Maternal guilt is the very devil.
It has a way of quietly seeping into your psyche with the power to take away the joy that you as a parent are perfectly entitled to feel.
Feelings of guilt can follow you like a dark shadow as you go about your day and have a tendency to bring you down in an unhelpful way.
These feelings may well be telling you that you’re not doing anything quite well enough, never in the right place for quite long enough and that you have probably said, or failed to say, the right thing at the right time.
This constant self-flagellation for never being good enough is self-defeating, exhausting and downright soul-destroying.
Guilt can be a good thing when we reflect on what it can teach us.
Unfortunately there is nothing new about this inherited affliction; mothers have always felt guilty.
It wasn’t long ago that mothers felt guilty if they didn’t live up to the expectations of being the ‘right’ sort of wife.
The type of wife who would change her dress ready for when her husband returned from work with his slippers and a drink ready by the fireside. Supper would be ready, the house sparkling, and the tidy children silent and out of sight.
So, why do mothers today, who seem to have so many more opportunities, suffer from this self-sabotaging affliction?
I’ll state the obvious; it must have something to do with the comparisons we make through the constant bombardment we actively choose to engage with through social media.
However, if we put that to one side for a moment, what other causes are there that leave mothers feeling guilty when they are just trying to do their very best on many levels?
Is it due to a highly driven work ethic encouraged when growing up in our competitive and constantly assessed education system? We must succeed!
Feelings of guilt can follow you like a dark shadow as you go about your day
Or is it down to unrealistic expectations of what life was supposed to look like when we got to this point, those dreams of an easy partner to love, children to cherish, and a home to decorate and be happy in?
Or perhaps it’s due to a lack of time or money (or both!)?
Guilt can be a good thing when we reflect on what it can teach us. But, if only we could reframe that guilt into self-compassion and understanding, wouldn’t it be healthier for us, and also for our families too?
So what can you do to try and feel less guilty?
Realise there is no ‘right way’ to be a mother.
Good enough is good enough; give up the quest to be the phantom “super mum”.
Replace ‘should’ with ‘could’. For example-“I should have home-baked the cake for Lucy’s cake sale.”changes to “I could try and bake a cake next time.”
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Get better at reframing difficult situations and focus on the good.
Try to be completely present in whatever situation you find yourself in. When reading a bedtime story focus just on that. Writing a report at work focus only on that. Try hard not to get distracted.
When you’re home, be connected with your family, shut the front door, kick off your shoes put your phone on airplane mode, and be totally present as a mum… at least until they’ve gone to bed!
Take your children out for regular ‘hot chocolate’ catch-ups.
When your crafty children try to give you a hard time and use manipulation to make you feel guilty, don’t play the game. Make it perfectly plain that you love them and that you are trying hard to do your best to look after and support them and that can include not doing for them what they can do for themselves.
Finally when things go wrong and you ‘drop a ball’ which you will, tell your children that you’re giving them a great opportunity to become more resilient and resourceful. A good life lesson indeed!
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