Updated: May 30
Hey Mama, let’s talk about 'mum guilt'. You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are not enough, that you are juggling too much, and that you are feeling like you are failing everyone.
Mum guilt, unfortunately, is a feeling that comes along with the job description. It is a feeling that you will feel off and on along the journey.
Mum guilt meaning
The feeling of mum guilt often raises its ugly head when your expectations of what you thought you would be like as a mother are different to how you see yourself as a mother. That feeling of ‘Am I messing up my kids’? Or ‘Am I failing them’?
Sometimes it’s other feelings masquerading as guilt. This can sometimes happen when the ‘guilt’ follows a loss. For example, if your birth wasn’t the one you wanted, you can’t breastfeed, or you must stop before you want to. These losses can create enormous grief and regret, but these feelings might feel like guilt and get lost in it.
Motherhood is amazing, and it’s also tough. It’s a huge juggle and when there are too many balls in the air or you are not managing to juggle every ball as well as you would like, or the balls start to drop to the floor motherhood guilt creeps in.
Guilt can be experienced for a huge number of reasons:
- You don’t like every aspect of pregnancy
- You didn’t have the birth you wanted
- You couldn’t breastfeed
- You return to work
- A load of juggling work and family is too big
- You lost your temper with the kids
- You forget it's a dress-up day at kindergarten
- The house jobs are piling up
- You snapped at your husband because you are tired and sleep deprived
- You can’t keep the house as you would like, and you are struggling to make healthy dinners
- You yelled at the kids because they wouldn’t stay in their beds
- You haven’t had time to play, or you don’t feel like playing
- You can’t get to that class just for you
- Feeling like you are not meeting society's expectations of what a mother should be like or living up to your expectations
- You want time away from your baby
- You feel bad for giving your kids too much screen time to complete your work.
Returning to work or being a working Mama comes with a big pill of mum guilt. The guilt that you are not staying home with the kids or that someone else is looking after them and you are not. You had to miss helping in the classroom as you had a meeting. Then there is the reverse feeling that you are not getting enough work done or managing the juggle well enough, failing work. Or you are back at work but not feeling like your job is fulfilling enough to spend time away from the kids. Or society's expectations of what a ‘mother’ should be doing.
Stay at home Mamas have the guilts, too, too busy running the house and doing chores to have quality time with the kids. "Does my sacrifice mean that I won’t have a career when they go to school?" and "I am grumpy because I don’t have any alone time". That feeling of "I’m not loving every moment, and was the sacrifice worth it".
If you are feeling deflated about motherhood guilt, don’t worry, there are things you can do to ditch it actively.
How to overcome mum guilt
1. Acknowledge your feelings, then accept that some motherhood guilt comes with the job ‘you can’t be in two places at the same time’.
2. Expect that the imperfect mother is the perfect mother, i.e. accept that good enough is good enough. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect mother’. Some days you will have the motherhood gig down pat; others, the wheels will come off.
3. If you hear the ‘mother guilt dialogue’ start in your mind, push it out and replace it with ‘I am doing my best’ and ‘there is no such thing as perfect’.
4. Have some time out to enjoy the things that make you feel like you (you will recharge and have more patience - it helps with perspective and may stop you from blowing your top, which can inevitably lead to more guilt)
5. Accept that the weight on your shoulders is heavy, and sometimes you need to drop the weight and find some time to enjoy your family and connect by doing something that is just for fun (so when you are busy during the week, you have that memory to fill your love tank)
6. Try journaling if you are feeling this way, and see if there is a pattern or triggers that bring on the mum's guilt. Talk to a counsellor about your feelings and develop strategies to help.
7. Explore what your guilt might be telling you that you need. Do you need more support? Do you need to take some things off your plate? Do you need to be more realistic about your expectations of yourself and what you can achieve?
8. Find your tribe to share your feelings with – there is nothing like another friend to say I am feeling like this too – this is what I do to help.
9. Mute or unfollow people who are boasting about their achievements that make you feel like a bad mum
10. Look after yourself and acknowledge that you are doing your best. That you may feel like this from time to time, but you won’t let it rule your life. If you fill your cup, you can fill the cups of others.
So Mamas, if you feel guilty, try acknowledging your feelings and then letting them go. We will always have good weeks and bad weeks, good days and bad days. Try some of our top tips and know that whatever motherhood throws you, you have this, and on the days you don’t, that’s OK - that is why they invented coffee and wine.
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