"There's no problem so awful, that you can't add some guilt to it and make it even worse.” Bill Watterson
Many mums feel that it’s pretty much a given that we give birth to mum guilt at the same time as we give birth to our babies. Out comes the baby, out comes the placenta, and out comes a Grotesquely Ugly Irritating Leechy Troll that follows us around everywhere and makes us feel like crap. It’s here, it’s part of family life, and we cannot make it magically go away. Parenting is such a massive responsibility, and we so badly want to ‘get it right’. So we feel guilty when we think we’re ‘not doing enough’.
But here’s the thing. It’s YOU that’s thinking that you’re ‘not doing enough’ or ‘not getting it right’. It’s you that’s creating the guilt in the first place. Buddha teaches that pain is often a given, yet suffering is optional. This is especially true in the case of guilt: it’s optional suffering which is driven by our own thoughts and feelings.
This week we’re hearing from the brilliant and inspiring, and very lovely, Lisa York: broadcaster and host of The Supermum Podcast, and extremely busy mum of 4. She’s here to cut us some slack and remind us that we’re all just doing our best. She wisely says that “You don't have to have it all, be it all, and do it all. You just need a positive mindset for motherhood. With four children aged 7, 6, 4 and 2, practicing what I preach is an ongoing challenge. But I'm trying.”
Throw away the Mummy Guilt
Mummy guilt. The dreaded mummy guilt. You know you shouldn’t feel it, but it’s always there. Gnawing away at you.
But before you start feeling guilty about feeling guilty, let me tell you. You’re not alone. A whopping 97% of us suffer mummy guilt.
I say ‘us’. I actually mean ‘you’. Because I not a sufferer. I’m an all out, dig-in-my-heels, staunch guilt rejecter. Be gone, guilt. Be gone.
Does that mean I’m Little Miss Perfect getting is right all the time? I wish. Or that I never lose my rag and yell at my kids? They wish!
Guilt is an emotion you load onto yourself because you never feel as if you quite live up to the mark. You’re working too much. You’re not working enough. You’re not fully present with your kids because you’re exhausted or are thinking about other things. They’re eating too much junk food or having too much screen time.
I could go on and on. I won’t.
Instead, let me tell you. I can boil down why you feel guilty to one word:
You love your child so much and you want to do the best for them. And that love and bond is so strong and powerful that it makes you feel inadequate. You’re so glaringly aware that bringing up your child is a huge undertaking, and that the buck stops with you. And that makes guilt commendable. Well done you! Guilt is proof of your love and dedication as a mother. Evidence of your unwavering commitment to giving your child the very best of what you have to offer. If you didn’t love them so much, you wouldn’t care so much.
So lend me your ear. Because here’s my secret to snubbing mummy guilt for good. Consider this. If you’re putting guilt on to yourself (and I know that you are), then you also have the power to take it away.
So the next time something goes wrong, rather than wasting your energy feeling bad about it, channel that energy into something more positive. Use the feeling to your advantage by being aware of how you respond. Ask yourself, What’s my motivation for doing what I’m doing? How can I learn from this experience and do better next time? Am I taking care of myself so I don’t have such a short fuse? How can I reframe the situation to see it in a different light?
But most importantly, forgive yourself. Motherhood isn’t easy. Cut yourself some slack because you’re doing your best.
You really are. Even on the days where it goes horribly wrong.