4 things to stop feeling guilty about as a mum - because we're all doing it
In today’s world, we’re constantly comparing ourselves, constantly saturated with manipulative media, constantly exposed to other’s opinions and views. No one gets through the day anymore without having a moment of doubt about something they saw on social media, without feeling guilty when they hear something on the radio about some ‘super mum’ who ‘balancing it all’.
We all know enough at this stage to realise that social media isn’t real. There are very different realities behind that beautiful picture the mummy blogger posted of her angelic toddler and their perfectly healthy meal in their perfectly pristine home.
But still, between mummy forums, social media and toxic mummy culture, it can be so easy to feel adrift in the storm of comparison and shame culture that dominates parenthood, affecting mothers particularly. Even when we remind ourselves we’re dong our best, it seems someone else is always doing better, trying some new, improved way of child-rearing, when it’s all we can do to be a functional parent.
The point is, we all have our own parenting strategies, styles and journeys. The insight we have to one another’s journeys is more accessible than ever in some ways and yet more manipulative than ever in others. The culture of comparison that’s arising from this gives us a false view of what it means to be the perfect parent and it’s time to stop pretending we all have it together all the time. So here are some reminders of things that you don’t have to feel bad about as a parent – because you’re a human as well as a mum.
Craving 'me time'
Whether your child is six days, six months or even six years old, desperately needing even just half an hour to yourself is the most normal thing in the world. As a mum, people always need things from us, so when we’re constantly fulfilling others needs and emptying our cups to fill theirs, we end up depleted and in major need of a recharge.
That recharge takes different forms for everyone, whether that’s a coffee with friends, a nap, or even taking yourself out on a dinner date. Before you can be of service to others you need to take care of yourself. ‘Me time’ is not a luxury or selfish or taking away from time with your children. It’s a necessary action of not only selfcare but survival for busy mums. Have a time of day that is sacred, that you carve out for you and yourself alone and never apologise for it.
Your breastfeeding doesn’t go according to plan
Breastfeeding is a complex process, but emotionally and physically. It’s not only a huge commitment but can also be a huge source of stress to mothers, new and experienced, often, adequate support isn’t given on their breastfeeding journey.
It’s a process that requires patience and expertise, but sometimes, no matter how hard we try and how many tips and tricks we Google, it just doesn’t happen like we planned. The timing doesn’t work, latching is difficult for your newborn, your body reaches its capacity – it doesn’t matter the reason. It can be incredibly hard on mothers when they had the plan in place and wanted to go up to the recommended six month mark of breastfeeding and find differing circumstances getting in the way, especially when there’s such controversy and judgement surrounding breastfeeding. But you do what is best for you and your child, even when that may not always line up with the ‘recommended guidelines’.
Speaking of feeding, food guilt seems to be a majorly common theme amongst mums. We’re bombarded with information about recommended vitamin, vegetable, mineral and meat intakes, what healthy portion sizes look like, how many sweets we should be giving the kids access to a week, treat-dependency…it can eventually pile up and we can feel like nothing we do is right.
If you are putting food on the table for your children everyday and getting some fruit and veg in when you can, you are doing an amazing job. These ‘guidelines’ don’t account for fussy eaters, kids with texture issues, kids who don’t sit still long enough to have a meal, and just generally family life. So what if your kids don’t eat salad at six years old? There’s plenty of time for them to discover and explore food in their own way as they grow. Do what you can, cook what you like, keep an eye on their intake and don’t beat yourself up if you have the occasional frozen or ready meal on the table.
You want to go back to work – or you don’t!
Similar to the utterly necessary ‘me time’, the desire to return to work does not mean you are any less of a committed mother, that you love your children any less or that you have shifting priorities. Wanting to go back to work, whether it’s after maternity leave, a career break or after leaving the work force all together is an assertion of independence, as is the decision to take on the job of stay-at-home parent.
A happy and fulfilled parent, no matter which role they take on, will always be to your children’s benefit. Making the right decision for you will show them the value of making your day-to-day happiness a priority and you’ll be more energized, happier and present around them. The important part is making the right decision for all of you.