

3) The fact that the number of hours we have kid’s TV on per day has slowly increased as she’s got older because it keeps her quiet and entertained.

4) The time I got really annoyed, swore repeatedly and called her a few unpleasant things because she kept indicating that she wanted some food, but broke down in an explosion of tears every time I offered her something.

5) The fact that she don’t really socialise with many other kids – even though I guess I’m a big kid – apart from at a couple of different classes each week. Should she be with other children more frequently?

Fair to say that someone is enjoying a lie down and a cuddle after a busy day at toddler classes.

A photo posted by The DADventurer (Dave) (@the_dadventurer) on

6) The amount of time I spend on my phone / laptop as I attempt to juggle both looking after the sprog whilst earning some money. Do I ignore her too much? Do I play with her enough? Am I as attentive as I should be?

7) The fact that I usually wait for her to have a morning nap before I eat my breakfast so that I don’t have to share.

8) That I often clock-watch and am guilty of counting down the hours before she goes to bed, has a nap or the missus comes home.

What do you reckon? Do any of these sound familiar? Is there anything you feel ‘parenting’ guilt about when it comes to your kids? Let me know below!

  • Yep, think I mentally ticked off most of those to a degree x x

    • Well that’s good, but also not good, but you get what I mean! 🙂

  • Hayley McLean

    Yes I definitely share a lot of those! And good point about the labelling! I think it probably is less about gender and more about the kind of person you are – my partner is at home with our kids all day but he insists he doesn’t have any of the guilt feelings I get, because he seems to be able to look at things from what he calls “A logical perspective rather than an emotional one” – It would be easy to assume that’s because we’re opposite sexes but more likely it’s just that we’re different people with different emotional responses! xx

    • Yeah, I think you’re spot on. A lot of the time, we’re categorised into men and woman, when I don’t think gender has everything to do with it. For me because of what I do (raising kid at home etc), I now associate more with mums than dads (obviously generalising there). I think ultimately, we’re all people and you do what’s best for your situation.

  • Laura

    Yes! Feel guilty when I want time away, guilty when I am away and then guilty when I’m back for leaving!! Apparently this is a lifetime feeling as well!!!

    • Haha – yeah, no matter what you do there’s an element of ‘what if I did the other thing’. Don’t beat yourself up too much though 🙂

  • Donna Wishart

    I have always seen bringing up children – especially in the first year or two – as a matter of survival. You have to do whatever you need to do to get through and if everyone is still alive at bedtime you have done a good job. I don’t think there’s any reason for anyone to feel guilty about their methods of parenting and the things they do just to get through x

    • Yeah I agree Donna. What you say makes total sense, but I guess sometimes, for some people, it’s difficult to look at it as logically as that. I’m a pretty logical person myself, so these guilt thoughts only come into my head like 1% of the time, but I imagine there’s loads of people out there who beat themselves up when they really shouldn’t. As you say, you just do what you need to do to get through 🙂

  • Kizzy, Izzy & Baby

    I feel guilty about all these things! And I’m also guilty of referring to it as mummy guilt. It’s hard being a parent, it’s fantastic, but hard and it’s a minefield of doubt and guilt. But you are not alone, lots of mums and dads feel the same, we are all just trying our best. Even when we just have had enough and really need to hide in the kitchen scoffing the kid’s chocolate and not wanting to share. Not that I did that today.

    • I think ‘fantastic but hard’ sums it up well. There’s a whole lot of shit that happens that nothing can prepare you for when you become a parent. But, as you say, we’re not alone and the majority of the people are going through similar things, whether you’re a mum, dad, working parent, SAHP etc etc. Haha, oh I’ve done that plenty of times too 🙂

  • Collette @ family life and me

    Such a good post and one that many (both mum and dad) can relate to. I feel guilty everyday about all of the above points. We do have to remember we are doing an awsome job though despite it all although we dont always think it x

    • Thanks Collette 🙂 Yeah exactly, ultimately we’re doing what we can and we’re doing our best (regardless of gender or situation). I think it’s natural to feel guilt when making decisions which impact a small being, but on the whole, people seem to be too hard on themselves when they shouldn’t be 🙂

  • Endless things to feel guilty about as a parent, and a fair few of those are familiar! I do worry ‘am I good enough’ and about the impact of the fact I am a miserable git who really dislikes company and would prefer to stay in has on Boo. We get out to groups but I find them such a chore – lets hope she is more cheerful and personable than I am… haha
    I also think the fact that we worry about these things and feel guilty shows us that we are good parents and we can only do our best and noone is perfect.

    • Haha, I’m totally with you – I’d much prefer to hang out with L as a twosome rather than dealing with groups etc. Totally agree with your last point – the fact we’re aware of things like this surely mean we actively do things to combat them.

  • Ha ha I’ve felt guilty about a few things like these, and I’m not even stay at home. I think it is quite normal – my husband says similar things sometimes, about wanting to put her down early for a nap or just counting down the hours. I can understand why – it is knackering and so full-on taking care of your little ones day in day out. Even if you love them (which obviously you do) it is still hard work!

    • That’s the thing, I think any parent can feel guilty regardless of gender or being at work / home etc. Yeah exactly – nothing is done maliciously, but there are sometimes those after thoughts of guilt when you’ve done something (or not done something!).

  • haha love number 7 🙂 Your post is fab, so true that anyone can feel like this, and most of us do I reckon. So yes, let’s stop calling it a ‘mummy’ thing!

    • Thanks Steph – I’ve learnt the hard way with 7. L has recently had a cold, and watching stringy snot stuck to your spoon is pretty awful!

  • Yes to this, and I love that you write so honestly about this, I think I might feel guilty writing about what makes me feel guilty-that pressure that as a mum I shouldn’t somehow own up to the guilt. Well balls to that (excuse the pun)-men or women, we all suffer from the same emotions, it’s just you are in the position most women take being the primary caregiver because we don’t yet have equality for either sexes. Have you read Lean In? I love that book madly. Think you’ll enjoy it. Superb post my blogging homeboy. Superb.

    • Thanks Vic. Yeah, I totally get that – living up to the superparent image etc, but I feel that the more people that know the ‘truth’, the better. For me, rose tinted glasses when it comes to pregnancy, parenting etc does nothing but make other people feel shitty if they feel guilt or hate breastfeeding or dont’ instantly bond with their kid etc. Exactly – I’m feeling what anyone at home would feel, it just tends to be that it’s mums at home (although that’s changing thankfully). I haven’t read it yet – but it’s on the list! Thanks 🙂

  • john adams

    Very interesting post. There’s also another phenomena here; the guilt of the working dad. Most men aren’t SAHDs like you or I and spend huge amounts of time int he workplace. These guys feel guilty, in exactly the same way mums feel working mother guilt. As for your kid not socializing very much, after years as a SAHD, I think this is possibly, in part, down to the fact mums are reluctant to socialsie with dads for fear of becoming he subject of goossip (alas, I have heard of this happening). The kid then looses out on opportunites to make friends because dad has no “mum network” of friends. It’s a complaint I hear frequently from other SAHDs. Not, however, anything you should be feeling guilty about.

    • Yep, totally agree. I think all parents feel guilt regardless of their situation and gender, it’s just ultimately going to be on a scale. I know the missus feels guilty for being the one at work and not being able to spend as much time with L – I’d be the same if our roles were switched. Yeah that makes sense about SAHD – I’ve never really thought about it like that 🙂

  • The Mum Project

    Love this. You’re absolutely right, it should be called “parental guilt.” Actually there is quite a lot of child related phrases and activities we use just for Mums. On a somewhat related note, my partner said a woman congratulated him on the bus for taking care of the baby and getting out and about, it really made me wonder if they would have said the same thing to a woman. I mean really? He was just doing a normal thing that everyone with a baby does. I’m loving that you have taken the time to write this post and point out that we need to start changing the way we think about Dads.

    I think number 6 really resonated with me, I need to get off my phone! But at the same time, we parents need a break. : )

    • Thanks 🙂 I agree, things like mum and baby groups etc do my head in – parent and baby surely! Tell me about it – I wrote a post a while ago after a woman asked if I was babysitting my kid as I was with her during the day – seriously! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • citygirl101

    I really wish we’d stop labeling things as “mummy or daddy”, it’s so bloody divisive and helps no one. Dads and mums can and do feel guilt about any aspect of being a parent, why on earth anyone would think that mums have a monopoly on it is beyond me.
    Myself and every parent I know could have written out each of things you feel guilty about; parenting is hard and we all need a break once in awhile, not to mention the desire to eat a meal in peace! It’ nothing to feel guilty about, just part and parcel of being a parent.

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  • Hi, I relate to a few of these. I am counting down the hours right now until they’re in bed. I think it’s pretty normal. I am trying to cut down with the phone though. My son goes to daycare 1 or 2 days a week at the moment so I can earn some extra money so he gets a bit of socialising there.
    As long as they’re getting lots of love.
    It’s good to read that other dads experience this stuff.

  • Adam Runnalls

    Great post – totally relatable. Even as a working dad, i still feel those guilts, i also feel the guilt of being at work, leaving in the morning a bit earlier when i know i have a busy day, driving as fast as i can (within legal limits of course!) to get home as early as possible to take the baton from my wife. The fact i have given up all hobbies i used to have just to spend all my non-working time with her still leads me to feel guilty!

    • Yep totally understand mate – whether you’re at home, at work, or something in between, there’s always parenting guilt cropping up. Best to just focus on the fact that we’re trying our best though.