Whether you are a working mama juggling your work & parenthood worlds, or a SAHM who finds it hard to grab a minute to yourself, ‘mum guilt’ is part of the motherhood journey. In this article, I give you some tips to help you navigate this complex aspect of caregiving.
Understand that guilt & mumming go hand-in-hand
Even if you are a brilliant multi-tasker who’s good at wearing various hats; or the world’s most patient person who rarely gets angry…you are also human. And humans get tired, frustrated and overwhelmed sometimes. Especially when they are being pulled in multiple directions by emotion-triggering mini humans. When that happens, chances are you will feel resentful or a tad discouraged about this whole mum gig. Similarly, you might desperately need some ‘you time’ then spend the entire gym session feeling guilty because you’ve dropped your toddler at the crèche. Or you might be on deadline for a work project and feel bad about the extra screen time your kids are having.
I have some great news for you…you are totally normal and your feelings are perfectly natural! All of these scenarios (and many more) are all part-and-parcel of the parenting experience. The reality is, sometimes you’re going to have to prioritize yourself, work or other life commitments before your child. And while guilt is common and understandable, there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. Cut yourself some slack mama!
Accept that the grass is always greener
Whether you decide to go back to full-time work and need to put your kids in childcare, or stay at home and care for your children round-the-clock, one thing is for sure: the grass is always greener. Those who are working may feel bad that they’re not with their babes, and those that are full-time mumming may feel guilty that they’re not financially contributing to the family or being a mama/career superwoman. Comparing yourself to other mothers is a lose-lose.
So reframe it. You can’t be everything to everyone at all times. And you never know what is going on in someone else’s world or mind. So while you might look at a mama in the park who is still breastfeeding her 2-year-old and feel guilty that you stopped boobing when your baby was 6 months-old because your milk supply wasn’t adequate; she might be sitting there feeling guilty because she resents her baby for still being on the boob and wishes she had your freedom. Instead of focusing on your shortcomings and feeling inadequate or guilty about them, try to remember that the grass is greener where you water it. So try to water your mama garden with self-acceptance.
Talk to other mums about it
One of the best parts about being a mother is the solidarity you feel when connecting with other mamas about your motherhood journey. That includes the negative feelings that are associated with mum guilt. You may be feeling terrible about something that happened with your kids that morning, only to speak to a girlfriend and hear she has gone through a similar experience and has pearls of wisdom and helpful advice to share with you. ‘There ain’t no hood like motherhood’ as they say. And while professional advice is helpful, sometimes the best, most relatable, guidance comes from your mama gang. So speak up. Voice your guilts. Chances are your fellow mamas will give you reassurance and support.
Talk to your kids about it
We are our children’s first and biggest teachers. Along with teaching them to walk, talk and tie their shoelaces on their own, educating your kids about the full spectrum of emotions (including guilt) is extremely valuable and important. So if you’ve had a tough week and have neglected some of your mama duties, sit down with your kids and explain why you’re feeling a little stretched and sad about it. Children are extremely open, receptive beings who should never be underestimated. By role modelling healthy emotional expression, you are showing them how they can communicate their own challenging feelings in future.
Focus on your wins
Even if you’ve had the week from hell, there is always some gold nuggets that can be sifted out of the muddy waters of parenting. Focusing on the things you’ve accomplished instead of all that you haven’t is a sure way to rid yourself of mum guilt. This is especially important for any perfectionist parents out there! Let go of your ideals and embrace your imperfect reality instead. The truth is, kids don’t follow a Brady Bunch script. Like us, they are human. Life is messy and it is up to us as parents to value and relish the small wins over the disheartening losses. By doing so, we show our kids that all our love, including self-love, is unconditional.