I define ‘Mum guilt’ as a Mum’s own judgement of herself (through questioning and doubting) and her own sense of regret and disappointment in her choice of actions, due to the expectations she has placed on herself, in comparing herself to others.
In my experience, ‘Mum guilt’ starts from the moment you conceive your first miracle. It starts with the constant questioning and self-doubt over whether your body is healthy enough to grow a baby – ‘Should I have eaten that for lunch?’, ‘Should I have exercised more before getting pregnant?’, ‘Am I gaining too much weight?… Or not enough?’ It is also present when making choices about where and how you choose to give birth – ‘I have a fear of hospitals, but I also want to ensure my baby and I are in the best care possible’, ‘I have been advised to have an epidural, but should I be trying to go completely natural?’
Once you have given birth to your little of bundle of joy there is a whole new set of things to question and doubt. You might find that you have issues with attachment when it comes to breastfeeding or you can’t get your baby to settle. You’re exhausted and the questioning starts again, ‘What am I doing wrong?’, ‘Am I cut out for this?’, ‘If I put my baby in the nursery does that make me a failure?’ (It doesn’t by the way).
As your baby grows and develops there are the concerns over feeding – ‘Are they getting enough?’, ‘Are they gaining enough weight?’, ‘Am I eating a balanced diet? (If you have time to eat at all, you’re doing great!)’ There’s the pressure of reaching key milestones and if your bub is not reaching them then you begin to question, ‘What am I doing or not doing to cause this?’, ‘Why is my sister’s or friend’s or cousin’s old work colleague’s baby walking and mine isn’t?’ Don’t get me started on the ‘Mum guilt’ over sleeping and sleeping arrangements…
There might be guilt over going back to work and childcare options. Over leaving your baby (whether for work or pleasure), and then extra guilt because you enjoyed your break away from them. It will creep up when you’re disciplining your child/ children or you snap at them because you’re tired of being asked the same question 50,000 times, or you’re just tired full-stop. Then when you give birth to your next baby (or in my case babies :-P) it multiplies. There’s the guilt over how you split your time and attention. ‘Am I showing each one of my children how much I love them, and that I love them all equally?’ ‘Am I taking as many photos of number 2 (or 3) as I did of number 1?’ ‘Is the TV on too much?’ I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point… ‘Mum guilt’ comes in lots of different forms and it doesn’t end.
The good news is… ‘Mum guilt’ is good! ‘Mum guilt’ means that you care. And you care very deeply about the little human(s) that you have created. It means you want the absolute best for them (even if you feel you can’t give it to them all the time). It shows that you’re always striving to be the best Mum that you can be.
To me, ‘Mum guilt’ is my constant motivation. It is what gets me out of bed in the mornings, to feed, clothe and care for my babies. It is what pushed me to breastfeed my firstborn for 13 months and to breastfeed my twins for almost the same length of time. It is what drives me to cook nice meals for my family, to clean the floors (when I can’t stand to look at them anymore), to do the washing, etc. It is what inspires me to be a better Mum to my 3 babies each day.
So the next time you feel the ‘Mum guilt’ creep in (like now because you’re reading this & not doing x, y, z for your babies), please remember the following:
- You are not alone – All of us feel some form of ‘Mum guilt’ from time to time (and some of us more frequently than others)
- Embrace it! The fact that you feel this way shows how much you care for your child / children
- There is no such thing as the Perfect Mum
- You can’t take care of others without caring for yourself… without burning out or feeling so far from the true version of yourself, so take some time out for yourself – forget the housework, put your feet up, read the blog posts 🙂
- If you ever feel like ‘Mum guilt’ is getting on top of you, it is really important to talk to your partner, a family member, a friend or to reach out to a support group
- You are incredible!