I remember the morning after spending the night in labour giving birth to my firstborn, exhausted, with fresh stitches (which I had hoped to avoid), when the midwife informed my husband and me that we could leave for home.
There was no final test.
No, debrief on NCT.
Not even a manual to take home to read…
When we received the green light to leave, we were let loose to roam outside with this delicate sleeping bundle that was completely dependent on our competence as parents with less guidance than we had received when we bought our 3-in-1 pram from Mothercare…and when we arrived at the car and I watched my husband struggle to secure the carrycot into the Isofix base, I had the sudden feeling that we were totally underprepared.
Fast forward to the months and years ahead and many more of these moments were to come. Times when I was sleep-deprived, the house was a disorganised mess, my to-do list had become a too-much-to-do list and I had the overwhelming feeling of guilt. Guilt that I was not doing enough, guilt for not doing things right, not making the right decisions for my children’s future, guilt that I was failing to live up to the ideal mum role model I had promised myself to be before my children were born.
I HAD MUM GUILT
What is Mum Guilt?
Mum guilt is a very complicated emotion and, amongst other reasons, it is essentially an overwhelming feeling that we’re failing to meet expectations of what a mum should be capable of. These expectations may come from our ideals, our perceptions of others and what we read and told what we should achieve.
Digging deeper and mum guilt can reveal a deep-rooted love for our children; a love where we want what is right for them, so in a sense, it is not all negative, and sometimes a small dose of mum guilt can be productive.
We can be our own worst critics and without understanding this situation and how to cope with it, mum guilt can spiral into negativity and cause burnout or worse.
Through my training, I have learnt some techniques to help prevent this and have shared them below because YOU MATTER. Your physical and emotional health matter!
How to Manage the Guilt
There are four techniques that I’ve learnt that can help to manage mum guilt. It is unrealistic to stop feeling guilty and sometimes a touch of guilt can drive us to become better parents, but by managing it we learn to be more aware of situations that trigger this emotion and therefore improve how we cope with the feelings of guilt when they arise.
1. Be aware of when you are feeling guilty. Make a conscious effort to note how often does Mum guilt occur for you. Describe that feeling and whether, for instance, you feel panicky, dread, an overwhelming weight on your shoulders.
2. Accept those feelings, allow them to rise and remind yourself these feelings are normal. Identify how they are triggered and whether they are from personal insecurities possibly related to your childhood or external pressures such as friends/family/social media.
If certain people make you feel this way, look for ways to reduce the time you spend with them or let them know. Try directing a conversation differently, for example when another mum is boasting about her child. Avoid certain people who drain you on social media. Whatever the cause, try to eliminate or reduce the source where the guilt grows from because it inevitably will grow bigger and bigger.
3. Positively shift your mindset. Think about your choice of words when you feel guilty and recognise what your inner dialogue saying. It could be something like ‘I‘m choosing work over my child’, ‘I shouldn’t let him have screen time for this long’, ‘I don’t do as much with my children as other mums do’.
When these thoughts occur, catch them in the moment and reframe them, e.g. ‘I’m working so I can give my family more, ‘he is enjoying screen time and it allows me to finish my chores’, ‘I do my best with my children and I shouldn’t compare’
Also, ask yourself these questions ‘what am I gaining from feeling this guilt?’ ‘Is anyone else feeling guilty about this?’ Try to acknowledge it and then let it go…
Most of the time, it is the worry of what other people will think that causes the guilt. Do what works for you and your family and be confident about that, you’re not a mummy to please other people on how you raise your children.
4. Build resilience and understand you are not perfect, nobody is, but believe you are enough and you are worthy of love. Keep a happiness journal to refer to in times of guilt. Focus on all the great things you do as a mum. Practice gratitude and cultivate joy, try asking your children 3 reasons why they’re happy you’re their mummy. Embrace what they say and write it down in your journal.
Look at photos and videos of your happy children, remember it is typically only YOU who feels the guilt, you need to be the mum your kids already think you are. Remember, your job as a mum is to guide them into adulthood, not to be their servant.
Finally, be kind to yourself, don’t feel selfish by taking time out to replenish your energy levels or even to get a few minutes of silence.
From being a mother, I’ve come to realise that guilt is a natural emotion most mum’s feel when overwhelmed and failing to meet a set of idealised values that in reality do not exist. By being aware of this, accepting these feelings, positively shifting our mindset and building resilience, I have over the years got the guilt under control.
If you are a mum feeling overwhelmed, coaching can support you on the journey to developing a positive mindset and freeing yourself from the feeling of guilt.
Get in touch for more information at https://www.biancabondcoaching.com