The inner critic that has us constantly judging our parenting skills and the feeling that what we’re doing isn’t quite good enough. The one side-effect of parenting there’s no escape from, every mum has suffered from mum guilt at one time or another. Including me.
If I’m honest, there have been times where I’ve really struggled with mum guilt. Especially in the early days. Just like every other new mum, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I’d spend my days winging it, hoping for the best. I’d beat myself up over the things I did or didn’t do, and I’d tell myself that I needed to try harder, that tomorrow would be a better day.
These days I’m still winging it, but I find myself wrestling with mum guilt a lot less. I still question my ability to parent and at times think I could have done better – who doesn’t? But the mum guilt doesn’t get to me quite as much as it used to.
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Facing the music…
Fed up with constantly feeling like I was failing, I realised I had a choice. I could either let mum guilt get the better of me, or I could put things into perspective and do something about it. So I questioned where my guilt was coming from and I realised a lot of it was as a result of my own doing. I was feeling guilty because I felt like I wasn’t living up to the unrealistic expectations I’d placed upon myself of what I thought the perfect mother should be.
And so, I decided it was time to stop being so hard on myself. Instead of seeing mum guilt as a sign of failure, I chose to see it as a reminder that I cared. And the fact I cared made me a much better parent than I was giving myself credit for. It was time to stop beating myself up over expectations that were impossible to achieve and to let some of those mum guilts go. And so that’s exactly what I did.
Related: My Most Epic MumFail and Why it Doesn’t Matter
Learning to let go…
But which mum guilts did I let go of? Well, if you’re anything like me, I know you’ve probably wrestled with them (or still are wrestling with them) too…and so I’m going to share them with you. Why? Because I want you to know that you’re not alone when it comes to mum guilt. We all suffer from it. But it doesn’t mean we have to hang on to those guilts…there are some that are OK to let go of. And these are mine:
Mum Guilt #1: “I have to work to pay the bills”
Working can mean missing out on assemblies and sports days. It can mean not going to parents’ evenings and not being able to say goodnight to our kids. But that doesn’t make us a bad parent. We all have bills to pay and we all have to keep a roof over our heads. And if that means we have to work, then that’s what we have to do.
Over the years I’ve realised that it’s not about how much time I spend with my kids but what I do with them that truly matters. So whether you’re working full-time, part-time, shifts or nights, make the most of the time you have together. Tell yourself you’re doing what you need to do to give them the quality of life you want them to have and don’t be afraid of letting this mum guilt go.
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Mum Guilt #2: “I’m not feeding my kids a healthy enough diet”
I’m not ashamed to admit that on occasions where time either gets the better of me or I’m simply too tired to cook, I go for the easy option. The option where the drive-through or ready meal aisle in Tesco is the only answer. But that doesn’t mean I’m not giving my child a healthy diet. A takeaway or ready meal here and there is absolutely fine. If I was ordering them pizza every night then yes, I’d need to reign things in…BUT if the majority of their meals are balanced and healthy, I’m not going to feel guilty about occasionally ordering in – and neither should you!
Mum Guilt #3: “I shout at my kids way too much”
Let’s be honest, conquering this particular mum guilt is HARD. We’ve all shouted at our kids at one time or another and then regretted it. Including me. I know mid-shout I shouldn’t be doing it, but by that time it’s too late. I’m already engaged and I’m already feeling like the worst parent in the world.
Thing is, no matter how much we try to stay calm, sometimes our kids push us to our limit. They don’t do as we ask, they answer us back and they know exactly how to push our buttons and test us – especially when we’re tired. But ask yourself this. Do you shout all the time, or do you just think you shout too much? If it’s the latter you’re probably not shouting as much as you think you are. And if it’s the first…don’t beat yourself up. Try breathing before you respond and ask yourself if there’s another way to deal with the situation. Usually, there is.
Related: Where I’m Failing as a Mum and Why it’s OK
Mum Guilt #4: “I don’t spend enough time with my kids”
I used to feel really guilty about how much time I was spending with my boys. But then I realised there is no right or wrong amount of time. Like I’ve already said, it’s what we do with the hours we have that matters – not the number of hours we give. There are only 24 hours in the day and we cannot dedicate all of them to our kids, no matter how much we might want to.
It’s also not healthy for them to have our attention 24/7. Time alone to play by themselves is really important. That’s when their imaginations come alive and they learn to enjoy their own company. And if they’re able to enjoy their own company, they’re more likely to grow in to the happy, confident adults we want them to become.
Mum Guilt #5: “I say no far too often”
Ok, so I’ll admit I’ve not quite managed to let go of this mum guilt yet. But I’m working on it. Like most mums, I have days where ‘in a minute‘, ‘not right now‘ and ‘maybe later‘ come out of my mouth far more often than yes does. Sometimes it gets to me and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m not giving my kids the attention they crave. And sometimes I tell myself it’s OK to say ‘not right now‘ because they cannot have my attention all the time. It’s just not possible.
Finding a happy medium for this particular mum guilt is tough. And for me it’s definitely a work in progress. For now, I deal with it by knowing that if I’m saying ‘in a minute‘ because I’m doing something important, something that HAS to be done at that moment, it’s OK to let the guilt go. BUT, if I’m saying ‘maybe later‘ because I’m distracted scrolling through my phone, it’s not OK and maybe I need to put down my phone!
Mum guilt and why it’s OK to let go…
Truth is, mum guilt is very real and it’s not going away any time soon. But that doesn’t mean we have to let it get the better of us. Gaining the upper hand over mum guilt isn’t as hard as you might think. All we need to do is switch up the way we view it, establish a happy medium and accept it’s OK to let go of the guilts that torment us the most.
So next time you’re feeling mum guilt rise to the surface, remind yourself it’s because you care and let it go. Tell yourself you’re already doing a much better job than you’re giving yourself credit for and that good really is good enough. You’ve got this mama!
That’s it for this post!
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Which mum guilt will you let go of first? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time…
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