Mum guilt. I am yet to meet a mum who hasn’t experienced mum guilt before and most mums will admit that when that sharp pang of guilt hits it’s usually after they have just dropped the ball or unconsciously compared their parenting skills to another mum.
Yes, mum guilt. It’s real and it can a bitch sometimes. Sitting there wondering “am I doing enough to support my kids learning, did I come off too harsh just then, should I get my kids more….., am I feeding them the right amounts of……, should we be tutoring, doing that sport?”
Seriously, it goes on and on and on and we eventually find ourselves in this panicked guilt fuelled tailspin that usually leads to feeling depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed.
With how much is happening in our lives such as work expectations, the current COVID situation, over exposure to unhealthy daily reminders of the perfect mum social media posts, throw in an overworked mumma with next to no social life and you get a great recipe for a melt down.
But the truth is, becoming a mum is not an easy task. It instantly throws us into a world we had next to no preparation for. No one can prepare you for what being a mum involves because every kid, family system, and mum is different. You couldn’t possibly know what to expect no matter how many books you read or youtube videos you watch.
We find ourselves experiencing so many different emotions in a short space of time, varying mind-states, ongoing invasive thought processes (some absolutely obscene), and it’s all so unfamiliar that we have no idea how to manage or handle them.
So what do we do? Ignore them, push them aside, hide them, because we have to keep up our appearances and act like we got our shit together.
But why do we do that? Social expectations would be my guess. Our need to belong and fit in is natural it’s been hard wired into our systems from the dawn of time. Because belonging and fitting in equals survival. Now, this cave person survival mechanism doesn’t really fit into today’s world but hey like I said it’s hard-wired into us so it takes a bit of work to change that mindset. But it’s not impossible. You see there’s tools you can learn that lessen the effects of mum guilt and have been demonstrated through practices such as changing your thought processes (identifying negative thought processes and replacing them with more positive truths), behaviour changes (for example limiting social media time), acknowledging the wins in life, and your awesome efforts and not comparing yourselves to others (because your not them and they are not you). These are but a few of the multiple tools we mums can implement to help fight against that mum guilt we experience.
It’s so easy as a mum to quickly judge ourselves on where we feel we didn’t meet expectations, forgot something, were late, ate bad, didn’t cook dinner every night etc. ect. ect. But are we quick to acknowledge our wins, efforts, the time we did cook that awesome meal, the times we did make it on time, the times we did read with our kids? Nope. Instead, we choose to to beat ourselves up over the little mistakes we make. With this, anxiety and feelings of despair slowly start to creep in, which tend to result in more mum guilt for having felt this way. Cue vicious cycle.
As a parent there are so many recommendations, “should do’s”, benchmarks, and professional advice is thrown at you from all different directions such as day-care, primary school, high school, sports clubs, social media, friends, family, books, podcasts, the list goes on and it all starts to feel overwhelming.
And let’s be honest when you are stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, and experiencing feelings of despair who usually cops the brunt of it? The kids. Even if we manage to keep things under wraps believe it or not but our little ones are a lot more intuitive than we give them credit for. Children have the natural ability to tune into certain frequencies we adults can’t. As much as I try to hide my bad days, my oldest son is always the first to pick up on it and asks me if I’m alright. Look we all have bad days and there is no such thing as a perfect parent but there are things we can implement to help ourselves out, lessen the burden of mum guilt, and get ourselves feeling more positive. So here’s 3 effective simple tips you can carry out.
Tip 1 - Drop the expectations
Let’s start by dropping the high expectations we place on ourselves and taking a caring, loving non-judgemental approach towards ourselves. Treat yourself just as you would treat someone you love and care about. It’s not “one set of rules for you and one set for others”, you are just as important as the next person. Don’t get me wrong putting your kids needs before your own is a loving gesture but we can’t do this al the time. Your tank needs to be filled to, you can’t run on empty forever, believe me i’ve tried.
Tip 2 - Self-love
Next we need to show ourselves some of that love we’ve been handing out to everyone else. Take care of yourself to the level you do your kids. Not only will this improve your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being but your demonstrating to your children that you value yourself and that they too should value themselves. For a few years now I have held the belief that the first relationship you should have is with yourself. Unfortunately I, personally, learnt this a bit later in life but by god i’ve been telling everyone and anyone it since. Because it’s true, how can you expect others to treat you with respect until you learnt to treat yourself with respect.
Tip 3 - Compassion
And that leads us into tip 3 which is having compassion for yourself mumma. We have already established that we are not perfect and that mum guilt is a thing that occurs now and then. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay that we’re not perfect. It’s okay if we drop the ball now and then. It’s okay if we’re late to something. To practice compassion for yourself is to see yourself and accept yourself just as you are, with all the struggles you encounter daily. Practicing self compassion also demonstrates to our kids that we all make mistakes and to not be so hard on yourself. If we expect to be perfect all the time than we teach our children unhealthy expectations of themselves. Now this isn’t to be mistaken for trying to do your best that’s a whole different thing. This is about self acceptance regardless of what you encounter through the day.
So that’s it mummas, these are my top 3 effective tools to implement when dealing with mum guilt. Daily practice of these tools will not only help with your own well-being but be a contributing factor towards creating harmony within the family system. Believe me when I say that a healthy mumma equals a healthy family system. Another important factor to acknowledge is that, as a mum, no matter where you are in your parenting journey and how old your children are you are going to experience unfamiliar hard situations where you may feel you're loosing yourself. But it’s important to remember that you will get through it, it may be a hard moment but it’s just a moment, not eternity.
"it may be a hard moment but it’s just a moment"
You are uniquely you and no other mum has been through what you have been through, no other mum has kids the same as your kids. So we need to stop looking and watching others and begin to focus on ourselves and our own little family, whilst having compassion and love for ourselves.
Remember you’ve got this.