How to deal with the guilt trip you get from simply being a mum.
Parenting is hard. Being a mother is hard. Yet we hardly talk about it. We love our kids, but it’s not all rainbows and butterflies is it? You may even secretly question if you will ever regain your life and sense of self as a woman, amidst the juggle of daily life.
No-one really prepares you do they? As a new mum, they hand you the baby in the hospital and wish you luck. Nothing prepares you for it all—the crying, endless sleepless nights, sickness and all that comes with it . . . not to mention the teenage years.
And then there’s the guilt—mother guilt. Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, once said, "They take the baby out, and they put the guilt in!" and it often feels like that. We worry about everything.
If we're working mothers, we agonise over the time away from our kids. If we’re at home, we may be thinking that we should be in the paid workforce. And then there’s the invisible damage we think we are doing to our kids day in and day out—even when we’re trying our hardest to do the very best we can.
We can also struggle with the question, Are we even doing it right in the first place? Not to mention the judgement and sideward glances everyone seems to make about our choices.
It’s enough to leave you breathless. But it doesn’t have to feel so hard. Here are some simple ways you can make the most of the time you have, be the mother you want to be and stop feeling guilty.
We’re all so distracted these days, with our heads and minds in our emails, social media and lengthy to-do lists. When you’re with your kids, be present. It’s really not about the amount of time, but being present in the time you have. Put your phone away. Turn the TV off. Do some activities together, even if it’s just the stuff that must get done, like cooking dinner or doing some gardening. When you’re there, really be there.
Focus on the positive
Mother guilt comes from worrying about all of the things that you think you aren’t doing, like school events you’ve missed while working or looking after younger siblings. You can spend all of your time and energy on those thoughts, or you can choose to shift your mindset and focus onto the things you know you’re doing right (no matter how small they are). Look at all the times you are there, the fun you have, the events you make it to. And let that guilt go.
Our role as mothers is to meet the unique needs of our children in the best way we can. Every child is different. With two siblings, one might need a lot of reassurance and constant encouragement, and the other may be fine left to their own devices. Being attuned is all about the art of listening and noticing, and it’s something that women and mothers are especially good at. Spend some quiet time with your children each week—it could just be 10 minutes alone time—to ask how they’re going and really listen for the answer.
Meet your own needs too
Stop being so hard on yourself. It’s OK to admit that it’s hard, this raising of little humans. Remind yourself that you’re doing your best and create space to look after yourself. Making time for a bath, reading your favourite book, having some quiet time in nature or catching up with a girlfriend who makes you laugh, are all important ways to nurture yourself. Make sure that you aren’t neglecting what you need and what you love while you’re tending to your children. The more restored you are, the more you have to give to them.
Motherhood is filled with unique challenges and also filled with so much light and joy. Becoming the mother—and woman—you want to be is about parenting on your own terms, defining success for yourself and doing it your way. It's also about looking after yourself, your needs and your life in the process. Remember, you don’t stop being you when you have kids. Try to find that balance, even if it’s in the smallest moments.