When I was asked to write this blog on this topic, I thought brilliant I could write a book! Almost as soon as I held my first child the mum guilt started to lounge about on my shoulders weighing me down like an itchy woollen grey shawl. Almost 9 years down the line and 2 more children in the mix I have started to face up to and challenge my mum guilt head on!
As a mum, friend to other wonderful mums and a local GP I know that this guilt is not just my issue.
Sometimes its starts straight after the birth, perhaps it wasn’t as you had expected? The next big guilt giver is feeding. Somehow, I expected to be a champion breast feeder however my eldest had a tongue tie and we hit many hurdles. At 8 weeks I started formula feeding I initially felt better less desperate but almost daily for the first 12 months I would have pangs of guilt that I should have breast fed him. I now look back at my robust 8 year-old and wish I hadn’t wasted all those tears and worried so much about (in this order)……
1. What other people thought
2. Our bond being affected
3. His chance of allergy
After each baby I have returned back to work after 6-7 months. Any longer couldn’t have been possible financially and you know what, I love my job. Sometimes in the middle of an afternoon on call I browse the school twitter feed and see pictures of other parents attending stay and play or helping out. The guilt gets me then! But 12 months ago I changed my job to make sure I spend more quality time with my children so I beat the guilt away with that thought, then sip a hot brew in peace.
A lot of mums feel guilty when they crave time from their children or go out. It is ok for mums to want a break – go for a run, a coffee with a pal or a night out. We haven’t stopped being us once we gave birth. We still have those interests, passions and desires. ‘You can’t pour from an empty jug’ is my favourite saying. Having some time away from our children lets us come back refreshed and ready for whatever our little cherubs throw at us.
Mum guilt is unhelpful, it doesn’t make you want to up your game and become world’s best mum- it sits there zapping your energy, filling you with self-doubt about your mothering. It seems to me mum guilt can often start with the difference between reality and expectations that can be your own, families or societal expectations. Its important we remember we are individual and so are our children. What’s the right thing for one family to do, isn’t the right thing for another.
So my advice, as a mum of 3 and GP is selfcare is not self-indulgent – it’s vital your wellbeing should be a priority. Parenting is a marathon rather than a sprint so you need your reserves! So don’t listen to your mum guilt, you are doing a brilliant job!