Finding Balance: Dealing With Guilt

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This is the third in a series about how to find the balance between work, family and your own health and fitness goals. Click here to read the first blog entry in this series.

I was talking to a co-worker the other day about the subject of guilt. She was saying how she feels guilty about little things all the time--like using a paper towel (which gets thrown away) instead of a dish towel. My response was "Just wait until you have kids! Then the real guilt begins!"

When it comes to my family, I frequently feel guilty. I want to be the best mom I can possibly be--a good example for my kids, there whenever they need me, always patient in my responses to them. But that's just not reality because no one is perfect. There are days when my temper is a little shorter than it should be, or days when I only had time to read my daughter a few books instead of the huge stack she was asking for. So when I have these kinds of feelings on a regular basis, how can I possibly add to that by trying to make time for myself? How can I ask my husband--who works long hours and is tired at the end of the day--to watch the kids while I go for a run or spend some quiet time alone?

My husband is the first person to say, "Please take some time to do something for you." But there are so many times when I find it hard to take his advice. I think a lot of women feel this way. We see images in the media of the woman who can do it all--take care of their family, work a full-time job, put a gourmet dinner on the table every night, and do it all with a smile. Most days, I'm lucky I can get out the door without spit up on my shirt. I think it's so easy to get caught up in the ideals of how we "should" be, that many times, taking time for ourselves doesn't even factor into the equation.

I know the guilt is something I just need to get over. When my nerves are fried at the end of a hard day, going for a run helps clear my head, helps me feel better and makes me more patient and relaxed. And in the end, that makes me a better wife, mom, friend, etc. Everyone needs to take some "me" time, whether you've got an hour or just a few minutes to spare. Both your mental and physical health with thank you for it.

Do you feel guilty taking time for things like exercise? How do you deal with those feelings?

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When I feel guilt I have to look at my inner self and figure what is wrong with myself that I need to work on. Report
Great article Report
RYCGIRL 10/17/2019
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Great article Report
Without effectively taking care of ourselves, we can't do anything to help others. Report
Without effectively taking care of ourselves, we cannot help anyone else. Report
I've just sut a rted the 30-day Small Changes Challenges. I have told a friends of my goal to start a Rekulan exercise rotuinen and to cut out unhealthy snacks and Food from my duetoi, progressively, not all at once. I'm starting by eliminating soda and commiting to stretch every day and do some weight training every other day. Excited ABOUT the challenges. Report
Guilt? Catholic mother Jewish father. Nuff said! Report
My husband has a terrible schedule. He had Tuesdays & Wednesdays off. So he works all weekend. I work Mon-Fri, 9-5. He's the head chef at a restaurant, so his days are very long. For a while, I was not going to the gym or working out on his days off. However, I joined a virtual race, and now I do work out on his nights off. There's no way around it. I told him that I feel really bad because I'll be coming home later than normal, and not spending as much time with him as I would like to. He told me not to worry about it, because he knows that exercise has become very important to me, and that I really want to run this virtual 5K. He really is wonderful. Report
Guilt is a way of life for me. I have a difficult time making decisions. I grew up in an alcoholic family where guilt is prevelant. Is it my fault my father drank? Is is something I did? If I try and be perfect can I make him stop? Spark People has helped me grow and change. I know if I continue to find balance in my life and maintain my Spark Healthy Habits I will be able to kick this guilt. It is a huge weight on my shoulders and it would be great to rid myself of it once and for all. Report
Feel guilty, YES! But I have been better about doing things for myself than I used to be. I got myself to the point that I felt empty and lost the will to live and it was mostly because I tried to be everything to those around me and was broken hearted that they didn't all do the same for me. The more I gave, the more they took. (think children here.....) So I have made a big change in my life and make my kids be more accountable for themself. Mind you, my kids are really good kids!!

I went for a run the other evening when my husband needed my help with some work and there was no sign of dinner being made. I went off and did what I needed to do. I felt guilty as I was leaving, but once I started running, it all went away!! (and amazingly enough they survived without me!!) Report
I never feel guilty for taking time for myself. I may have in the past, but I have spent so much of my life helping or doing things for others. I used to be a doormat, essentially. It took a long time (and a therapist) for me to realize that if I am not there for myself, how can I be there for anyone else? It's like the airplane oxygen masks--help yourself before helping others. I deserve time to get my things done. Sure, I still help others plenty, probably more than I ought to--it's just part of who I am--but I now know when to take a step back and make sure I am getting my things taken care of and not overstressing on someone esle's behalf. Report
You are so right! We let ourselves feel guilty for looking after ourselves like it's something we shouldn't do. Of course, how can kids learn that they should care for themselves if the parents do make time to show they think they're worthy of respect? Report
No, about feeling quilty. Taking time for myself is necessary for good health and to reduce stress. My healthcare provides monthly wellness seminars and challenges that constantly remind me to stay balanced and gives suggestions for improving overall health. Report
Yes I do wrestle with the guilt but I know I need this me time for all the reasons you listed in your blog.
I often feel guilty, but my husband encourages me. On bad days I find my self skipping some of my work-out and then trying to make up for it another day. The guilt seldom keeps me from the gym entirley because I know I'm a better person now that I've lost weight and am healthier. Report
I am a stay at home mom of 3 little girls, and I still feel guilty. Until I read a book called "Good-enough Mother" By Rene Syler. I still have feelings of guilt, but I now know that it is okay and very important that I have time for myself. Report
I think many of us women have set our standards too high. We feel like we have to live in a Martha Stewart home, grow our own veggies, have straight-A kids, be president of the PTA, have dinner company every-other night, and hold down a full-time job. We Christian ladies live under the shadow of the "Proverbs 31" woman (I never knew how heavy a shadow could be!). But somebody said to me the other day, "Sure the Proverbs 31 woman does all that, but she doesn't do it all in one day!" Whew!! And the Proverbs 31 woman didn't even have a dishwasher!

So, let's lower our standards a little bit, Sisters. If our friends really cared what our kitchen floor looks like, they aren't friends of our *hearts* y'know?

(Ahem, & lets face it... we would have so much more time to plant the Back 40 if we spent a little less time chatting it up on message boards & facebook... Oh, what's that sound?? I think I hear the pot calling the kettle black! LOL) Report
My sons are now away from home but when they were small, I was raising them on my own. My parents would have them for the summer and I would take one weekend as my own. It was exciting and yet guilt ridden for me. I would always justify it as needing that time for me to rejeuvinate. Report
I, too, felt guilty for a while. It was very hard to break the routines and make the committments. Making the committment to me was my first step! Now that it has been a year and a half- it is routine, just like not exercising used to be. The kids know that I will be running, going to the gym, whatever it takes, and they look for it. If I don't, like many mention, I am not at the top of my game for them! Report
Feel guilty - that's my middle name. If I don't feel guilty about not being home with the kids and taking care of the house, I feel guilty about not having a job. If I scold or get cranky with kids and hubby, I feel guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty - I didn't think I would have so many guilt feelings as a wife and mother or even as a grown up - but I am learning to let it go. I do find that running does alleviate my guilty feeling - it seems to blow those feelings right out and refreshes me and helps me deal with all the daily things I need to. Sometimes I yell at my kids when I shouldn't, but I've learned that I'm human and if I don't exercise to relieve the stress in my life, I tend to yell more or get frustrated with life - so exercise is not a guilt trigger, but a guilt releaser! I looved reading the comments, and to know I am not alone in this guilt monster! Report
Absolutely not! On the contrary, I feel guilty when I do not fit in some fitness time. Report
Yes. Guilt kills me. So, I workout when I am away from my family anyway. I'm in the gym at 5:00 a.m. and sometimes during lunch. Report
Guilt is my middle name. If there is anything I can feel guilty about I usually do. I resent how this makes me feel and so I am working on it. Not too easy when you have raised a family to be so dependent on what they are used to me doing for them. I know exercise makes me fee better, so I am strugling to make it a priority w/out taking anything away from them. Report
I have never felt guilty for taking time to exercise. Taking time to do other things like sit and read a book or magazine for pleasure, yes but never for exercising. Report
Never!!! Report
I think it really depends what you want and how bad you want it-I don't mean this in a judgemental way, just is what it is. For me, it means getting up at 5 30 to run so I can be back before hubby has to go to work. It also means working 4-8pm so I can stay home with my kids during the day and doing the bulk of my triathlon training after work. Sacrifices are required on everyones part, but I'd do it for them. It's all part of being a family. Report
I think it is the plight of women to feel guilty. Even when we know that exercising will help us be better mothers (grandmothers), wives, and employees we feel guilty when we are not meeting everyones needs at all times. I have learned in my 30 years of being a mother and now a grandmother, that if I don't take care of me, needs won't get met at all. My husband is very supportive and I love him for that. We as women must find that ability to take care of ourselves as well as we take care of others. Report
When my kids were still living at home, I thought this through & realized that if I was healthy & getting my basic needs met, I was going to be a better mom. As a result, nagging guilt wasn't much of an issue for me.

However, some guilt is REAL (for example, I neglect some essential task & my child suffers as a result), & then one step in dealing with it is simply to tell my child that I'm sorry & ask forgiveness. This ends up being a wonderful learning experience for the child & deepens parent-child intimacy. Report
I don't feel guilty about exercise, I've unfortunately just stopped doing it altogether since my son was born. I wish I could find time to do it, but I just haven't managed it. But I certainly feel guilty about all the other things I don't do... Report
I don't feel guilty about taking time for myself to exercise or get away from the house (I'm a SAHM and home daycare provider). It keeps me sane!!

I do feel guilty when I'm not the perfect, ideal mom. Like losing my temper or getting impatient over normal childish behavior. Working with kids all day, it can really try your patience! But, overall, I think I must do OK. My kids seem happy and tell me they love me all the time, and the daycare kids are always happy to be here. Report
When taking those few minutes, focus, just as you would with every bite of a piece of dark chocolate so that you feel like you have really enjoyed it. Report
No guilt for me. It's not a helpful emotion in general, from my perspective. And certainly no guilt about exercising. I don't have children, yet I think it would be best to model taking time for oneself, especially around staying healthy.

Loved the comment by Superfit5, mentioning that no men have chimed in. Something to think about for sure.... Report
I did feel guilty about taking time for myself to exercise then when I started to do it I realized that it made me a happy person, have more energy which in returned helped my kids and husband. Report
I walk every afternoonwith my toddler in the stroller after dropping my older son at preschool. Usually I max at about walking for 2 hours or so. With that, I did my cardio part. My strengthening exercises I do when they're napping if they're napping, or I wait till Daddy comes home. But I do have what I call Mommy Time... So i'd go up, soak in my bathtub and close the bathroom door AND the bedroom door and just ignore that's going on downstairs :P I think it's easy to feel guilty about so many things, and we already do. As long as you're not neglecting your kids, I think a few hours here and there won't hurt :) Report
The only way I've reduced guilt is by changing my expectations. I made creating a balanced, sustainable lifestyle for my family a priority rather than buying into a magazine version of "success". Report
When my kids were young, I didn't take time to exercise. I didn't take very much "me" time, either. As a result, I was martyr-ish, cranky, tired, and no fun to be around. Two years ago, when I started on this weight-loss journey, I began working out five days a week, and my kids (now 12-yo twins, 14-yo daughter, and almost-18-yo daughter) had to learn to make their own meals sometimes, and had to help out with more chores. They had to get used to me being at the gym two nights a week, and out for a walk 3-5 days a week. The guilt was the worst for me when I'd have parent/teacher conferences, doctor appointments, and work commitments that'd keep me from getting home until late at night, and then still take the time to go work out. But now the kids are old enough to understand that the payoff (a happier, more energetic, cheerful mom) is better than the alternative. So I still feel guilty sometimes (when my schedule is hectic), but I think it's more about the extracurricular commitments, rather than the exercise time away from the family. Report
I am disabled and unable to work. My daughter is in the same boat. On top of that my elderly mother lives with us. My wife goes out to wotrk full time and therefore is the breadwinner of the family. I explain this because whenever she does have her free time off work she ends up having to run around either after us or for us as well as every Thursday take her father to the hospital for his physiotherapy. Tell me that under these circumstances you canot but help feeling guilty and try to make it so that she has a little free time just to relax. I also feel a little guilty if I am dong something and am not there all the time for my mother. I am able to do a lot of things in the house such as basic housework, cooking etc. and spend a lot of my time on these. However, Mum will often just say to me to go and sit with her for five minutes. I do try but it isn't always possible and it is at these times it does make you feel a little guilty. I do try and make time to pursue my gardening hobby when my condition allows, but yet again it is leaving Mum on her own. I do insist that Mary goes with my daughter for a two week holiday to see her friends and Mum and I stay behind. The onkly problem with that is that although she comes back with a smile on her face and totally refcharged, it isn't long before it all starts over and we are back to normal. There is unfortunately nothing I can do about this but I do wish sometimes that it were possible for Mary to just chill out and do something for herself for a change and that time and doctors appointments etc. woould allow. Report
I feel guilty all of the time. As a single mother I experience all of the feeling mention and then some. And although I am trying to work on not feeling this way I find it difficult, especially when dealing with the many issues associated with being a single mom (child, child support, visitation, noncooperation,money issues, etc). I try to take the time out at lunch to exercise which helps but I know it is an ongoing process in trying not to feel guilty about the life issues that occur on a daily basis. With God's help I know I will succeed in overcoming this issue in time. Report
No one should feel guility about exercise time. This time is needed. If you feel guility then why not try to incorporate it into your day. If you sit at work get up and walk and try to do something every few hours to get in some exercise. If you have housework to do this could count as some of your exercise time, etc...there are more ways than one to get your exercise in without having to take the time and set it aside each day. Report
Taking a little time or even 2 hours to go be alone, regroup and exercise will allow us to be the best we can be with those we love. When we have no time to work on ourselves or to better our selves we begin to resent those very things and people we want to be our best for. Even Jesus took a few minutes to be alone. We really can make time to keep ourselves maintained. Think of it like Report
I am keeping a journal - posting daily how important it is to do for me in addition to doing for others. I, like so many others, have a tendency to focus on the needs of others and putting me last. When I put me first, we all win!

Great timing on this blog post. Sunny

When my daughter was young, I felt so guilty when I had to be away from her. I loved our time togather whether we were reading books, I had picked her up and put her on the wood coffee table to dance with me, cooking togather or outside burning off energy. For me the root of my guilt was that my daughter's upbringing was my responsibility. When she was young, I didn't have cable, couldn't afford a VCR, was opposed to video games of any sort. We spent time togather. As she got older and she was less interested in Mom time, it became easier to take time for myself. It was my time to set my world in order. When teenage rebellion came, exercise was my coping technique. Without it, I would have had a nervous break down (NOT an exaggeration.) Whether it is running, or reading, cooking or coiffing, find something just for you every day. Maybe it is 15 minutes at the beginning or end of a day, maybe you get more. Whatever it is, make that time just for you. Report
I have found that if I limit my time online (I do not surf the web unless I HAVE to i.e. check email, get updated on Weight Watchers and get updated on SparkPeople) and my husband and I found if we disconnected the cable we have more time to spend with our kids. We also discovered that we have time to read. I have noticed that without the influence of TV in our life we are more positive, uplifting people. (Which I have noticed has affected our children in a positive way.) I don't care what is going on in the news or on the hottest shows. If something is really important someone will let me know.
I have time to spend with the people that really mean the world to me, read and workout (I use other excuses to get out of working out, like the 3 year old needs me to read her the 10th book this morning).
The question that helps me is "What are my highest priorities?"
For me that is my God, my family, my business and my health.
I have to say that I don’t feel guilty and I think it is because I live by my priorities. Report
Yes! i feel guilty ALL the time. I am a divorced, single mother of2 toddlers who works full time and goes to school full time. i dont have a lot of support with the kids so i have to try and fit everything in with only a few hours if i do get a babysitter now and again. Taking time to excersise, reading a book, a nap, even jsut a shower alone makes me feel guilty. i do feel refreshed when i finally take the time, but its very hard for me to do so. i hate that they are in daycare all week while i am in school and work, i cant stand the thought of finding another sitter or even leaving them in the daycare at the gym just so i can workout or run to the grocery store by myself. not to mention most the classes at the gym are during the day when i am at work or in class, not in the evening when i could actually attend. Report
If you have time to surf the internet, watch tv, you have more than enough time to exercise without guilt - those things are NOT 'spending time with family.'

I HATE this attitude - "oh, I feel so guilty when I'm not at home spending time with my family!" What they really mean is, "I don't feel like doing anything, it's easier to pretend I'm spending time with my family while staring into a screen." Report
When I really got serious about fitness/weight loss, I decided to exercise early in the morning so I would not have to feel guilty about giving anything else up to fit regular exercise into my life. After all, what else am I doing at 4:00 am besides maybe sleeping? While this works for me it may not be for everyone. I also use early a.m. to research food/nutrition and to spark! Report
I do not have kids, but I often times feel guilty when I need to find time to exercise and I am with my friends or family. I am finding now that sometimes I need this and this is my life now. My family and friends will just have to understand when I need a moment to myself. Report
I always feel guilty but for different reasons. I'm a stay at home mom whose had a child by my side for 11 yrs. This was the first year all my kids were in school so I'm actually alone for a couple hours 4 days a week. My life was always taking care of the kids or cleaning the house. I started to get overwhelmed because everything fell on me. I had to do everything and be everyone all the time. This year I really let things go. I started doing things for me. Only problem with that is if I read a book or go to the store or play a game on the computer I let the housework go and it leaves more for me to do later. I don't have a lot of support so when I do get motivated to exercise I end up cleaning instead. I still haven't figured out how to balance everything in my life but I'm hoping the more I open up to people the more support I'll get in return. I've noticed I'm not alone in my feelings. There's alot of people on SP who feel the way I do and the more I realize that the more I'll be able to talk to them and maybe together we can find a way to change things for the better. Report
I feel guilty too all the time! Yesterday after work, it was run to the food store, pick up stuff at the school, and then since the weather was so nice, do I go for a run (for me) or do I play outside with the kids? I so needed the alone time, since my little guy is getting needier and needier. So I went for the run (while paying the babysitter) and it felt good. then it was baths, and bed... no time for the other things I feel guilty about - like not reading to my kids nightly. I am just too spent at the end of the day anymore... and between cleaning and cooking and working... (plus exercise for me) I just don't have the time. I really feel guilty about it! Report