When Mum Guilt Gets You Down
The one emotion no mum is ever short on. Before I had a child, this was another phrase I heard mums say which used to make me roll my eyes and think to myself ‘stop complaining’. Now that I am a mum, it’s a phrase relate to daily that eats me up inside.
I talked about watching Aiden fast asleep in his cot one night. But I realised when I did it the other night, was that often at that moment I’ll start to kick myself, criticise myself for all the things that I could have done better that day. My mum guilt has been creeping up on me like a bitch lately. I feel like I just can’t get a handle on things.
Our days are so up and down. Someday’s I’m supermumming like a boss, batch cooking 20 meals to freeze (OK, more like 2 or 3 but if feels like it could be 20!), I’m cleaning the entire house like the fairies in Sleeping Beauty without the aid of magic wands (but wouldn’t that be cool?) I’m a pro at multitasking; building houses out of Legos while working while watching love island while drinking coffee while also making traffic jams out of toy cars!
Other days I can’t function enough to make a decent meal or keep Aiden occupied for 5 minutes so fish fingers chips and beans and Paw Patrol on repeat it is!
I’m usually able to rationalise these feelings and situations. But right now, the mum guilt over so many different things is building up, it’s overwhelming and I can’t let it go.
Not being back at work yet
The place I worked in closed down when I was pregnant which means for me to go back to work I have to find a whole new job. I also have a lot of health problems which get in the way. So for now, I am a stay at home mum.
When you’re a SAHM, you have to explain why your house isn’t immaculate when you have ‘all day’ at home to clean. You feel embarrassed when the post man knocks on your door at 12 pm and you’re still in your pj’s and haven’t showered. You feel like you’ll be seen as lazy if anyone knows you took a nap in the afternoon.
When you’re not working you almost feel ashamed that you are not earning a living and ‘contributing to society’. You feel like you have to justify to people why you’re not back at work yet.
When someone asks me, “What are you doing now?” I answer with a sheepish, “Oh I’m just at home with Aiden.” Feeling like a failure because he’s 2 and a half now and I’m still not working. I want to go into detail about how ill I’ve been for the last year, how much nursery costs, how much I’ve been struggling as it is without working to justify why I’m not a working mum yet. So nobody will think I’m just ‘lazy’. I feel embarrassed and I feel guilty. Mum Guilt.
When I’m not well
Mummy’s body doesn’t work properly. Amongst other things, I can’t regulate my temperature which means I risk overheating, particularly in summer. This means that when all the other mums are making the most of the summer holidays with their kids off school, planning day trips, out in the fresh air, taking their kids to the beach to enjoy the rare Scottish sunshine, basking in the scorching heat, Aiden and I are at home with the blinds shut, the windows open, the fan on while mummy lies down feeling sick and trying not to pass out. This results in Aiden spending a lot of time cooped up in the house with me instead of having tons of fun out in the sunshine and fresh air like all the other kids I see on Instagram and Facebook. Mum Guilt.
Needing a Break
I went for a really long time believing that I was never going a have a baby. That I could never get pregnant. Then, it happened. I got pregnant and I got Aiden. I know how lucky I am. A lot of people never get the chance to have kids. But all I seem to moan about sometimes is how much I need a break. How I wish I could just have time to myself again, a chance to walk away from the sleep deprivation, sleep past 7 am, escape the crying and all of the chaos. I day dream about having a week, just a week to recharge and try and get back some of my energy. I should be happy all the time because I get to stay home with my kid and other mums would kill to be in my situation. But I can’t help wishing I could have a break. Mum Guilt.
Dropping him off at nursery
I’m lucky, Aiden goes to nursery which provides a much-needed break for both of us. But this means I drop Aiden at nursery whether he wants to go or not. And it’s not because I HAVE to take him there because I HAVE to go to work. It’s because I need time to either rest or catch up on the mounting housework I struggle to keep on top of. Mum guilt.
I read this quote a few days ago by Peggy O’Mara;
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”
It’s true. It really is. Which means that if those times I lost my patience and snapped or yelled at him has had a lasting effect on him, he’s screwed and I’ve been the worst mum ever. What has me shouting taught him? That it’s an acceptable reaction if you spill something or an appropriate response to someone who is pissing you off? Mum guilt.
“Mummy play farm. Mummy play jigsaw. Mummy play cars. Mummy play tools.” I should love playing with Aiden. It’s playing with toys – it’s fun! I should love being able to spend my days doing this. But there’s only so many times you can build the same jigsaw or role play with a play farm. I keep putting it off. Somewhere along the motherhood list of duties, “playmate” became another part of the job description. I often say, “Mummy can’t right now”, even though I probably could. The dishes aren’t going anywhere. Mum Guilt.
Using TV as a babysitter
Too many times, I’ve been wanting to catch up on work or housework or to take a shower in peace, so I’ve loaded Aiden up with snacks, stuck on the TV and left him to it. I read that most people let their kids have an hour of TV a day as a treat…. Our TV is never off…. Mum Guilt.
Every time, every single dam time I reach for a biscuit or a bar of chocolate I hear the thoughts ‘worst mum ever’ going around in my head. I started off so well, ate really well during my pregnancy (apart from the last 2 weeks when the content of my bin showed I’d scoffed 11 tubes of Pringles in 2 weeks. “Cravings? Me? No, I haven’t had any at all!” Even when he was weaning, it was all healthy, homemade foods.
But now, at the end of a long, stressful day you reach for the fish fingers because they cook in under 15 minutes and you know he’ll eat them. I’ve used chocolate as a bribe on more than one occasion and a MacDonalds has been a meal of choice twice this month. Mum guilt.
Mum Guilt is a Bitch
But I’ve come to realise that mum guilt will linger inside you no matter who you are or what your circumstances. Whether you’re a stay at home mummy feeling guilty because you haven’t left the house for 2 days or whether you’re a working mum wracked with guilt at leaving your kids behind every day. We get 10 things right yet we beat ourselves up about the one thing we did wrong. That feeling, guilt, can be draining.
“When guilt starts to take the enjoyment out of your day-to-day life with kids, that’s when you know it’s time to address it,” says Devra Renner, a mum of two and co-author of the book Mommy Guilt.
So, I’ve decided, I’m not going to try and cure my mum guilt, it would be too much of an uphill battle. Instead, I’m going to embrace it. Because do you know what? If you experience the feeling of guilt, then that must mean that you care. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t have anything to feel guilty about.
The fact that I irrationally feel guilt over almost anything and everything proves that I really want to do what’s best for my son. That realisation alone lets me breathe a big sigh of relief and lifts some of the weight off of my shoulders.
It’s OK to contradict yourself on a daily basis – to love your kids, think that everything they do is the cutest and feel an overwhelming sense of pride and happiness just by looking at their beautiful, squishy little face one minute then want to run for the hills and hide from their screaming tantrums and continuous whining the next.
It’s completely acceptable to scream, “Freeeeeedom!” while you skip out of the nursery doors after dropping them off then miss them 2 hours later and excitedly pick them up saying, “Mummy missed you!” Then get home and count down the hours until bedtime because they want sweeties and marshmallows for tea so they’ve been lying on the kitchen floor for 45 minutes stomping feet and screaming because they’re getting spag bol.
It’s OK to not always be motivated and full of energy to play another round of Legos and it’s OK to leave them hiding a little longer when you’re counting to 10 before you go find them so that you can get a minute’s silence to finish your coffee. Recognise how much you do for your child every single day.
You Don’t Have to be Perfect
We don’t have to always be motivated and excited about parenting. It’s OK because nobody is perfect. And being perfect is one thing that is not in a mums job description.
If you’re a stay at home mum who’s house isn’t perfect and takes a nap when the kids do that’s fine. And if you’re a working mum either through choice or necessity who’s kids are in nursery, that’s fine too. You make the most of your circumstances and do what’s best for your family. No mater what situation you are in, there are always going be hard days.
Can you ever get it all right? Hell no! But what you can do is silence the guilt. Don’t let it linger around you until you start questioning every single decision you make.
Look at your kids, look how happy and loved they are, that’s all they need. We are all mums just doing the best we can day after day no matter what our circumstances are.
What do you experience Mum Guilt over? Leave a comment below and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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