It's a familiar feeling moms everywhere have likely encountered at some point -- the dreaded "mom guilt."
For Helen Wu Wang, mom to a 14-month-old and one-third of the trio behind the AsianBossGirl podcast, mom guilt seemed to set in the moment her son was born.
"Mom guilt is something that I feel like I've felt for a while now," the 35-year-old told "Good Morning America."
"I think ever since the birth of my child when I didn't know how to hold him correctly, to now even to today … at the point where he's now 14 to 15 months, he has heightened separation anxiety -- so anytime I go downstairs now to get coffee or to get lunch, it's just very difficult on him," Wang said.
At first, Wang didn't realize what she was experiencing was mom guilt, but when other moms and podcast listeners started writing to her and asking her to talk about the topic, she started making the connection and tuning into her feelings.
"I think initially, I didn't really understand what that feeling was, why this feeling of shame or guilt or not being enough was always looming over my head," Wang recalled. "It wasn't until I realized that it's something called mom guilt that I could identify it and say, 'OK, this is something that I can manage.' If I were to reframe my mindset, I can think about it in different ways and not feel so negative in these situations where I just feel so guilty being a mom."
Since welcoming her son with husband Philip Wang, one of the co-founders of Wong Fu Productions, Wang made a conscious decision not to abandon her career and to split her focus to include her work as the co-owner of a media company, podcast host and author.
"I do just want to, like, be with him all the time, but I know that for my sanity, it's not the best for me to always just be around him and to build on myself and do things for myself outside of just being a mom," Wang said.
At the same time, Wang has found a way to marry her goals of bringing more Asian American voices to media and highlighting stories and topics she feels more people should be discussing.
"A lot of times, I think mom guilt does arise from feeling alone, feeling like you are just in the darkness of your own room and ruminating in your own mind and not sharing it, whether it's with your partner or with friends, or even if you do share it, they don't really fully understand what you're going through," Wang said. "This is a topic that needs to be talked about more so that we can normalize these feelings so that people can actually manage it and not feel so alone in their own minds thinking about this stuff."
Below are Wang's top tips for reframing mom guilt.
Pay attention to negative self-talk
"If you were to challenge those thoughts, you will often find that they are irrational," Wang said.
"Something that I actually did was I would pull up my notes app on my phone and I would write out exactly how I was feeling, kind of like journaling in the moment and then every time I look back on it, I would say OK, this is a consistent pattern and maybe I see it a certain way, but maybe my son doesn't see it that way. This isn't happening every day."
Set clear boundaries
To tame mom guilt, Wang has also implemented boundaries at work so she can focus her time in a clear way and not feel bad about focusing on her personal life or professional life.
"That is something that has helped me out a lot, because right now, I do have a nanny who's helping us out and she's here until 3 p.m. So any of my meetings that I have [must] be before 3 p.m., and when I make it known to my co-workers and everyone on our team, then they know not to reach out to me or bother me [and] make sure that that's my time away," Wang said.
Find a supportive network
Another key to rethinking mom guilt, according to Wang, is surrounding yourself with supportive people and even extending that to the social media world.
"I started to unfollow people who were only showing just like the highlight reel of what it's like to be an overly positive mom, because I don't think that's realistic," Wang said. "It was making me feel really guilty. So I've unfollowed all of those people. All the moms that I follow now show the real aspects of mom life."
"We want to be able to do it all but the reality of it is that you can't," Wang said. "You're literally juggling way too many balls. Some of them have to drop. So you have to think to yourself, which ones are you going to allow to drop so that it can bounce back up?"
"I remind myself that it's not possible to do all of them that I have to ask for help. And I have to be OK asking for help," she added.
Editor's note: This was originally published on Mar. 16, 2023.