Piggy-backing on my post about the struggle – but super-importance – of being kind to yourself, I feel it’s equally as important to address another issue that mothers face more regularly than nits, grass stains, undie accidents, wet towels left on the floor, toilet audiences, and tantrums, combined.
Mum guilt, I’m looking at you.
Mum guilt is incredibly invasive and can become quite defeating. Mum guilt tells you you’re not doing this parenting thing good enough, and that your poor children will suffer greatly for your inadequacy. Mum guilt has a rather skewed idea of what really matters in the long run, and scrutinises every parenting decision you make. Mum guilt is constantly in your ear, whispering “are you sure you should do it like that? You don’t want to ruin their childhood, do you? DO YOU??!!”
Mum guilt had me feeling crappy the other day for waking the baby when I handed him over to my partner so I could pee – even though I was busting after holding it in whilst stuck under said baby for over an hour of playing the super fun “I’m-not-staying-asleep-unless-you-keep-feeding-me” game. Um, hello? I felt guilty for taking care of a basic need – and my health, because we all know you shouldn’t hold on for too long, and no, it doesn’t count as a super long pelvic floor exercise – because it woke the baby. Not hurt the baby, or neglected the baby, just woke him. For like two minutes. Mum guilt takes your perspective and throws it far, far away.
Well, mama, let me tell ya – mum guilt can bugger right off.
I’ve written before about Shit Days, and after doing a very unscientific study (read: I just thought about it for a moment), I found that mum guilt absolutely thrives on Shit Days. Mum guilt slithers on in and says “you know, it’s not good for the kids that you aren’t enjoying motherhood every single day, you need to be more enthusiastic! More present! You should be loving being at home, don’t you know how many other parents would love the opportunity to stay home with their kids? You obviously just don’t love your kids enough”, and then in the same breath, “and you know… it’s a bit slack that you aren’t contributing financially to the family, you should really do more housework and drink less wine and coffee. Oh, and by the way, that breakfast you served this morning wasn’t very nutritionally balanced, if the kids struggle to concentrate in school it’s your fault”. The thing is, if I were working, mum guilt would still slither in saying “you should be spending more time with the kids, how dare you need adult time or put money over your children’s childhoods?! How on earth are they meant to thrive without your constant attention and presence? Don’t you want them to be happy?”. When it comes to mum guilt, however which way you do it, it’s not good enough, you’re not good enough.
But mamas, you are. You are good enough and you’re doing an amazing job.
If your children are fed, sheltered, happy and loved, the likelihood is, they’re going to be ok.
Thinking back on my own childhood, I don’t feel like I need therapy because sometimes I had to play by myself, I don’t feel resentment towards my parents for making me help out with household chores (although I’m pretty sure I felt a titanic amount of resentment at the time!) and, despite the fact that I was one of four children and so didn’t get every second of my parents’ attention, I don’t feel like my childhood was completely ruined (so relax, mum, you did good!). So when I start feeling guilty about my kids experiencing things like this (which are all pretty normal, by the way) I try to remember: it may have been tough at the time, but I survived it – some might say miraculously – and became a happy, well-rounded, independent and reasonably balanced adult.
I have also held on to one bit of parenting advice that my mum gave me when eldest little man was a toddler: kids will grow up despite your parenting as much as because of it. She was basically saying do your best, but don’t panic too much if you stuff it up every now and then because the kids will be ok. Thank god! I have stuffed up many times during my 9 years of being a mum, but for the most part my kids are happy and healthy, so I must have got it mostly right so far, and if I keep doing my best and trying to get it mostly right, odds are, we’ll all survive this journey. I think it’s important to remember this, and stop the guilt; it’s unhealthy and unnecessary.
In saying all of that, I definitely still have plenty of moments of full-blown mama guilt. In fact, feeling guilty is something I’m really good at! But hopefully with a bit of work I will start to take my own advice and give myself a break.
Do you suffer from mum guilt? How do you overcome it? Let me know below 👇