Why do we do it to ourselves? Lately I’ve felt plagued by Mum guilt. Whether it’s that day I felt poorly so stayed at home and we didn’t go anywhere, or that day when I struggled to deal with Noah’s tantrums and I couldn’t wait till bedtime. Or the day where I had to go into work on a Saturday to catch up and felt guilty that I was missing out on time with my boy even though he was having a blast with his Dad. I just end up feeling so awful at times, like the worst Mum in the world and a lot of us do it. But in reality we are just Mums trying to juggle busy lives and parent the best way we know how.
These feelings got exacerbated lately when, outside my son’s nursery, during a heated debate over parking with the neighbours (in which I was not directly involved) I got told “Well you shouldn’t be sending your son to nursery anyway. You should be looking after him. That’s what we did in my day.”
I’m not going to lie I saw red. I couldn’t believe the audacity of someone to say that without even knowing the reasons why I’d had to send Noah to nursery or anything about me. I’m also not ashamed to say that I cried over it, cried for most of that evening. Think it had hit a nerve as I’d definitely carried a lot of working Mum guilt on my shoulders for a long while. Every time I drop Noah off at nursery I feel an ache in my stomach and I miss him so much. But I have to work. I have to help keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table and I shouldn’t feel guilty about that.
I felt guilty when I struggled to breastfeed. I so badly wanted to breastfeed him but when it came down to it I couldn’t get him to latch comfortably, it hurt so much, my nipples bled a lot and I came to dread him needing a feed. So I stopped. And the guilt hit me in a massive wave and never fully left. But he was well fed, still thrived on formula, so why do I put myself through the guilt?
I feel guilty whenever Noah sees me upset. If he catches me crying I swear he knows and I can see his little face looking puzzled trying to understand what’s going on. He doesn’t understand that I’m just having a bad day. So I feel guilty and try to put a brave face on and not let it show.
I feel guilty if Noah seems behind other children his age. Is it that I’m not doing enough to stimulate him? Am I not playing enough with him? When the truth is all children develop at different paces in their own ways. He’s not particularly behind, he just has different strengths to that child’s strengths.
I feel guilty if I give Noah an “unhealthy” treat. Am I encouraging him to prefer sugar? Is this why he refused to eat his broccoli last night? Do I spoil him too much? I mean come on. What are things coming to when Mums even feel guilty about giving their kids a treat?
I could go on for pages and pages about the reasons I experience Mum guilt but I won’t. Because the reasons, in some ways, are irrelevant. The point I want to make is that, unless you are neglecting or abusing your child, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Whether you have an off day, are struggling to manage your toddler’s tantrums, can’t get them to eat their veggies, whatever it is; you’re only human. You are raising a child and that is bloody hard work and the choices we make as Mums won’t always be perfect and we won’t always get it 100% right. But so what? Our children our happy and well loved and looked after and that is the main thing.