Mama Guilt, we ALL do it!
Guilt- Some mamas say they never live a day without it. We worry. Did we give enough of our time today? Did I feed him well enough? She hardly slept today and yesterday, is she cutting her day sleeps or was it because I met my girlfriend for a coffee?
We feel overstretched by the demands of a busy household, the juggle of work and our kids. Spending time with friends and your partner. There are days where we might think to ourselves ‘is this it? Is this part of some divine plan to have me feeling like a nervous wreck!?’
Motherhood introduces us to so many varied mind states, such extremes of emotions that can feel so unfamiliar and at times disturbing. We will swing from one to the other. Revisiting old wounds, and hurts.
We also try to hide all of these feelings due to undulating pressure on ourselves and from our friends and family, society as a whole. Because we are supposed to feel ‘good’ about being in this place called mamahood.
We are so quick to judge each other too for feeling all of this and some. Then those mama guilt feelings come up again because we shouldn’t be feeling this way.
Most harshly though, we will judge ourselves.
Anxiety can creep in ever so slowly, along with feelings of despair and loneliness, boredom and restlessness. All of this along with feelings of more guilt for feeling this way and feeling anything but ‘blessed.’
As a parent there are so many ‘should do’s,’ ‘I should be more patient’ I should be more organised.’ Often this word tends to activate the disobey button in us & we do exactly what we ‘should not!’ For example, drinking a glass of wine on a Monday night when we have said to ourselves ‘Ah I really shouldn’t!’
When we are tired from all of the ‘should do’s’ that we ‘should’ be doing we tend to take it out on our little ones, and we will snap. Instead of thinking to yourself, ‘I really ‘should’ have more patience’ perhaps it would be a better alternative to look at the ‘why’ for your reaction.
What’s coming up for you to allow your never ending to do list to create stress and disharmony, therefore taking it out on your child/ren because you lack in energy?? Is this an opportunity for you to take that 10 minutes out for yourself and STOP the mama guilt and the ‘I should be doing this list?’
Because in the end, who is that really benefitting? Yes, your laundry’s done, your dishes are clean, your house is tidy, dinners cooked, and the cars been washed, but could at least one of those ‘should do’s’ be completed later or even tomorrow?
Could you have taken that opportunity for YOU and then felt better for doing that therefore more able to connect with your little people rather than get short with them?
“Parents aren’t perfect people. They’re people being perfected.” LR Knost.
We need to start dropping our expectations on ourselves and open ourselves up as non- judgementally as possible to whatever is happening for us at the time.
Because in those moments of sacrifice, when we are always putting our children’s needs before our own. In those sleepless nights and the ‘trying to keep calm’ throughout a long tumultuous tantrum. It is when the housework is piling up, the never-ending list of your ‘Should do’s’ has begun, it in in these moments that we need to be kind to ourselves, we need to show ourselves some self-compassion because we are doing it, and we are amazing!
This brings me to Self-Compassion; We have already discussed the fact that we all will likely experience some form of parental guilt on the daily.
You may notice though as a parent that you’re feeling angst and guilt about the same things day in and day out. Could it be that feeling guilty and letting that ‘feeling’ in isn’t working for you though?
Guilt creates so much frustration and self-loathing it is a repetitive attack upon yourself as a human being- not just as a parent.
To practice self-compassion is to ultimately encounter oneself- to look at you and see your own unique daily struggles. Know that they are OK. Take responsibility for your ‘reactions’ know that it is normal to ‘react’ to your child/ren rather then to ‘respond’ sometimes, apologise for your ‘reaction,’ try not to take it too personally.
This opens up a completely different discussion for me, but it needs to be elaborated upon, so let’s talk briefly about YOUR ‘reactions.’ In owning your OWN ‘reactions,’ for example yelling and/or smacking. Knowing that it is unnecessary to ‘react’ and so much more empowering to ‘respond’ (responding may look like you getting down to your little one’s level, or hugging to then reconnect) to your little one’s behaviour, this is you OWNING your ‘reaction.’
A simple but effective way to OWN your reaction can be as simple as to apologize, to go down to your child’s level and apologize for the way that you reacted.
This alone can be incredibly empowering for your child.
BUT also empowering for you.
This is ultimately about you taking responsibility for your own actions, AND you are teaching your child to do the same.
This will allow for a discussion to take place, and it will ALWAYS create the space for renewed connection, as well as an opportunity for positive role modelling.
Your actions & words as a parent, as an adult, create far more meaning than the ‘lectures’ and discussions that you will ever have.
We ALL feel somewhat guilty for how we have reacted to a situation with our toddler or baby, but by staying stuck in your guilt is like saying “I am all mighty and powerful I make everything turn to shit alllll by myself!” Therefore, this mistake, this action, this shitty thing that you have done, is just a small part of your story.
It doesn’t define you. Your mistakes are not the definition of who you are as a person. As a parent. Forgive yourself and let it go.
As a mum, no matter where you are on your parenting journey the new reality with our precious child/ren can make us feel like we are ‘losing’ ourselves. In fact, it is the complete opposite, being a parent gives us the opportunity to find more of ourselves. It can give us a chance to seek out the depth of who we are or who we were, so that we can reach that aspect of ourselves and become MORE of who we are, more of what we want to become today.
‘This is the understanding that your child has come to teach you and allow you to grow as a human being. Parenting will bring you to the core of your ego, always. Our children trigger us because they are ours. “I will be the best parent,” ” I will be the best mother,” every time we fall short of these expectations our children then trigger us- but what our children are really doing is showing us a mirror to our underdeveloped self.” Dr Shefali Tsbary.
Let’s get real, we are a slave to time, we live with an obsession of ‘getting stuff done,’ we are always building something, learning something, achieving something. When we slip into this notion of thinking it is too easy for us to pull our children into our own arrangements, our own ‘stuff’ and becoming more and more insensitive to their unique needs.
We don’t enjoy being parents because our minds our elsewhere, hello mama guilt!
When we do focus on present parenting though, our minds and our hearts will shift dramatically, straight into the core of that moment.
You’re there and you’re free from all of the worry, all of the ‘should do’s.’
We do live within an age where busyness is becoming a virtue- and because of this it can create the very same expectations in our children.
We are giving our children the message that hyperdrive is a normal state of mind. If we’re not doing all of the ‘should do’s’ then we are feeling guilty about it. This will eventually create a disconnect because we do not possess the capacity to slow down.
We then run the risk of creating this for our own children. Our children who blossom into teenagers and then young adults who do not understand the meaning of balance and in slowing down, because they haven’t seen what that looks like, we haven’t shown them.
There is no doubt that with multiple children, work and a home to run that we all can sit in overwhelm and cannot possibly avoid ‘busyness.’
But we can still be present within those busy times.
Let’s use doing the dishes as an example, a general awareness when doing the dishes, the movement of your hands, the feel of the warm water and soap, then rinsing it and putting it away- that’s it. No other thought. When we are doing homework with our children, just do that. Put your phone away, sit in a quiet space and be all there. When you eat, sit down as a family. Eat mindfully and chew your food consciously. All technology away and be all there. Talk, laugh, eat!
Being mindful of the stresses around you and in your life can bring about a sense of self awareness. Do stop. Do take notice. What are the thoughts running through your mind? What is the effect that stress is having in your body? How does it feel?
Use that newfound awareness to benefit you all, by creating ‘mindful bites’ such as the examples above, these are the moments that need not be stressful anymore.
When we are being mindful as parents, as humans. When we are choosing to be in that present moment with ourselves. This is when we are being our authentic self. This is when we are not comparing ourselves to others, we are not distracted, we are all there. In that particular moment.
If we can practice this more often, practice it only once daily. We will judge ourselves less (I really shouldn’t be reading this magazine I need to put washing on, shit I’m such a terrible housewife…) We will live more authentically (because we are being ourselves rather than comparing ourselves to others aka social media!) And we are living right here in the present, there’s no future, and no past, just there in that exact moment.
How we choose to live our own lives can sometimes be our best teachers.
Be gentle with yourself. We are all learning and you are doing the work when you create the understanding that you want to ‘break the cycle’ that you’re in, so be kind to you, because you are doing the best that you can, in the end we all are.