You know that feeling you get when you think about your child? It begins quite positive, with thoughts such as ‘they were so lovely today‘, or ‘I can’t believe they learned to do that all by themselves. So clever!‘ or even ‘they are really starting annoy me now‘. Then, very gradually, things turn dark as you allow your mind to wander further. Thoughts like this emerge: ‘they were lovely today and I shouldn’t have told them off for such and such, they didn’t really deserve that after behaving so well‘. Or ‘they learned that ALL BY THEMSELVES, where was I?’ Or ‘how could I be annoyed with them? They are so young! Did I make it obvious I felt that way towards them? I’m a monster 😔‘. And then all of this transpires into: ‘I AM A BAD MOTHER 😰‘, which of course causes you to feel very rubbish. This is what we call a Mothers’ Guilt,something that most mums suffer from, me certainly being one of them. Constant guilt is what plagues most mothers, even the best. When I think of Mothers’ Guilt I imagine a sour, old woman who hangs around me just to whisper depressing things in my ear (I hate her). In this post I will be writing about typical situations where Mothers’ Guilt is present, using my own experiences as an example.
In The Early Weeks of a New Baby’s Life
As mentioned in my previous post (Why ‘Breast is Best’ is Not Always the Best Thing to Know), my Mothers Guilt was most powerful concerning my issues with breastfeeding. With my DD, She (Mothers Guilt) would creep up behind me and whisper, ‘everyone else can do it, why can’t you? What kind of mother are you going to be if you can’t even do this basic thing?’ With my SS, when issues started to arise with the latch, she was hysterical, screaming into my brain ‘AGAIN?! There is something seriously wrong with you, your poor children are both so deprived with a mother like you!’
She would also pop up in other situations. Like on the second day after my SS’s birth, I was cautiously cutting his nails (their hands are so small, and their nails are so soft and bendy in the early days so it really can be tricky) and accidentally caught his skin which of course made him cry. Mothers Guilt stormed into my brain and hissed ‘ARE YOU BEING SERIOUS? It hasn’t even been 48 hours yet and because of your clumsiness, he’s in pain!‘ Another example is when my DD or SS would leak through their nappy onto their clothes. She would say ‘they’ve been covered in pee for the last 30 minutes and you didn’t know. Even if they were sleeping, you should have kept a more watchful eye. Poor, poor child, they must have been so uncomfortable.‘ Or on those long nights where they just wouldn’t settle, crying non-stop and I’d be exhausted and trying to fight the feeling of irritation that would be bubbling up inside, she would say to me, ‘they don’t know how else to communicate with you, they just want your love and care. Other mums go through this and they’re absolutely fine and YOU are just getting irritated because YOU are tired? You are so, so, so selfish‘.
When You Discipline Your Child
I’ve never been a fan of hitting or spanking, but I cannot deny that occasionally I do raise my voice at my children when I lose control (Mothers Guilt just raised her eyebrows at me and said “you ‘raise your voice’? Be real, you SHOUT“). Every time I do, I regret it ( I find shouting is a useless method of discipline for my children and actually makes things worse so I try really hard to avoid it) and Mothers Guilt feasts on me. For example, the other day my DD asked to go potty while I was preparing a bottle for my SS. She’s developed the common habit of saying ‘potty’ when she does and doesn’t want to go toilet (why, oh why do toddlers do this). To make herself a bit more unique and interesting, she stubbornly sits on the toilet (we call it potty but she has never been fond of the actual potty) and says ‘not finished’ when I try to take her off. Nevertheless, not brave enough to call her bluff this time, I finished making the bottle for SS and took her to the bathroom.
As I suspected would happen, the usual incident took place (“not finished!”), so I took my very fussy SS down the hall to the living room and started feeding him. Just as he was falling asleep in my arms whilst drinking, leaving me paralysed, my DD was suddenly ‘finished’. Expecting me to come back and take her off, she began whining angrily, crying, moaning, screaming, repeatedly shouting ‘mummy!’, getting even louder when I was calmly calling out to her to wait a little and that I was coming. Already having had a long day, feeling sleep deprived and hungry, eventually I exploded.
“WAIT!!!!!!” I roared out (if there were birds around they would have scattered).
Already feeling ashamed, Mothers Guilt swooped in on me, fuming and muttering in a deceptively calm voice, ‘you’ve left her in an unhygienic place all alone. She’s trying to tell you she’s finished and she wants you, as her mother, to help get her down off the toilet because she’s so small that she can’t come off by herself. And you have the cheek to get angry and shout at her?! You abusive gorilla! Why are you shouting in the first place? She’s going to remember this when she’s older, you know. Poor, poor child.’
When You Go out For Social Events Without Them
I’m not one to go out often without my children. When I do, Mothers Guilt always tags along. She whispers to me, ‘do you know exactly what your children are doing right now? Have they eaten well? Is your DD going to be able to go to bed without you? Isn’t your SS a bit young for you to leave him? Do you even care about them or do you prefer having fun with your friends? Don’t you think you should be making more responsible decisions now that you’re a mum?‘ So, over the summer, on my last week in London, when I was invited to group dinner, I thought ‘no way! How can I, my SS is only 5 weeks old!’. However, after much thought and consideration (I really did think hard about it), I changed my mind, knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing my dear friends for a whole year when I returned to the UAE. So I pumped a sufficient amount of breast milk, put my DD to sleep and left my SS with their excited grandmother.
I genuinely intended to be back by 11pm.
Mothers Guilt was sitting in the corner staring at me in disbelief the whole time that I sat with my friends but I determinedly ignored her whispers and actually had some fun. We sat and socialised on the sofa, laughed, shared stories and just relaxed. It felt good 😊.
Until I accidentally fell asleep.
I woke up at 2am to my mum calling me to ask where the hell I am. Mothers Guilt was seething, now sitting right next to me and shouting in my ear, “HOW CAN YOU FALL ASLEEP?! Your 5 week old son is at home, still considered a newborn, not knowing anything in the world except your smell and you LEFT him? And THEN you have the cheek to fall asleep? You would NEVER have done this to your DD. Poor, poor little baby…‘ (I’ll be doing a separate post on the complexes I have developed concerning my second child).
There are soooo many more examples where Mothers Guilt is present (I may even do a part two) but for fear of this turning into a book, I’ll stop here. I know many mothers, if not all, that suffer from the depressing presence of Mothers Guilt. Of course, Mothers Guilt as this old, sour woman in my life doesn’t exist: she’s really just me and my own thoughts formed by my own insecurities (or sometimes because of what other mothers say- I will be doing a separate post on this).
Mothers strive for the impossible- perfection.
We love our children insanely, this causing us to have the insane belief that we can be flawless for their sake. When we don’t succeed in being perfect and make small (and sometimes big) mistakes, it leads to immense guilt and hopelessness. When we do something really good for them, it makes us happy but there is often that small thought of ‘I could of done that better. They deserve better’.
Well, that’s what I think anyway.
I read a really uplifting quote last week: ‘there is no way to be a perfect mother, but they are a million ways to be a good one‘.
With this in mind, I’ll end this post.
Feel free to leave your comments, would love to hear your thoughts on this 😊.