Mama Guilt

Years ago, before having kids of my own, I sat watching a midday talk show where, during the celeb’s discussion on her young children, she mentioned that the one thing that surprised her most about being a mum was the guilt! … As the whole audience seemed to nod their heads and ‘mmhmmmm’ in agreement, I remember thinking: ‘What the heck does guilt have to do with it?’

Surely when you give so much of your energy, love and body to raising little humans you silently, yet confidently harbour an ‘I am the best’ attitude….?

Oh, but now I get it.

After three years of ‘life with babies’, I am all too familiar with the guilt. Basically at the very moment you meet your baby, the ‘guilt gnome’ (wretched thing) perches on your shoulder and takes to constantly whispering in your ear. And you know what? It never shuts up! Even if you listen, change everything around in your life, do things differently, shake things up or stay totally the same…. it just keeps whispering.

‘Don’t cuddle the baby too much, they’ll become too needy.’

‘You’re staying late at work again? They make movies about parents like you!’

‘You’re child just ate what? Preservatives are Poison you know.’

‘Off to the gym again? The kids might feel a bit neglected?

‘Haven’t exercised all year? What a horrible example for the kids!

I could go on and on.

‘Mama guilt’ is an enormous emotional rollercoaster, spurred on by our exasperation to try and figure this gig out! And because none of us feel like professionals at parenting, it’s very very easy to get caught up feeling ‘inadequate’ or ‘not up to scratch’ for your kids.

And one of the biggest fuels to the guilty flames is the slippery slope of comparison.

Comparing yourself to other parents, your own parents (good or bad), your colleagues, or that elusive magical perfect parent that for some reason we all think is out there, can easily become a dangerous spiral. Although it is amazingly helpful (and sanity-saving) to surround yourself with a tribe of other mums, constantly comparing yourself to them is an easy trap to fall into. Even if friendships are wonderfully honest, you can never have the full picture of someone else’s situation. You might feel like a failure next to a mum whose three year old never creeps into their bed during the night… but at the same time she could be looking at you wishing she had your calm temperament when your little one throws a tantrum

None of us have it all running smoothly. One of the greatest things my Obstetrician said to me when I starting struggling after Lola was born was:

‘You know all those mums at the park looking amazing? Whose babies are perfectly dressed and well behaved!….. well they’re all losing their sh*t too!’ I know because I’m their doctor too, and come Monday they’re here in my office struggling with the exact same things.’

It was a lightbulb moment for me … to not feel guilty that I didn’t have it all together. That just meant I was like 100% of other parents!

I’ve managed to identify four ‘revelations’ that we all could do with committing to our subconscious! Seriously, mutter these to yourself if need be – I do!

  1. Everyone is different. Every parent, every child and every family
  2. None of us are professionals. One of my favourite Parenting Books (literally called The Parenting Book) dedicates a section near the start where the author’s four (now grown) children detail areas where they think their parents let them down! They express early on that every single one of us will make mistakes.
  3. Be Inspired by other parents… not disheartened. Don’t try and become every success story out there, you’ll soon crumble. You can’t be everyone all at once… they have medical terms for that.
  4. No matter what you do, the guilt gnome will try to make you feel bad about it. So try to learn early on how to identify it, and ignore it… as much as possible… it’s a fine art.

Being a parent is a continual learning curve… and none of us are amazing at it. Cherie Blair hits the nail on the head when she said,

‘I feel like those jugglers, like so many other parents, desperately trying to keep everything up in the air. And pretty well every day something will fall to the ground.’ – The Daily Telegraph, Sarah Womack, 2006

Every single day something has to give. If the kids are dressed well, then the house’s (or your) appearance will suffer. When you prioritise time with your partner, you might feel you’re ignoring your friends. Not every box can be ticked every day. Once you’ve decided on your priorities (for the day, the week, the year) then stick to your guns! Don’t change your mind as soon as that guilt gnome starts prodding … Don’t strive for perfection … strive for happiness and owning the uniqueness that is your beautiful little clan!

** Tiny Sprout thank the talented Elise Willson and beautiful team at Wonderful Mama for sharing this article. Wonderful Mama are a proud part of the Thankyou community and we are a proud stockist of their beautiful baby skincare range which you can shop here!