Monday Must: Managing Mum Guilt
Hi! My name is Mallika: I moonlight as a writer and editor of the Self Love Club; and my day job is mum to a 17 month-old babe named Freddie, and a 9 year-old pup named Pablo. We are currently in the process of moving our little family of four from Toronto to Costa Rica — and are constantly toeing the line between excitement and sheer terror.
I remember when I was pregnant, a new dad friend of mine said, “Welcome to the Club of Worrying About Everything Forever!” And I thought — no way, not me, I am CHILL. But chill or not, the weight of raising a tiny human is heavy and the guilt is so real (Dammit JP you were right!).
Right from the get-go you feel (and hear, and read, and experience) pressure. Your birth choice, your feeding choice — even, the passing “That baby should have a hat on” comment can have you overthinking for hours. As a new mum I’ve fast realized that the guilt doesn’t stop at infant-hood. At every stage and phase there’s an underlying feeling of, am I doing enough or doing this right? I chose this topic because as a parent I don’t think you can do away with the guilt, but perhaps you can manage it. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way.
This too shall pass
Quite the opposite of Gandalf, it’s important to remember that that thing you’re currently obsessing over will pass. Your kid only wants to eat applesauce and rice every meal? Fantastic, they’re eating! Your 2 year old isn’t saying any words yet? They will one day, and you’ll yearn for the baby babbles. I remember being so sad when I stopped nursing overnight because I knew that we’d never have those moments alone when the world was so quiet ever again. It is SO cliche but it really does go by so fast.
Comparison is the thief of joy
Social media makes this very difficult. I went off of social media for the first 6 months of Freddie’s life because I was driving myself nuts. There are an endless stream of parents doing the thing better than you. And when I found myself judging them instead of appreciating them, that’s when I found it detrimental. Especially during the holiday season it’s easy to believe how much more other parents are showing up for their kids. But that doesn’t mean you’re not. In the end the only person’s opinion that matters is your own. No one is going to fault you for not having the picture perfect Christmas and alternatively no one is going to judge you for doing it big either — you do you girl!
Your Feelings Are Valid
That creeping guilt? It’s okay! The always wise Brené Brown writes about empathy being an antidote to feelings of guilt and shame. When you are feeling “off” and stress mounts, take a few moments to stop and breathe. Think about why and how you are feeling. Notice where your body feels tense and try to soften that area. Allow your vulnerable feelings of guilt, shame, and sadness to rise to the surface. Respond to yourself with loving kindness and acceptance. You may notice the tears begin to well up — let them flow (Hot tip: the shower is an excellent place to cry). Remind yourself that your feelings are normal, parenthood is stressful AF.
Take off the filter IRL
It takes a lot of courage to be real and I don’t mean on social media, just for yourself. I found when I let go of trying to be this “CHILL MOM” I actually became more relaxed. I was so worried about the impression I would put out that it was all consuming. As a mum I find it amazing how much more we open up to parents at the park, instead of close friends and people in our lives. The fear of judgment can be all encompassing. As a society we’re so obsessed with our “brand”, that we worry that by saying we’re having a hard time it becomes our defining characteristic as a parent. Remember you can feel lots of things at once — ask my partner he can attest to living with someone with A LOT of feelings. Highest highs and lowest lows — parenthood in a nutshell. Let go of perfectionism and reach out for support. I’ve been surprised by how many people have welcomed and appreciated the shared experience.
Talk to a Professional
Therapy is wonderful. Becoming a parent is one of the most profound transitions in life — it takes time to adjust. You’re sleep deprived and your brain turns into scrambled eggs. You’re then expected to put out a tiny well adjusted, kind, inclusive, clever and thoughtful human in the world. You’re going to need all the help you can get! Working on yourself and the way your brain deciphers parenthood is hugely beneficial for yourself, your baby and your relationship.
Such a great article. Every word so very true. Having raised two kids to adulthood, I still remember a close friend who gave me this advice when I was a young mom, trying to figure it all out (and she had 5 kids)….“one thing I’ve learned, when they hit 18, they don’t need a soother anymore and they can wipe their own bums”. That made me really laugh, took some pressure off… and I can say now with all confidence, she was right!!!
What a beautiful and well written article our darling cousin Mallika
This article should be a read for all new Mother’s !
I can well imagine how challenging and torn a mother can be to grasp if she is giving of her very best to her baby !
I am certain all mothers strive hard and sacrifice everything to their last mite to give off their very best to their new born !
I pray that Everyb mother is told “ you deserve the Best Mother Award !” You qualify for this Prize !
Love Godfrey & Karen
Excellent blog post. I can relate to this completely having two kids 20 months apart.