I’m pretty sure most mums experience mum guilt at some point or other. I certainly know I battle with it! It’s that feeling that you’re not doing enough or not doing things ‘right’, whatever ‘right’ even is… You question everything you’re doing and wondering if the decisions you make are the best ones or if they might instead have some negative impact your child.
Oh there are so many! Here are some of the main reasons I’ve heard from mums:
Mum guilt for working
Mum guilt for being a stay-at-home mum
Mum guilt for having me-time
Mum guilt for raising your voice
Mum guilt for your feeding method
Mum guilt for not enjoying every single moment of motherhood
Mum guilt when comparing yourself to other mums
Mum guilt for screen time
Mum guilt for what toys, classes, trips you are able to afford
Mum guilt during the pandemic and lockdown
Mum guilt over enough time with each child if you have more than one
Mum guilt for having an ‘only’ child
Does this sound familiar? Have you felt any of these before?
When you notice mum guilt pop up it can be worth taking a moment to reflect on where it is coming from and whether it is valid or not. Sometimes this guilt can be a sign that perhaps something isn’t quite right and we do need to make some changes and adjust our behaviour or routine so that we are in a better position to act more in alignment with how we want to.
For example, if you raised your voice at your children when they’re playing up and then feel guilty about it, it might be a trigger to ask yourself:
what is happening that is making me act in this way?
how can I change it so that it’s different next time?
In this situation it might be that you’re losing your temper because you’re overwhelmed, you are tired and you need some time for you to reset and re-energise. By taking this on board and addressing it, when you’re in the same situation again you’re more likely to act differently and in a way that feels good and doesn’t lead to feeling guilty.
So in this example, the mum guilt is used as a guide to make changes and act in a way that is more true to you.
Often however, the mum guilt we feel isn’t rational and can be wildly exaggerated in our own minds. This kind of guilt can be really tricky to manage as there isn’t anything that we have done ‘wrong’ or should be doing differently but yet the guilt that somehow we should have done more persists.
1. Don’t get caught up in comparisons – Motherhood can be tough at times and being bombarded with images of Insta-perfect mums who appear to be breezing through their days can easily make you feel like you’re not doing a good enough job. On top of that there are so many opinions on every aspect of parenting so feeling judged or worried that you’re doing something differently or not as well can lead to self-doubt. Remind yourself that everyone’s circumstances are different and everyone’s needs and desires are different. Try to focus on you and your family – you know what’s right for you and you’re doing amazingly!
2. What would you say to a friend? – We often speak to ourselves really harshly and beat ourselves up for little mistakes or things we feel guilty (rationally or irrationally) for. When you find yourself doing this stop and reflect. If a friend came to you with the story you’re telling yourself, would you speak to them in the way you’re speaking to yourself now? I doubt it! Try talking to yourself in the way that you would talk to that friend.
3. Analyse it – is the guilt you are feeling reasonable or unreasonable? If we take the time to examine it, we often realise that the guilt we feel isn’t really rational. Yet we still give ourselves a hard time over it. Ask yourself where this guilt is coming from? Is it fair? Are your expectations realistic? Working through questions like this, being honest in your answers, can help relieve the sense of guilt you’re feeling.
4. Self-care – As well as talking to yourself in a kind way, treat yourself kindly too. That includes taking time for you, time to reset and keep energised in whatever way that looks like for you. It could be going for a walk on your own, reading a book, taking an exercise class, spending time with friends or a bubble bath. Whatever it is, self-care isn’t selfish but keeping some time for you will help prevent overwhelm and all the negative things that can come with it when we’re feeling burnt out including critical self-talk.
5. Look at your child – I think it’s a natural feeling to always want to be doing more for your children and sometimes you might have the extra time, energy, money to do whatever it is you want to do with them or give them, but it’s unlikely to be possible all the time. But ask yourself – are they happy? Healthy? Feeling loved? Fed? Clean? It sounds like you’re doing amazingly so give yourself a break!
6. Talk to a professional – sometimes mum guilt can become completely overwhelming and become more than just an occasional thought. If you notice these thoughts taking over more and more, and negatively impacting you in your everyday life, you may benefit from reaching out to a mental health expert for support.
What do you think? Is mum guilt something you struggle with?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling to find time for self-care, why not take a look at my free guide to managing overload as a mum, including my top 10 tips.