Definition: the inevitable and natural consequence of wanting to be a good mother to our children
Risk of Infection: 100%. Mother’s Guilt is REAL! And nearly all of us have experienced it
Signs & Symptoms:
1. Feeling that we don’t spend enough time with our children
Regardless of what you do for a living (whether you are a stay at home mum, work part time, or in full time employment) and regardless how much time you actually do spend with your kids, we always believe it’s simply not enough. Even when we sacrifice all our free time to spend more time with the kids, it still doesn’t alleviate the guilt. And then we feel extra guilty when we do finally spend time with them but simultaneously feel that certain aspects of motherhood are really rather tedious. It’s normal! Honestly, you’re not the only one feeling it as your child goes down the slide for the millionth time whilst shouting “Mummy, look at me!”!
2. Constantly racked with guilt that our best isn’t good enough
It’s crushing to see the disappointment on our little ones’ faces, for example when work commitments prevent us from attending school events. We’re all guilty of setting such high expectations for ourselves as mothers. In fact, we set the bar so high that really many of our expectations are totally unachievable. Perhaps it’s time to reassess and set more realistic goals.
3. Wondering if the choices we make for our children are the the right ones
It doesn’t matter what age you child is – 2 months….16 years…we will always question whether or not our choices for our child were the right ones. For example, have we chosen the right school, and if we haven’t, what will be the negative consequences? As parents we only want our children to grow up happy and successful, so when things don’t quite go according to our life plan, then it’s only natural to consider that it’s because of a choice you made and the path you chose. You question whether your child could be happier and better adjusted, if their future would be more promising, had you chosen the other path.
4. Focusing on our failings
Don’t let Mum Guilt get the better of you. It’s easy to focus on your failings but remember to praise yourself for all the positive things you do! Probably 9 times out of 10 our children wouldn’t even notice when we get something wrong and screw up. And if you ask them (they will tell you at least once a day, and with a million kisses, without you even having to ask them) they will tell you that you are the “most bestest mum in the entire universe”.
5. Sacrificing your own free time
As difficult as it can be to find the time, it’s crucial to make the time to exercise, spend time with friends (without your baby), and go on a date with your partner. Taking time for yourself can only benefit both you and your baby. It’s important to find an outlet and a way to recharge so that you can be the best mother you can. Let things get on top of you, and you’ll start to resent motherhood, get run down, and you’ll end up getting grouchy with your kids. Children are very resilient and whilst they may make a song and a dance about you leaving the house, trust me, literally as soon as the door closes, they’ve recovered!
6. Dreading returning to work
It’s great to enjoy your work! It’s quite alright to have that “Thank God It’s Monday” feeling, especially after a long, wet weekend with the kids getting “cabin fever”. Returning to work after having your baby is really hard and one of the biggest guilt inducers. It’s totally understandable to want to be at home with your baby, but, as with the point above, children can adapt easily and even thrive in many different types of family arrangements. Unfortunately, given today’s economy, many families rely on a double income. So it’s pointless to feel guilty about a situation that you can’t change. And you can always put a positive spin on it…By working, you will be contributing financially to your household income so that perhaps you can afford that amazing dream holiday – time to spend some very precious time with your children and create lifelong memories. Also, consider that you may be a happier mother if you have a part time or full time job because it fulfills you personally. Having an outlet and a sense of purpose both at home and outside the home can help a mother feel whole and can make you a better mum to your children.
7. Guilt about leaving your child with a carer
Going back to work (or indeed, just popping out for errands) usually means leaving your child in the care of someone else. And naturally, you feel guilty about not being your child’s primary carer 24/7. But it’s totally normal and healthy to take a break from your children so that you can spend time maintaining your own balance of life and motherhood. In fact, children actually benefit from being in the care of another loving adult. It teaches your child to socialise and accept other people which is, as a parent, something you need to teach your child. Quite often, a babysitter, nanny or domestic helper will have different skills to your own and these can contribute to your child’s life in many wonderful ways. It brings a different dimension and encourages and unearths different talents in your children. So stop resenting the person who looks after your child, and instead, be thankful that your child is loved by so many people. Furthermore, remember that it’s the quality rather than quantity of time you spend with your children that truly counts.
Accept that the “perfect parent” does not exist
Nobody had a baby and instantly knew what they were supposed to do. It’s a steep learning curve and a long, ever changing journey, so mistakes are bound to happen. Love is the key to perfect parenting. Simply loving your child makes you a supermum. Deal with your perfectionism and be realistic!
Stop judging yourself
Don’t ever compare yourself to other mothers because what you see on the outside may not be a true reflection of them as a mother – chances are, they are comparing themselves with you and believe you to be a better mother than them! Ridiculous, isn’t it?
Focus on the positive things and don’t dwell on the negative. Ask yourself what you are doing right, instead of what you are doing wrong.
A little guilt means you are normal
Don’t let the guilt make you feel bad…a little guilt is healthy. If you understand that this feeling just means that you love your family and that you’re taking your job as a mother very seriously, it will help you recover from Mum Guilt.
Remember what got you here!
Perhaps it’s time to take a short break with your husband…without kids! Is it really so terrible for your children to spend a long weekend with their super-indulgent grandparents? And if it stops you and your partner bickering, then that can only be a good thing for the kids!
Create a supportive community
Join a group of mums who offer non-judgemental support and with whom you can talk about parenting issues. You’ll quickly discover that other mums are feeling the same, so a problem shared really is a problem halved. And when you discover just how common it is amongst your friends, it’ll make you feel infinitely better!
Take some time for yourself
Give yourself some ‘me time’. It’s OK to lock the bedroom door when you need some peace and quiet or want to take a shower without the kids trying to hammer the door down for once! Newsflash…you did not magically lose your need for privacy when you became a mother. Grab a book or magazine and take yourself back to bed with a cup of tea for half an hour just to recharge your batteries. If someone's bleeding or not breathing, they know how to knock.
You’ll probably never completely rid yourself of Mother’s Guilt – it’ll be with you even when your children start their own families – however, hopefully with these tips you can at least drastically lessen those feelings to help you enjoy motherhood and the wonderful journey you are on. The truth is that a mum who knows how to relax with her child and enjoy the process is likely to be happier within herself, and therefore, a better mum.
By Katherine Regan