Mummy guilt…. We have all been there in some way or another. For some mothers, the wearing down guilty feeling is a constant presence. It’s like a dirty stain that you can’t get out in the wash. For others, it may just pop up occasionally on its own or may be triggered by an event or emotion. It’s a terrible feeling when you are thinking you might be screwing up your kids. It can be a massive burden which can take a toll on your mental health and set you on a downward spiral.
I am experiencing mummy guilt right now. I’m writing this post while my kids are playing with each other and I’m thinking, ‘should l be spending my time with them? Does this make me a terrible mother?’ Self-doubt is toxic. It creeps up on you like a mosquito in the bedroom when you are asleep. You just want to squash it but no matter how hard you try in the dark, you just can’t do it!
I know that the many things that l feel guilty about are not even worthy of any space in my brain. But it’s like we are programmed this way.
Am l a good mum? Am l a responsible parent? Am l spending enough time with my kids? Am l spending too much time? Are they watching too much tv? Do l take them outside enough? Do they have too many toys? Have l damaged them by yelling at them?
The list is endless. I could go on all day about my mummy experiences that make me feel guilty.
Then one day l am talking with a work colleague about this and l had a light bulb moment. She says to me, ‘what advice would you give to a mother you were looking after who tells you that she was experiencing mummy guilt?’ Bingo. What would l tell her? That she is a wonderful mother and doing the best she can. I would explore her strengths and give her positive feedback and encouragement. We need to celebrate what we are doing right! We all have things we could work on. That’s what makes us human and it’s called life. It doesn’t mean we are stuffing everything up.
I am currently re-examining myself. Yes, l am a good mother. I love my kids more than the universe (this is what l tell my kids), read them lots of books and try to feed them healthy foods (most of the time). I make sure they are warm when they feel cold, fed when they feel hungry, comforted when they are sad, washed when they are dirty and unconditionally loved totally and completely. I’m doing alright. I am a good enough parent and I’m happy with that.
Maybe guilt can be used for the purpose of good if you let it. Therefore, it can remind and reassure you that your parenting is good enough. We are not striving for perfectionism. Kids do not want their parents to be perfect. How would they learn and grow if they are not shown how to? Children need to be able to learn from our mistakes, shown how to move on (forgiveness) and foster positive and happy relationships.
If you feel that guilt is having an effect on your mental health and your relationships, talk to someone about it. Sometimes talking to other mothers can level some of your fears and guilt. There are a lot of commonalities among parents and what they feel guilty about. You may need to visit your doctor or nurse and maybe have some counselling. As mothers, we want to be able to enjoy parenting and have some fun along the way. Most of all, don’t get bogged down by mummy guilt. It’s not worth it!
Fast forward to a week later and l have just had a two hour nap in the middle of the day on a weekend. The children are out with their father having some much needed daddy time and l am taking the time to recharge because it will benefit not only me but my whole family. Guilt….. it’s not visiting my house today!
You may find some of my other blog posts helpful
Never in my wildest dreams did l think that my journey to motherhood was going to look like this. Saying to self ‘but you are a midwife and child and family health nurse’ (again). I can tell you it’s a lot different when you are the mother and they are your children. Of course the knowledge and experience has helped in a lot of ways but at times l know l set my expectations really high. Being a professional in the industry does not make me immune from the mummy guilt, self-doubt and fear of not being a good mum.
We all have those fears. If you said that you didn’t I’m not sure if I’d believe you but l would certainly revel in your positivity. They may be small fears or massive fears; maybe it’s the unknown that worries you. Is what I’m doing today going to make them a responsible likeable adult? Will they succeed in their chosen career? Will they be happy? What about if they get sick? What will they do if we die? Who will take care of them. I know that seems a bit morbid but these are true fears. I have them. Add anxiety and depression and these escalate 100 fold. Add limited supports, financial stressors and medical conditions just to name a few to the list and again this sky-rockets those fears into outer space.
Ok then, how can we prepare ourselves for parenthood? There are numerous ways which can decrease these anxieties somewhat. It’s such an individual experience and so many factors involved that you can never feel 100% prepared.
For parents who are planning a pregnancy or are already pregnant, educating yourselves about being healthy and what to expect is very important. There is information out there everywhere. Sometimes finding the right answer can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Where do you look? Dr Google? Hmmm be careful there is a lot of information out there that is not correct and totally misleading. It’s best to visit reputable websites for the best up to date evidence based information (some will be provided at the end of this post). It is also important to read up to date books by reputable authors (ones with credentials in the relevant field). If you are not sure who they are, google them and also look at their websites and reviews. Ask other people you know and talk with your midwife and doctor about what they recommend.
It is also valuable to talk to other mothers and their experiences of preparing for motherhood and their journey so far. They can be a source of valuable information but be careful. I love hearing stories from the mothers l come across and l have learnt many things that you cannot find in a text-book. Unfortunately we do tend to hear a lot of negative stories. Be mindful of what you take in. There are many amazing stories out there and especially ask them about what has helped them throughout their journey. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. Talk to people you trust and seek guidance from those who you know are genuine.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
It is worth attending a Preparing for Parenting classes during pregnancy. The information provided is basic factual information to do with pregnancy and labour but unfortunately in my experience there is only a little focus on parenting (which lasts forever)! I have taught some preparing for parenthood classes and would have loved to spend more time on preparing parents for the journey once they get home with a new baby.
YOU ARE FINALLY THERE
Well you are there! Yippee! Your baby is finally here. This is one of the best days of your life… With that in mind some women unfortunately have traumatic birth experiences which can affect physical health, mental health and your journey as a parent. This day for me was very special. I still remember the physical and mental relief when he was out. Looking into those new fresh eyes that l had created was amazing. While that was happening, the post-partum haemorrhage l was experiencing was not. Pain, needles, drugs, stitches…. It was quite traumatic. I’m lucky l had great support and was able to debrief with the doctor and midwives over the coming days. It was not much fun walking for the next week.
If you do require extra support there is often a social worker available for you to talk things through. Debriefing with the midwives and / or doctors about your labour and birth is very helpful and can be healing if you have had a negative experience. It gives you a chance to ask questions and reflect on what just happened because it is like nothing you have experienced ever before (vaginal birth or caesarean birth, labour or no labour, spontaneous or induced).
What do you do next? Well hopefully you have utilised the amazing midwives while you were in hospital to add to your own parenting knowledge bank. Hopefully you are ready to take your little one home feeling a little less anxious but you can never be fully prepared. It is quite daunting having this little human being now that depends on you.
You have to love, feed, cuddle, change, comfort, walk, kiss, read, talk to and bath your baby (this list is far from exhaustive). It is lots of work. You also have to eat, sleep and look after yourself. Where do you fit it all in? Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise…
ADJUSTING TO MOTHERHOOD
Ok so you are at home now. Baby is crying, milk is leaking, partner has gone AWOL. You feel like crying and huddling in a corner somewhere just to have some quietness and shut your eyes for 5 minutes. Sound familiar? It’s not all roses and tears of happiness. Of course you are over the moon, but you have just given birth and your vagina feels like its suffering from burnout, or if you have had a caesarean your tummy feels like you’ve been punched by Mike Tyson a thousand times. Your boobs feel like hard balloons about to burst if you don’t feed your baby soon. Oh and don’t forget you need toothpicks to keep your eyes open. Even if you decide to formula feed your poor boobs still go through the pain of having your ‘milk come in”.
What can make this amazing time of your life just that bit easier?
- Having knowledge about the post-natal journey when you are pregnant (even pre-pregnancy) is very valuable. This includes the general physical information but also how you are going to feel emotionally and what can help.
- Remembering that you will be ok and that no parent is perfect
- Using your supports. If they are limited, engage with your local Child and Family Health centre where you can join up to a new parents group. Some mothers make lifelong friends in these groups.
- Talk to others about how you are feeling. If you have limited sources of emotional support, seek guidance from your local doctor and then you can plan towards some type of counselling to support you.
- Positive affirmations. Make some affirmations that you can say to yourself everyday e.g. “I am doing the best l can”, “I am going to get through today”.
- Playgroups can be a great way to meet other mothers or exercise classes for mothers and babies. There are also music, dance and gym groups.
- It can be awkward for some, but talk to the mother in the change room at the shopping centre. She may be feeling just like you are and you may make her day by talking to her. She may make your day by talking to you.
- Don’t expect too much from yourself. This is all new and it is normal to be unsure of yourself. Confidence comes with time and practice.
- If you are feeling teary and not enjoying parenting please speak to someone as you may have post-natal depression. Early identification and treatment is very beneficial in your recovery. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek help.
- If you are unsure if your baby should be seen by a doctor because you feel they are unwell, go see them. Don’t worry if you think that it may be nothing and a waste of time. It could be something and if you go to the doctor and they reassure you that all is well, great! You will feel much better.
- Ignore people who do not support you or tell you things that you don’t want to hear or upset you. You have people out there who have your back.
- Take time out. You need to recharge too.
- Look after and nurture your relationships. Talk with your partner and share your ideas, problems, strategies and comfort one another as you do not get much time together these days.
Some useful websites for further information on adjustment to parenting are:
I’m sure you have all heard the saying it takes a village to raise a child?
Well it’s true. As a parent you can do it by yourself but it is damn hard. Support from others is the fundamental underpinning of your parenting. Without it your physical, emotional and psychological well being are at risk. We need others help.
Parenting is fulfilling yet emotionally and physically stressful. We need to know that there are others out there who will have our back if needed.
It doesn’t have to be just family. It can be family and friends and other professionals. Your village can expand all over the world but the people closest to you will be your best source of help, guidance and support.
Many countries have their families live together and they all share in raising the child. In our Western culture we are often isolated and expected to be the multi tasker from the land of ‘you can do it all your a mum’. Why has it evolved like this? Why do we feel the need we have to do it all ourselves when it is impossible. Children also benefit from a village. They learn from others ways in which to live in the world.
It’s impossible to be everything to your children. But we try and often get burnt out. The homemaker, the worker, the driver, the organiser… the list is endless!
Don’t feel shame, guilt or embarrassment for asking for help. Your village will understand and support you.
If you need to expand your village, check out a playgroup, seek out other mums at day care, join a dance class for your child. If you are pregnant go to Preparing for Parenting classes and New Parents Group once baby is born. There maybe one or two other parents that you gel with and become good friends.
I met one of my best friends at mother’s group. Her parenting style was very similar to mine with similar values and beliefs. She is part of my village and l know l can call on her if l need to. I feel very lucky even though she is a bit crazy (just like me).
I’m one of those parents that has no family nearby so l had to make a village from scratch when l moved states 10 years ago. I had the support of my family and friends over the phone but no village. Once l had my first child l realised how much l missed my family and the support that they could provide me on a daily basis. I sometimes feel sadness when a friend is going out to have her hair done while her mother looks after the kids. I know l don’t have that. I don’t share these feelings often because l know I’m ok. I have some kind of village and I’m not alone.
As l write this l am having a glass of wine and shedding a tear. You feel a hole in your stomach.
When others that are close to you going through a hard time it grabs at your heart. When they are a parent with young kids you can relate more.
You remember just how lucky you are.
You have your life, your health, beautiful children. What more could you ask for?
Life can be tough and as l write this the tears are welling. But I’m thankful l have had all the experiences in my life. Good and bad. Without them l would not be where l am today and have my 2 beautiful children. To any parent, they are your life, your world.
I am actually stuck for words tonight. Ok that could be the wine.
Empathy; don’t underestimate its value. Empathising with others is such a valuable tool and it validates the way others are feeling.
You can put on a brave face, smile, laugh but your heart can be aching inside and your mind racing at a million miles a minute. As a mum l think l can experience 100 emotions a minute. My kids drive me crazy but keep my sanity. They wear me out but give me energy.
I don’t want to seem as though I’m negative but life is bloody hard. Love the life you have. If it’s not working for you though change it. You only get one chance. I know that’s easier said than done but it’s true. Some things are out of your control. Work with your supporters, set goals, don’t let the negatives win.
You will get through it, you give it your best and it works out or it may not turn out like you wanted but you tried your best.
Mums this is like parenting. Give it your all, give it your best. That’s all you can do. Look after yourself because you are worth it.
Inspired by my mummy friend Leah 💙💚❤️💜
Well ok it was only an hour but it felt like a day to me. Time out from the sick clingy 1 year old because if l didn’t I’m sure my nipples were about to fall off. (I’m not kidding). They are his best source of comfort but they are certainly not mine. Don’t get me wrong l love breastfeeding and support any woman in how she chooses to feed her child, but when it’s nearly continuous, you ask yourself how much more can you & your boobs take?
Anyways back to the supermarket or adventure or holiday; whatever you’d like to call it. Revelling in the quietness and wondering if they always played music. Zooming up and down the aisle like you had no cares in the world. Feeling relaxed and excited you can actually read some food labels. Now l know l need to get home to a sick child but the temptation to stay a little longer and drive a little slower on the way home were too overwhelming. He was in good hands with my husband, wasn’t he? Of course he is. What now your feeling guilty about leaving your child with the other parent for 1 hour? For goodness sake mummies need time out.
Awesome, you run into someone you know and stop for a chat. They have their kids with them who are vying for their attention and your just feeling a little smug because you only have you to look after! Ahhh the serenity… hmmm pork or beef sausages. The kids need their iron so l choose beef. Hmmm yes full cream milk for the kids. Even though they are not in your presence they are always with you like a fly on a hot summer’s day. You know that’s ok. Even though l wish the fly would go away… l know it will still hang around.
The funny thing is that you don’t mind waiting in queue at the checkout. Actually it’s like a little rest period where your mind can wonder and your thoughts drift. But then it comes back with a vengeance. Did l feed the fish this morning? I need to take the clothes off the line when l get home. Oh l must make an appointment for the dentist that I’ve been putting off for the last 6 months. Mindfulness, you think of it now….
Ok if l had the choice going out without the kids, l wouldn’t choose to go to the supermarket. But anywhere alone will do. Even the toilet (that’s if they don’t follow you). But today my outing was able to lift my spirits and recharge my ‘self’ just enough to get through the rest of the day. If you recharge you will be better able to look after yourself and your children. I can’t tell you enough how important this is. Burnout is real and it’s really difficult to deal with. Please don’t get to that stage. Go hang out at the supermarket 🙃
I love this information from Pinky McKay about mummy burnout. It provides great information to look after yourself. You are important, you are loved and you are worth it 💜💚💙
When l look into my children’s eyes, l see love
When they are giving me a cuddle, l feel love
Listening to them say l love you, l hear love
When l cuddle them back, l do love
Watching them play, l see love
Knowing that they are forever mine, l feel love
Talking like there is no tomorrow, l hear love
Reading to them in bed at night, l do love
Wiping the snot from their noses, l see love
Catching poo in the bath, l feel love
Hearing ‘mum’ 954 times a day, l hear love
When you share your ice-cream, l do love
Crying in the corner because l can’t ‘mum’ just now, l feel love
Knowing my life will never be the same again, l feel love
Giving them my all, l DO love
In my personal and professional experience there are certain themes that take precedence over others when it comes to parenting. The top ones include Sleep & Settling and Feeding your baby. Actually not only your babies but also toddlers. This post will focus on sleep and settling.
Im not going to tell you how to settle your baby and how long Bub should sleep for. What I’m going to tell you is explore a variety of strategies, pick the ones that you feel comfortable with and implement them how you feel best able to do so. You are the expert of your own child. Do what works best for you, your child and your family. What works for one family may not work for another.
Now as a child and family health nurse I’m guessing you would expect me to have it all down pat, have a child who sleeps like a dream because l know what to do right? I’ve had lots of experience with parents and sleep but guess what? My first child didn’t sleep. He woke frequently and the only way l could sleep was by having him in bed with me. He loved to breastfeed (and still would now if l let him) no matter what time or day up until l was so exhausted l went to a residential care facility for 5 days so l could get help with weaning him from night feeds and getting him to sleep in his own bed and for longer periods at night. He was about 16 months old. I was working…. had little family support (live in another state)… my husband ran his own business and worked long hours. It was the only way l could survive. I asked for help.
Here are some tips l would like to share with you:
- Follow your instincts
- Talk to other parents and explore what works for them
- Go and talk to your local Child and Family Health Nurse or other relevant professional that you trust
- Learn baby’s tired signs and put them to bed when they first start showing them: http://raisingchildren.net.au/sleep/babies_sleep.html
- If you are breastfeeding, babies will fall asleep at the breast. It’s ok and you are not setting them up for bad habits.
- If it feels right and it’s working for you then do it
- Follow the SIDS guidelines for safe sleeping: http://rednose.com.au/resources/education
- It’s ok to cuddle your baby to sleep if you want. Again if this isn’t working for you, change it
- If you decide to co sleep, follow safe sleeping guidelines: http://rednose.com.au/article/sharing-a-sleep-surface-with-a-baby
Here are some good websites to look at for further information
You need a lot of it to be a parent that’s for sure. There are days particularly when more than normal is needed. Today was one of them. It’s so difficult to see your kids sick. It’s also difficult looking after yourself when your kids are sick. Even worse when you are sick yourself! The sheer willpower, determination and strength you need to get through that day would be comparative to jumping off a high rise building. And today… landing flat on my face. Yep it was not a good day.
As l lay here and breastfeed my sick toddler for the 64th time today l feel relieved that we all made it through the day in one piece. A tired 4 year old home from pre school thrown in the mix, and there you have a receipe for a volcanic eruption. While trying to have some store bought lasagne heated up in the oven with some frozen veggies, you have a sick toddler crying and trying to sit on your knee. The 4 year old next to you decides he thinks veggies are ‘yucky’ tonight and proceeds to tip his food on the table. What do you do? The best you bloody can l say. As much as you want to swear, walk away and maybe cry, you try and empathise with them and show them that you care and all will be ok. This takes lots of energy. No wonder there is lots of mummy burnout.
Sometimes l look at myself and say ‘hey you should know what to do! This is your area of expertise. Your a child & family health nurse! What are you complaining about’. ‘You should have the strength to be able to deal with these situations’. ‘You have a Master’s degree for goodness sake’. Well you know what? No piece of paper is going to tell you how you will experience motherhood and parenting in today’s world because everyone is different. You are not going to know how you will parent until you parent. Ok you may have a lot of knowledge which helps but nothing prepares you for the emotional and physical rollercoaster which is parenting.
Tomorrow is another day and yes l hope my 4 year old has a good sleep and wakes up happy. I hope my toddler is now feeling better and be able to be his cheerful little self. But if they are not, l know l will get through the day. It won’t be easy but a time will come when l can go to bed and recharge.
Talk to other mums about your strengths as a parent and what skills you use to get through the day. We learn from each other and our experiences. It’s great when other parents validate how you are feeling and can relate. Try and focus on what you are doing well and remember no parent is perfect. Kids don’t want perfection. They have to learn about mistakes, wrong decisions and how to problem solve. This is what helps them get through life.
Be kind, have strength and give yourself a pat on the back because you are doing an amazing job. Ok ok I’m telling myself that too! ☺️
Tired, exhausted, worn out, drained, stuffed, knackered…. Any of these sound familiar? Well they know me front to back and back to front. Having kids has blown ‘busy’ out of the water. Really what did l do before l had children? Can l even remember? Looking back l thought l was busy then. What a joke. I mean going to work, coming home only having to carry in your handbag from the car, going to the fridge for a drink, sitting down and putting your feet up. Hmm will l do a load of washing or file my nails? Tough choice.
In hindsight, life was pretty easy back then. Ahh the sleep ins. They feel like a distant memory now. Oh how l would love a sleep in these days until 8am. I can’t believe in my pre children years l could sleep in until 11am on a day off! Really? 11am. Bloody hell get over yourself (self now talking to younger self). I crave for just that little longer peace & quiet before the circus begins. Just one more minute…. and then…. hi mum I’m hungry…. mum can you come and play with me…. mum l need to go to the toilet…. mum…. mum…mummmmmm! (Sigh). Here we go again. Ground hog day.
Dont get me wrong, l love my kids. They drive me crazy but keep me sane. They can make me so frustrated but shower me in joy. They are the best thing that ever happened to me. Did l tell you how much l love my kids?
Tiredness can become overwhelming and can lead to exhaustion. You need to look after yourself as you need to look after your kids. What’s that? Did l hear you say self care? I’m going to say it again. Self care. Do it. Look after yourself. Love yourself. Whether it be having alone time in the shower to a refreshing morning walk on your own, make the time because your kids will thank you for it. Even a cup of your favourite tea. This is my saviour in the mornings. A cup of earl grey tea with honey to start the day. Each day find time for self care and it will lift your spirits , increase your energy and give you a sense of fulfilment at the end of the day.
To all the tired mummies, it will get better but start looking after yourself now. Speaking of tired…. sweet dreams 💜💙💚