Read Mum Guilt: Part One
Now, I may be opening myself up to criticism here, but I’ve compiled a list of 15 things I think mums should NOT feel guilty about – and believe me, I had to stop at 15 or this post would have gone on forever and ain’t no mama got time for that! If you disagree with my list, that’s totally cool! These are just my opinions and I’m a firm believer in no-size-fits-all.
1. How you feed your baby
I don’t think it really matters whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, mix feed, feed purees, feed using baby led weaning, feed in high chairs, feed on the ground, feed to sleep, feed after sleep, feed organic, feed nonorganic, or however you choose to do it – so you shouldn’t feel guilty about not doing it a certain way. What does matter is that you make a conscious and informed decision on what’s best for you, your kids and your family. If you aren’t feeling like what you’re currently doing is working, do some research, ask around, get some advice and roll ahead, guilt free – you want to make a decision that you’re comfortable with and confident in.
Not getting enough sleep is mentally hard enough without adding guilt into the mix. I spent months feeling guilty about how much sleep my son was getting (or wasn’t getting, to be more precise) and I felt like that was a reflection of me being a crap mum. Actually, it’s just the way it is, he’s just the way he is, and considering he moved non-stop in the womb, I really shouldn’t feel like the fact that he moves non-stop now is due to anything I’m doing wrong. I also felt guilty about our decision to co-sleep (which was the best decision for us because it meant we all got some sleep), but you know what? We did our research, we followed the safe sleep guidelines, and we all survived the last 8 months, so I’m done feeling guilty about it. We tried all sorts of other methods first, but at the end of the day (and several thousand times during the day) you can lead a baby to the cot but you can’t make him sleep. Whichever way you’re getting your sleep and getting your kids to sleep I’m sure you’re doing the best you can.
3. Having alone time
After spending the vast majority of your day being constantly on call, being touched, being puked on, being cried at, changing nappies, changing clothes and changing attitudes, it’s no wonder us mamas need some time alone! You deserve it, you need this time to yourself to recharge. You shouldn’t feel guilty about that mamas! Even an hour – yes, one whole hour – is barely more than 4% of your 24 hour day. I know that an hour in one chunk is not always possible, but the point is, make time – the world will keep turning, the house won’t spontaneously combust. Please, value yourself enough to recognise that having an time to yourself is well deserved – and it should be more than taking an extra long toilet break catching up on Facebook.
4. Having matching socks or fully dressed children
I always feel a pang of mum-failure when we’re out and about and I see that my son is wearing odd socks, no socks, pants with holes in them, grass stained pants, or whatever else 9 year olds deem as publicly acceptable attire. Like, what kind of mum would let her kids out like that? Oh, most mums of active children? OK then, guess I’m off the hook with that one. But actually, perfect (or even just good) clothing doth not maketh the perfect (or even just good) child. And on that note, every time I buy eldest little man nice clothes or shoes, they have stains, rips or holes in them within days anyway because he’s a kid. So I’m definitely letting the guilt go on that one.
5. Extra curricular activities
There can be a bit of a competition in the mum world about whose kid is achieving more, whose kid is more talented, whose kid is more likely to be successful and rich when they’re older. While extra curricular activities are great for social, physical and emotional development, sometimes there is not enough time in the day and money in the piggy bank for everything. Don’t feel guilty if your child isn’t enrolled for private tennis lessons when they’re 6 – going out when you can and playing a couple games as a family is just as good! There will be plenty of time when they’re teenagers to fork out the dosh for activities if they want or need it.
6. Letting your children forage for their own food (and other survival activities)
Since littlest man seems to do his best solid sleep between 3am and 8am, this is when I try to get my sleep in too. This means that eldest little man is often left to get his own breakfast and get himself ready for school. I used to feel guilty about sleeping while he sorts himself out, but honestly, he is old enough to get himself weetbix and it’s better for everyone’s safety that I get the extra sleep where I can. Plus, he’s building independence and skills that he will no doubt need later on in life, so there you go – it’s a learning exercise, no guilt needed there!
7. Telling them to go and play by themselves
Kids get bored. This is OK – you don’t have to be their personal activities coordinator every second of the day! Obviously I’m not saying ignore your kids all the time, and different ages require different levels of involvement, but you shouldn’t feel guilty for saying “go and play”. I don’t know about you, but my tea party capacity has a limit. Independent play is good for their imagination and creativity and believe it or not – no matter what the kids tell you – boredom is not a terminal illness.
8. Letting the housework slide – or not!
I know that different people have different levels of ‘liveable’ mess or clutter that they can cope with, but quite often with kids there has to be a bit of compromise. Unless your house is like a scene out of Hoarders or making your family ill, don’t feel guilty about not being spotless. Find what you can manage to keep on top of and live with comfortably, and let the guilt go. And on the other hand, I’ve heard of mums being made to feel guilty because their houses are “too” tidy, with suggestions that they must be neglecting their children for the sake of cleaning, and accusations of making other mums look bad! Don’t feel guilty even one little bit, tidy mums… I reckon you’re awesome (and I’m only a tiny bit jealous and amazed that you manage it!).
9. Saying no to visitors
Sometimes there is just not enough energy left in the mum-battery to host company. This is OK, and you don’t need to feel guilty about saying no! However, it’s important to remember that having regular social contact is important for your health and sanity, so try to reschedule catch ups when you can.
10. Screen time
OK, so this one is tricky. Personally, I don’t think constant screen time is good for anyone, but I am totally fine with some screen time, for all our sanities! I love scrolling through Facebook or Pinterest on my phone while stuck under a feeding baby – it’s my zone out time – so I think it’s fair to allow my 9 year old to have some zone out time watching cartoons or playing games every now and then. Different parents have different levels of acceptable screen time, and different kids will respond differently to different amounts… we’re all just different. So what works for another family may not work for your family – and that’s OK.
11. Not eating healthy all the time
Again, people will have differing views on this, but here is mine. I love how my body feels when I eat healthy. I also love cake. And chocolate. And coffee. However, these are not things I have every day (except coffee, which comes from beans so technically a vegetable amiright?) – if I told myself I was never allowed junk food, two things would happen. Firstly, junk food would become all I could think about, and secondly, after maybe a week of being strict, I’d end up splurging and eating the equivalent of a small supermarket’s worth of junk. What works better for me is being more conscious of my balance – and so this is the stance I take with my kids, too. Treats sometimes are OK, treats ALL the time make us feel yuck, treats NONE of the time make mummy slightly crazy. Because I know that I don’t have junk (or give my kids junk) all the time, I don’t think I should have to feel guilty when I do – and to be honest, my youngest eats random stuff he finds on the ground, so comparatively a little bit of pancake doesn’t seem that bad. But just to make sure they don’t have too many treats, I have been known to hide in the kitchen scoffing down the chocolate, you know, so they aren’t tempted to have more than they should. It’s a sacrifice, but it’s for the children’s sake.
12. Leaving the kids with a baby sitter
Contrary to popular belief, your social life should not stop after having babies. Crazy, I know, but as it turns out, you still need time with friends when you’re a parent. Who knew? And on that note, if you have a husband/partner/significant other, it’s really important that you spend kid-free one-on-one time with them and invest in your relationship. I’ve written here about being stuck in a self-dug social hole in the ground, and how much better I felt after clawing my way out, and am a firm advocate of parents having time to be pretend-un-parents every now and then. Yes, I know this is similar to point number 3, but that just shows how important it is, ‘mkay? Find a babysitter you trust (bonus points if it’s a close friend of family friend that you can pay in chocolate) and head on out. The kids (and the babysitter!) will survive. Don’t feel guilty!
13. Going back to work
Being a stay at home mum is hard work, and some mums will hate it, some mums will love it, and some mums will love it if they don’t have to do it every single day. It is perfectly OK to want to go back to work, for whatever reason. I’ve heard a lot of mums say they enjoyed being a mum way more after going back to work because they could appreciate their time with their kids more and focus on quality time over quantity time. So go without guilt, mamas!
14. Going to the doctor “just in case”
I swear at baby school there’s a class called “act really sick, until your mum takes you to the doctors, then act happy as a clam so she looks like she’s overreacting, then rinse and repeat”. As mother’s, it’s hard for us sometimes to explain to the doctor that something isn’t right with your kid when they’re sitting there beaming at them like a cabbage patch doll. And while I imagine it’s hard for doctors to diagnose anything on said cabbage patch doll kid, I don’t think mums should ever feel guilty for taking their bubbas in, because health is not worth the gamble. You know your children best, if you feel like something’s off, get it checked. If you have a doctor who brushes your concerns off and makes you feel like you’re wasting their time, get a new one!
15. Not paying attention to parenting lists
Yes, bit of a piss-take – guilty as charged. But seriously, when you become pregnant, it seems like everyone you meet suddenly has “helpful” and often unsolicited advice to offer you about how you should proceed. Don’t feel guilty about ignoring it. Like I said earlier, what works for your friend/aunt/mother-in-law/nurse/internet/ stranger-you-met-at-the-supermarket’s family may not work for you. There is a multitude of information out there (thank you internet!), take what is relevant and helpful, leave the rest.
So there is my list – although I could definitely keep going! What would be on your list?
Until next time, glow mamas.