Mental Health Awareness week is 8-14 May 2017 in the UK and so what better time to chat about the G word – guilt. It’s a weird feeling, sometimes we impose it on ourselves or maybe it’s others who make us feel guilty. When we become a parent, many experience a new kind of guilt – mum guilt (or dad guilt). I define mum guilt as feeling bad as a parent because of a decision you’ve made, how you feel or something you’ve done. It may even make you doubt yourself or create anxieties. It’s a feeling that can come and go or for some it’s an everyday thing. So here’s some tips on how to manage what people call mum guilt…
Is it self-imposed? I know most of the time, my mum guilt is self-imposed. The kids are just being kids; they don’t really know what guilt is. They just want their mummy to know that they’ll miss her when she goes out or goes to work. One thing they are good at is letting us know what they want. They may suddenly want you to stay with them or be around to read their books at bedtime. Mum guilt can make us question ourselves a lot. It can also generate lots of self-doubt and lower our confidence. So when guilt is self-imposed, remember you’re also the one who’s able to zap it!
When someone else is making you feel mum guilt…You may be a stay-at-home mum and you’re being made to feel guilty about not bringing in an income or being career-minded enough. It may be that you’ve decided to take a longer maternity leave. On the flip-side you may have to go back to work a few months after having a baby or you have to or decide to work full-time. There are so many external factors which create mum guilt.Other people questioning your decisions, actions or situation can be tough. So recognise when it’s someone else encouraging you to feel guilty. Are they trying to influence how you feel because of their own views or experiences? Say a polite “no thank you” in your head when that mum guilt feeling kicks in so they don’t ruin your flow.
What is it that we have to feel guilty about?…To be honest whatever we do, we could feel guilty about it. This week I’m going away for a blogger conference. It’s half-work half-play. I’m investing a serious amount of time (three whole days) in my own professional development. I won’t be looking after the kids and I can focus on myself. It’s too easy to feel guilty. At the end of the day, I know my husband is super-supportive of me going and I know I work hard to be a good mama. I’ve told my four-year old that I’m going away and “Mummy will be back in four days so you can be Daddy’s helper”. I know I will always be thinking of my little family so even more reason not to feel guilty about being away. I’d much rather use that energy on missing them and wondering what they’re up to rather than feeling bad about not being with them.
Let it out…As I discovered at the nursery drop-off the other week, you never know when mum guilt will take over all of your emotions. I had full-on mum guilt as Toddler Munch was in tears when I said bye. She did not want to go to nursery that day. She just wanted to hang out with me. So I cried too. I felt pretty bad. I had to acknowledge that I felt guilty. It’s only because I know I will miss her although I know she’s more than fine at nursery. So express your mum guilt if you need to. Chat to someone about it if it’s really bothering you.
Finding the positives…This tip may not be for everyone as I’m an optimist (most of the time). When we start to feel guilty, try and think of more positive feelings about what’s happened or what you’re doing. If you’re going out for the evening, is the break from family responsibilities going to do you good and leave you a bit rejuvenated? If you need some me-time, you’re just looking after yourself too. If you’re back at work, you’re providing your kids with a positive role model and another perspective on career life.
Do something…If you start to feel the mum guilt cloud hovering, then stop thinking about it and start doing something. Prepare a treat for the family or plan something nice to make you all feel better. Or just get on with something else that’s more important than feeling guilty. Tick something off the list is way more rewarding than spending your time on feeling guilty.
Would you rather spend your energy on something else? Mr.H always reminds me that it’s about focusing your time and energy on the right things. If you end up feeling guilty a lot, think about whether you really want to use your energy and time on feeling guilty? Wouldn’t it be nicer to feel something else more positive instead? It takes practice, but move on from the guilty-mode and use that energy to think of some nice plans or ideas to make you feel less guilty.
Own your choices…These are the words from a wise nursery mum I know. I love her directness. We were chatting about juggling careers and parenting and we soon came onto mum guilt. She said that we just need to own our choices and not feel guilty. She’s right. We all have to make certain choices for different reasons. So we just need to get on with it and believe in ourselves a bit more.
What do you think about mum guilt or dad guilt? Is there anything we can do to manage feeling guilty? Leave a comment below and let me know your views…