Feminism, Mommy Guilt, and my problem with #sorrynotsorry

So, we’re still in the season of Lent. It’s a season of reflection as I wrote about before, but it’s also about repentance- about calling to mind sins and patterns of selfishness, saying sorry, and amending what wrongs we can. I’ve been taking some time out to journal and reflect and pray during this season, and one of the many things I’ve realized is that I say sorry for a lot of things I shouldn’t need to and I don’t say sorry for a lot of things I ought to. That’s because I AM sorry for a lot of things I shouldn’t be, for ridiculous guilt I carry around while I am often complacent or remiss in noticing the things I should be sorry for..

Don Draper has plenty of things to be sorry for, and they don’t include having to use the restroom…

This is by no means a revolutionary idea. There have been several articles and a whole ad campaign on the specific phenomenon of women apologizing like crazy and how we are ingrained the idea that we should take the blame for things. I am definitely caught in this pattern.

Here is a list of things I have caught myself apologizing for just since Lent started:

*Pulling on a door to a restroom that I didn’t know was occupied- it’s not like the door opened and I saw anything, I just pulled on the locked door and felt the need to say sorry when the occupant emerged. 

*Coming out of the restroom and seeing someone was waiting in line

*Not having my son’s bottle ready immediately so that he didn’t start crying

* Not being able to make an event I never confirmed I’d be at to in the first place

*Not being able to see a friend’s show that I really wanted to do to time and money constraints

*Not answering an email within 20 hours

*Asking a question when I didn’t understand something even after I listened the first time.

*I actually apologized SEVERAL TIMES to INANIMATE OBJECTS I’ve bumped into.

Aside from the fact that I may feel sorrowful for missing a fun event or a friend’s play, sorry has nothing to do with what I actually should feel in this situation. Where does this guilt come from?! :cough: internalized misogyny for a start :cough: And that’s why I’m troubled by the phrase “Sorry not sorry” which 1. Makes no sense to me grammatically and 2. Still implies that we SHOULD be sorry for things and that we should explain or justify if we are not which is just a lousy default place to live in, right? We should be taking “sorry” out of the equation when it’s not needed, not adding it in and then subtracting it again. That’s like stupidly complicating a math problem by adding a square root and then squaring the equation just to screw with people who are intimidated by math. (And if you struggle with math, you probably live by the motto that radical signs can suck it.)

Math meme… because how often on this blog is math really going to come up?


Learning not to apologize for putting family as a priority, because there is nothing guilty or shameful in treasuring this time.

For me, this gut reaction of feeling sorry and having guilt has become so much worse since becoming a mom. And a lot of it has to do with the privilege that comes with first world parenting. I have enough to know that my baby is fed and clothed and has shelter, so I spend my time worrying about if I am wrecking him by not enrolling us in mommy and me yoga or music classes, or if he’s sad when I’m directing and I miss his bedtime. or if I’m giving him enough independent play time or not enough. These thoughts are understandable in my society, but they are also building blocks for crazymaking. And some times I even feel guilty for feeling guilty about this stuff! But that’s a whole other post. (All that to say, if you’re baby is alive and loved and you didn’t put yourself or anyone else in danger then as far as I’m concerned when it comes to parenting you are probably doing it right.)

But back to the journaling and Lenten lists- You know what I realized I hadn’t apologized for?

*The uncharitable thoughts (and words) I had for the people who cut me off in traffic.

*Speaking unkindly to my others, especially in moments of extreme exhaustion

*Judging or envying people instead of being thankful for what I have.

*Ignoring the needs of those around me in favor of my wants

I’m going to work on those…

After thought: I feel like this game did a lot to ingrain the idea that you say sorry sarcastically or when you aren’t sorry. Either you are truly sorry you send the other piece back to the start, in which case realize that it’s a game and that’s the point, OR you are embracing the tagline “the game of sweet revenge” in which case you are NOT sorry at all… I’m adding this to our families we don’t play that list… right by monopoly… i swear I’ll write that blog one day, or that ten minute play…




2 thoughts on “Feminism, Mommy Guilt, and my problem with #sorrynotsorry

  1. I totally hear you with so many things in this post, perhaps especially the role the game Sorry played in changing how I used the word “sorry.” Most times in the game you have a choice of whether you’ll knock the other person out or not, and I remember having hurt conversations with brothers over… “if you were sorry, you wouldn’t be doing it!” Or now that I’m thinking about it more, you could think of it like that bit of dialogue in The Incredibles when Violet asks Helen “is Dad in trouble?” and she responds, “either he’s in trouble or he’s going to be.” In the game Sorry, “either you are (actually) sorry or you’re going to be.” If you sincerely apologize for knocking someone’s piece off the board because you had no other choice, it’s likely that they won’t want to take revenge. But if you’re NOT sincerely sorry because you had other choices and choose to knock the other person’s piece off, then “you’re going to be” sorry because your opponent will likely seek revenge.


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