what does mother guilt feel like?
I don't 'do' guilt, I've never been interested in taking it on, and have spent a fair bit of my adult life trying to do away with it. Trying to breathe through any family guilt pushed upon me (some members of my extended family are quite good at the guilt trip - I'm not interested in carrying that on or being part of it). I think guilt is a horrible waste of time, emotion, energy and all the rest.
So - I must admit that I'm feeling a little surprised at myself that lately I've been feeling little bits of guilt slip in. I'm noticing noises in my head that sound like that voice of guilt. Sound like someone telling myself I'm not quite good enough, things are going wrong, I'm making mistakes.
I'm actually battling with not being overwhelmed by this new feeling. I don't want to give in to it - I want to say goodbye, farewell, get lost! But I think I need to look to why this feeling is slipping in before I can send it on it's way.
Mother guilt is a big big part of our parenting journey - from society, other mothers, our family, our mothers / grandmothers / mother-in-law, magazines, and also our own ideals and expectations. I'm pretty sure most of us are carrying around some version of mother guilt. After more then 14 years of parenting, why am I experiencing it now in ways I never have before?!
I've realised that when my big kids were little life was very different than it is now - I was a full time mama. I sewed, baked, had little parties for their dolls & animals, played dress ups, danced, sang, read books, took them to the park, and playdates, artgalleries, museums………. Some days lately, I feel like each day with River is a challenge just to get through the day by making sure I feed him properly. There's barely any pretty plates of fruit arranged in flower shapes.
Compared to back then (when the other two were little), now I'm a stay-at-home working mama, building our own home, with two big kids (on the brink of teenage life with them), I'm (heavily) active on the P&C at school….. We now live 20+ minutes from town, and shops - so getting a carton of milk takes longer than quick walk down to the corner store that it did when we lived in the city.
I know that River is getting all that he needs - but seriously, there's a whole lot of guilt around the fact that I don't take him to playgroup or story sessions at the library, or barely even push him on a swing at the park! Living in our forest home offers so much more, being a younger sibling gives me so much more interaction and everyday life exposure. His father is at home now (whereas he wasn’t before), and doing a whole lot of the hands on parenting work…. All that.
And yet - this dark cloud of guilt when I have to tell him to not touch the computer because I'm working, or when I don't have home baked treats for their morning tea.
Despite the rational part of my brain saying he's good, the kids are good - they don't need ALL of you, ALL of the time. Despite that. Ah oh ugh. Can society and my own ideals about some perfectionism to mothering just bug off already!
I'd love to hear how you deal with mothering guilt, and all the rest that sneaks in. Wife-guilt, house-wife-guilt, not being the perfect granddaughter or friend or community member….
Let's band together and tell each other we're doing an ok job. Our homes don't need to be spotless, our kids yelling and back chatting isn't a sign of bad parenting. Smile at that mama you see in the supermarket, or pass at the school gate and remind her how amazing she is.
Here’s a few tips I’m trying to remind myself:
Be gentle on you - stay nourished emotionally, mentally and physically.
Remember that home baked treats, while being lovely, are not necessarily a sign that you’re a better or worse mama
Unbusy your family schedule, so you have more time for just the tiny quiet moments.
Hold hands with your little and big kids, whenever you can
Get down and hug them - say you love them. Remind them how beautiful and amazing and generous and kind they are. Words matter.
Let the house get messy and just dance or laugh or play with them.
Remember that you don’t need to be perfect in any way, neither does your home need to be immaculately clean
Also remember that it’s ok to have boundaries and ask your kids to honour the space you need - for personal self, work self, friend self, time with your partner without your children around.
Talk to them, and guide them, to understand you are a whole vital person too, while being their mother you are also a separate person with needs, wants, wishes.
Do small things with great love. Giving your kids your whole self (putting your device / work) away while you’re with them, then giving yourself the “permission” to do your work again. Often all they want is a full body hug, or half an hour of conversation, or a little walk in the garden.